On grilling or roasting grassfed lamb

If you’re used to grilling or roasting supermarket lamb (lamb chops, butterflied legs of lamb) – one thing you’ll notice is that grassfed lamb cooks faster. A LOT faster! This is because it’s much leaner, with a lower fat content. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can grill it or roast it exactly as you would conventional lamb – you’ll end up with shoe leather.

Cook your grassfed lamb to a lower temperature than you may be accustomed to! Grassfedcooking.com recommends an internal temperature of 120-145 degrees for lamb (120 degrees for rare; 130 degrees for medium; 140 degrees for well-done), significantly lower than USDA’s recommended temperature range of 145-170 degrees. As meat continues to cook once removed from a heat source, remove it a few minutes early (5-10 degrees before desired temperature range), tent it loosely with foil, and allow it to rest for a few minutes to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the piece of meat (so that juices can reabsorb) before re-testing the temperature and carving.

Racks of lamb are notoriously challenging to cook to exactly the right temperature.  If you try to roast them in the oven, you’re likely to find that the outside is overcooked while only the inner part is to your taste. We recently discovered the perfect solution: put them in a marinade, and cook them “sous vide” (French for “under vacuum”): basically you exclude as much air as possible from the package, and place it in a water batch at a pre-selected temperature. The lamb will ONLY cook until it reaches your desired temperature, be it rare or medium-well; it won’t continue to cook unless you were to raise the temperature. Enjoy a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers while the lamb is cooking in the water bath, then finish it for a few minutes on a hot grill. More info is available on the Serious Eats website; note that sous vide heaters/circulators are available for a little over $100 from Amazon.

Two cookbooks that we’ve really enjoyed that contain lots of recipes for grassfed lamb (grilled or otherwise cooked) are: “The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook”, by Shannon Hayes, and “The Farmer and the Grill”, also by Shannon Hayes. These books explain the differences between conventional and grassfed meats, as well as how to adapt recipes. Everything I’ve tried from these cookbooks has been delicious! The recipe in the second of these books for grilled lamb spareribs with “salmuera” (a garlicky, salty brine added toward the end of grilling) is especially delectable. Members of my family fight over the right to the last ribs!

Below you’ll find links to some of our favorite lamb recipes. It’s fun exploring how to cook cuts you’ve never imagined eating!

Some of our own recipes:

Lamb Marinade (for grilled chops or butterflied legs of lamb or racks of lamb)

Shepherd’s Pie (for ground lamb)

Recipes from the web that we’ve particularly enjoyed (these will open in a new tab):

General. The “American Lamb” website offers a plethora of mouth-watering recipes.

Lamb Feta Peppers (for ground lamb; we omit the sugar, and use brown rice)

Braised Lamb Shanks (delicious way to use lamb shanks – be prepared to increase the quantity of leeks!)

Almost Spit-Roasted Moroccan Lamb (a recipe by one of my favorite chefs, Paula Wolfert; cooked in the oven until the meat is just starting to fall off the bone. I am not sure I’ll ever cook my (bone-in) lamb shoulders any other way!)

Lamb Rib Roll (a recipe by South African chef Jan Braii. I haven’t tried this yet, but my mouth waters every time I watch the video, and it looks like a perfect way to use a breast of lamb/lamb spareribs – viewed by many chefs as one of the tastiest cuts of the lamb. If you want to learn how to de-bone breast of lamb, you can find a video here).

Moroccan Heart Kebab (delicious way to cook lamb heart; serve with cous-cous. Works well with either a couple of lamb hearts, or double the recipe if you’re using a beef heart, which is much larger than are lamb hearts)

Liver and Onions (my “go to” recipe for lamb liver. My spouse refuses to eat liver, so I reserve this for evenings when he’s away and I can pig out on my own, with leftovers. Lamb liver is a drop-in replacement for beef liver; divide the recipe in two if you’re only cooking 1 lb of lamb liver).

Steak and Kidney Pie. (Ever wondered what to do with lamb kidneys? They work much better than the (much larger) beef kidneys for this recipe. Feel free to purchase frozen puff pastry; it saves a TON of effort! My spouse and children “claim” they won’t eat kidneys, but I’m skeptical; whenever I make this, it disappears awfully quickly).

Lamb Spleen. Our butcher will save lamb spleens for you if you’re feeling adventurous.  I have to confess I haven’t tried them – yet. They’re also called lamb “melts”. The link provided looks like a good place to start.

Let us know if you ever find yourself with a cut that you don’t know how to cook!