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How-To

How to Carve a Leg of Lamb

A whole, roasted leg of lamb is an impressive centerpiece for Easter or any special meal. In this video, you'll learn how to carve a whole leg of lamb into perfect slices.

Fine Cooking Issue 104
Sarah Breckenridge
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A whole, roasted leg of lamb is an impressive centerpiece for Easter or any special meal, but because it’s one of those special-occasion roasts, it can be unfamiliar and daunting to carve. In this video, you’ll learn how to carve a whole leg of lamb into slices. For the most tender results, the trick is to carve against the grain of the meat. 

Cutting a few slices in the same direction as the leg bone is probably the easiest way to carve the leg, since the bone won’t get in the way, but if you look at slices cut this way, you’ll see the long fibers of meat–carving in this direction is going along with the grain of the meat, and that means your lamb will be chewier and less tender than it could be.

So now that I’ve cut these few slices, I’m going to turn the leg over and rest it on this flat area I created, which will stabilize it. And the rest of the slices I’m going to cut against the grain of the meat. 

Make a series of cuts perpendicular to the bone. You can make these as thick or thin as you like–I’m cutting these between a quarter and a half-inch thick. Cut all the way down to the bone.

Now I turn my knife so it’s parallel to the bone, and I’m going to release all those slices I made with one long cut. 

Now I’ve got a flat surface on this side of the leg, I’ll turn it over and repeat the same process on the other side: first a series of cuts perpendicular to the bone, and then one long cut to release them. 

And now let’s compare these slices that I cut against the grain with those first few slices I cut with the grain. You can see the texture of the against-the-grain slices is much less fibrous looking, it seems almost more finely grained. This means that the lamb you serve will be perfectly tender and delicious.

A whole, roasted leg of lamb is an impressive centerpiece for Easter or any special meal, but because it’s one of those special-occasion roasts, it can be unfamiliar and daunting to carve. In this video, you’ll learn how to carve a whole leg of lamb into slices. For the most tender results, the trick is to carve against the grain of the meat. 

Cutting a few slices in the same direction as the leg bone is probably the easiest way to carve the leg, since the bone won’t get in the way, but if you look at slices cut this way, you’ll see the long fibers of meat–carving in this direction is going along with the grain of the meat, and that means your lamb will be chewier and less tender than it could be.

So now that I’ve cut these few slices, I’m going to turn the leg over and rest it on this flat area I created, which will stabilize it. And the rest of the slices I’m going to cut against the grain of the meat. 

Make a series of cuts perpendicular to the bone. You can make these as thick or thin as you like–I’m cutting these between a quarter and a half-inch thick. Cut all the way down to the bone.

Now I turn my knife so it’s parallel to the bone, and I’m going to release all those slices I made with one long cut. 

Now I’ve got a flat surface on this side of the leg, I’ll turn it over and repeat the same process on the other side: first a series of cuts perpendicular to the bone, and then one long cut to release them. 

And now let’s compare these slices that I cut against the grain with those first few slices I cut with the grain. You can see the texture of the against-the-grain slices is much less fibrous looking, it seems almost more finely grained. This means that the lamb you serve will be perfectly tender and delicious.

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