By Mike Thayer
If you've never had lamb before, it's a MUST try! Lamb is the go-to meat in much of the Mediterranean. It's used there like beef is here in the states to make sandwiches, casseroles, entrees and sides. It's enjoyed as roasts, chops and you've probably heard of a 'Rack of Lamb' which is delicious! The meat presents a whole different flavor profile and it's outstanding! So if you're looking for something a little different to try, lamb is the ticket, no mint jelly required!
Becoming familiar with lamb cuts, their versatility and how butchers might label those cuts when packaging puts you on the path to becoming a Master Griller. So too does knowing which cuts can take direct heat and which ones are best grilled low and slow.
Let's start with cuts from the Neck which are inexpensive, but not really marketed and packaged as Neck meat by most butchers. Neck meat is typically used to make Ground Lamb and Stew Meat, but if you've got a good relationship with your butcher, ask him to cut you some Neck Filets. Meat from the Neck is a bit tough, so when grilling use the reverse sear method, low and slow on indirect heat until tender, then finish the Filets over direct heat to achieve those grill marks, pull the Filets when they hit the 135 degree mark and let them rest. The Filets will continue to cook when resting and should peak a few more degrees to a perfect medium rare.
Shoulder cuts are an economical choice, as the meat here is a bit tougher, but still quite delicious! Butchers will package and label cuts such as Shoulder Roast (bone-in), Rolled Shoulder Roast (boneless), Ground Lamb, Stew Meat and Shoulder Chops (also called blade or arm chops). From the bone-in Shoulder Roast you can get a great meal of Pulled Lamb, rubbed with Rosemary, garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper and olive oil, then grilled low and slow over indirect heat until that meat falls away from the bone, about 4-5 hours depending on the weight of the roast. Served on warm pita or flat bread, it's Another Dose of YUM! Prepared with the same style of rub and a little white wine, the Shoulder Chops can be done over direct heat, searing them for those great grill marks on both sides until that internal temp hits 135 degrees.
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