Most lamb is slaughtered at about six months; mutton comes from sheep at least 18 months old. British lamb is available between March and November and is most plentiful between August and November. New Zealand lamb is at its best between December and June.
What to look for Young lamb is firm, fine-grained, and pale pink to pink-brown, while meat from older animals is slightly darker. The fat should be creamy-white and crisp. Joints should be plump with a good proportion of lean meat and a moderate layer of fat. There is usually little gristle.
All cuts, except the neck, can be roasted and the individual chops from them may be grilled or fried. Some forequarter cuts are casseroled, stewed or made into pies.
- Breast A most economical
- cut, often boned and rolled for roasting or braising.
- Leg An expensive cut from the animal’s hindquarters, this is sold on the bone or boned, stuffed and rolled for roasting. It is often divided into two joints: the fillet (thick end), often sliced for grilling and frying; and the shank (thin, knuckle end).
- Loin This is usually divided into loin end and chump end and cut into chops for grilling, frying and braising. Chump chops are oval, with a small central bone. They are meatier and more expensive than loin chops, which have a T-shaped bone. Noisettes are taken from the loin, boned, trimmed of fat, and shaped into rounds.
- Neck (best end) From the loin end of the neck, this is the most economical and versatile cut. It can be roasted on the bone (use two equal-sized
- pieces to make a crown roast or guard of honour); boned and rolled; or split into cutlets for grilling and frying.
- Neck (middle and scrag) These cuts contain a great deal of bone and fat and are traditionally used for making broth, and in both Lancashire hot pot and Irish stew.
- Saddle A joint for special occasions — the whole loin cut from both sides of the animal. Order it in advance from your butcher and roast in a moderate oven.
- Shoulder Cut from the forequarters, this is an inexpensive roasting joint, especially when boned to form a cavity and stuffed with a substantial stuffing mixture. Though fatty, it is tender and succulent roasted on or off the bone. It may be divided into the blade and knuckle to make two small roasting joints.