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Picking the right cut of lamb

The best way to get tasty and tender lamb

Fine Cooking Issue 20
Photos: Ellen Silverman
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The cut of the lamb chop determines its tenderness and how to best to cook it. Rib chops have tender, fatty meat which fares nicely with quick, high-heat methods like grilling or broiling. Although not quite as tender, the tasty loin chops are also best cooked using these dry heat methods. The shoulder chops contain connective tissue which can be somewhat tough if not cooked properly. Look to slow braises to help break down them down into meltingly tender meat.

Rib chops are delicate and tender
Rib chops, with their pearly white “handles,” are cut from the ribs just behind the shoulders along the spine. Each rack of ribs, on either side of the spine, will contain seven or eight ribs. Many cooks like their rib chops frenched (the handle is scraped of all meat, fat, and connective tissue), but leaving it on gives more flavor.

Loin chops are compact and meaty
Directly behind the ribs, running down the spine towards the animal’s hindquarters, are the lamb loins. The lamb loins removed with their bones make a saddle; boneless lamb loins make delicate roasts. But most frequently you will see lamb loins cut into thick chops.

Shoulder chops are bony but tasty
The least known (and least expensive) lamb chops come from the shoulder. Your grocer will probably have shoulder blade chops, cut from the rib side of the shoulder, and shoulder arm chops, that come from the shank side of the shoulder. These chops have several bones running through them, but their meat is very tasty and an excellent value.


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