User's Guide To Lamb Meat:
Selection, Preparation, and Safe Handling
By Mark Rivir, Lindsay Eckert, and Ashley Moore
Selecting retail lamb meat
- First color should be a nice bright red. As meat ages the color will begin to fade also you can compare this to the date on the packaging if the cuts are packaged. Freshly cut meat may be a reddish purple color this just means that the meat has not reached full bloom (a term used to describe the bright red color when the meat has been exposed to the oxygen rich air for about 30 min).
- Secondly quality the meat should have a quality grade that accompanies it this is a standardized term that tells us how good the meat is supposed to be. Prime is the best quality grade followed by choice, good and utility grade. Also look at the marbling (the small flecks of fat in the muscle) this is a good indicator of how tender, juicy and flavorful the meat will be if prepared properly. Also the meat should be firm, moist and there should be a very small amount of fluids within the packing that have leaked from the meat.
- Third matching the size and cut of lamb to the occasion. For example if you are planning on feeding a lot of people you may want to cook something like the leg of lamb that is a larger cut that will feed a large number of people or maybe you want to impress someone you might select the rack of lamb although expensive is very good and considered to be very prestigious. Lamb chops are the more practical for a meal for a smaller amount of people and they can be prepared to each individual's preference.
- Be selective don't just buy the first thing that you see. Take your time at the meat counter to think about what you want and how many people you will be preparing the meal for. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't let anyone pressure you to make a hasty decision remember they are there to wait on you.
Common Lamb Retail Cuts and Cook Methods
|Roast at 325°F
||40 to 45 min./lb
Lamb Loin Chop
||15 to 19 min
Lamb Leg Roast
|Roast at 325°F
||20 to 30 min./lb
Lamb Rib Chop (Frenched)
*All cooking times indicate an internal temperature of 160°F or medium degree of doneness.
Helpful hints in preparing your lamb meat safely
- While shopping for lamb meat, make sure it is the last item(s) you pick up at the store so it can be refrigerated as long as possible.
- When you arrive at home make sure all work surfaces, utensils, cookware, and dishes are thoroughly washed with soap and hot water.
- Other food items such as ready to eat foods should not come in contact with the raw meat or juices from the meat. For example, do not use the same cutting board to chop vegetables for a salad after using it to cut your lamb meat. Also, make sure not to touch other food with utensils (like knives) that have touched raw lamb meat.
- Clean all utensils and cookware thoroughly after preparing the lamb meat.
To ensure safe meat and proper storage of lamb meat
- If you intend to use your meat after purchasing it from the store the meat should be cooked to a temperature of 140-145°F at the center. A meat thermometer is recommended to be certain it has reached this temperature. Even though the temperature of 140-145°F may be reached, if you have a thicker cut of meat, like a roast it may still be pink in the center, but is safe to consume.
- A good way to kill bacteria that may remain on the surface of the meat is by searing the lamb on the stove top. It also gives a browned flavorful crust.
- After enjoying your meal, all leftovers should be placed in the refrigerator or freezer at 33-40°F for no more than 3-4 days or frozen for about 3 months.
- If you intend on freezing your cuts of lamb to prepare at a later date, you should remember to thaw the meat in the refrigerator or in the microwave on the defrost setting. NEVER leave it out on the counter top to thaw. This poses a serious bacterial risk!
Most common food borne illness in lamb meat is E. coli
- Escherichia coli 0157:H7 causes symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting.
- It can begin 2-5 days after injecting food that is contaminated.
- These symptoms can last up to 8 days.
- E. coli normally lives in the intestines of mammals and man. This pathogenic strain is usually found in ground meat, but can be present on retail cuts during the processing of the animal.
- It can survive refrigeration and freezing so cooking lamb to the proper temperature is the only way to kill the bacteria before consumption.
Basic Nutritional Facts
- Calories from fat-100
- Protein-30 grams
- Carbohydrates-0 grams
- Dietary fiber-0 grams
- Total fat- 11 grams
- Saturated fat-4 grams
- Unsaturated fat-7 grams
- Cholesterol-99 milligrams
* Based on a 4 ounce roasted serving of lamb meat
Cultural/ Ethnicity Preparations
- Indian- Mint leaves added for flavor, also increases shelf life
- Italian- Braised lamb shank
- style of preparation: add sautéed soffrito (which is finely chopped onion, carrots, and celery after slightly browning the meat, the flavors of the soffrito are absorbed more at this preparation level enhancing pallete satisfaction.
- Greece- Prepare "souvlaki" style, which is skewed chunks of meat after grilled over coals.
- kalamakia: small wooden skewers with bread (served as a snack)
- meridia: bigger chunks of meat dispersed among onions and peppers, usually served with French fries (popular lunch dish)
- Lamb Chop/roast lamb- Powerful Italian Red,Barolo
- Wine Characteristics -chocolate, figs, leather, vintage style taste
- Lamb Shanks-Red Variety, Cabernet
- Leg of Lamb-Powerful French Red, Bandol
- Wine Characteristics -Dark Red Wine, subtle plums, smell of cinnamon, vanilla, violets
Guide To Wine- "The Art of Wine Pairing." October 2006.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service- "Food Safety Education." September 2001.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service-"Meat Preparation." February 2003.
WH Foods- "Nutritional Facts." February 2007.