Many restaurants, no matter the cuisine, will likely have some sort of lamb dish on their menu. This is because it’s quite a popular red meat all around the world, from the Middle East, to Africa, to Europe and North America.
In the United States, there may only be one or two lamb items on any given menu, which is often less than pork, beef, or chicken dishes, but the numbers may reflect that there is actually a bigger desire for it than what most people think.
While in the United States, it may not seem like the most popular dish, we are actually the third-biggest importer of lamb in the world, consuming 125,000 metric tons of imported lamb in 2018.
But, if you’ve ever tried lamb that’s been cooked well, it perhaps is not much of a surprise.
However, if you’ve never tried lamb, you may be wondering: what does lamb taste like? Well, it’s tender meat that has a somewhat gamey, earthy flavor with a slight hint of smokiness and has a bit of a creamy essence due to the high amount of fat.
Below I’ll give you a full overview of the taste and texture of lamb. I’ll also tell you the best way to serve it, plus alternatives if you fancy something a little different.
What Does Lamb Taste Like?
Lamb has a sharper, earthier, and slightly gamey taste when compared to conventionally reared beef.
Lamb has a particular flavor that stems mostly from the presence of branched-chain fatty acids, which beef lacks. A lamb’s diet, like beef’s, can influence its flavor.
Grassfed beef has a more robust taste than grain-fed beef. The same may be said about lambs. Lamb reared on grass and grains has a more delicate taste than lamb raised just on grass.
However, in addition to how it’s raised, there are other things that can affect the flavor or lamb as well. These include where it’s raised, the cut of the meat, and how it’s cooked. Let’s check out the differences, shall we?
Where It’s Raised
In some places, the flocks are a mix between Columbia and Suffolk Sheep. For most of their life, these animals are grass-fed on pastures or rangeland. The lambs are fattened on a corn-based diet several weeks before slaughter. This gives the meat a healthy marbling.
Australia, one of the main exporters of lamb, raises the sheep differently. The majority of sheep in Australia are farmed for their wool. These animals have been raised in a pasture their whole lives and are not given a maize supplement before slaughter. They are also harvested at around a year of age, which is later than in other places. The flesh is less soft, more marbled, and has a more robust taste.
Lastly, New Zealand, which is the largest exporter of lamb, raises the lamb to have a slightly different taste as well. Their lambs are also entirely grass-fed. New Zealanders, on the other hand, butcher their lambs closer to six months of age. As a result, the fat content of the meat is quite minimal. The flesh has a robust taste, similar to mutton. Mutton is the flesh of a sheep that is over the age of fourteen months.
The Cut of the Meat
Consider the function of the muscle in issue while deciding on a cut of lamb. Because a lamb’s shoulder is constantly moving, the meat in that region is not very soft. So to ensure a crowd-pleasing dish, you should cook it for a longer period of time to soften the meat.
The lamb chop is one of the most popular cuts. The popular lamb chop cut comes from a lamb’s ribs. They are juicy and tender when properly cooked. If you’re cooking for a large group, you may buy a rack of lamb, which is a collection of lamb chops preserved together as a whole.
The loin chop is derived from the area below the ribs at the waist. They look like little t-bone steaks. A loin chop is a wonderful piece of meat that may be served separately or as part of a loin roast.
The rump is located at the back of the lamb. A rump is a flexible cut that may be served whole or sliced into separate chop pieces. Not only do you have to monitor how you cook it, but allowing this cut dry out results in a chewy mess with a bad taste.
The leg of the lamb, like the shoulder, is a hardworking muscle. As a result, it has a powerful flavor, yet when prepared properly, it may be liked by a wide range of people. Because of its low-fat level, overcooking results in dry meat, therefore use caution when preparing it.
So, when eating at a restaurant or cooking lamb yourself, make sure to keep in mind how it’s cooked and what cut you choose for the best results!
How It’s Cooked
Lamb stew is a popular way to prepare it. This allows the meat to simmer for an extended period of time at a low temperature, allowing it to become extremely soft. This technique is indicated for the shoulder, leg, and shank.
Lamb can also be grilled. This is great for lamb chop, loin chop, and rump. Ground lamb burgers can alternatively be grilled. This can add an even smokier taste to the lamb if you do it this way.
Some lamb chops are ideal for a fast pan-fry. This is ideal for the rump since a thorough pan-fry seals in the liquid and prevents it from overcooking while adding a slightly salty, crispy edge.
Does Lamb Have a Strong Taste?
Yes, lamb does have a strong taste. And it can have a bit of a gamey taste to it as well. However, if it’s cooked properly, the strong taste shouldn’t be overpowering or taste bad. The spices and how well it’s cooked should only accentuate the good flavors of the meat.
What’s The Texture of Lamb Like?
The texture of lamb is very tender, or at least it should be if it’s cooked properly. But, as I briefly mentioned, the texture, like the flavor, can change depending on how you cook it and the cut of the meat.
That said, if it’s a good cut of meat, and it’s cooked well, then it should be very soft and tender. However, if it’s not prepared so well, it can easily dry out and become tougher.
What Tastes Similar to Lamb?
People sometimes use beef as the baseline when comparing lamb, but actually, the taste of lamb perhaps is actually the most similar to that of goat.
However, since goat is also not a commonly eaten meat, it’s understandable why beef is used when trying to describe the taste of lamb.
Best Recipes for Lamb
I hope that your mouth is beginning to water and you’re eager to give lamb a try! If so, here are some of my favorite ways to prepare lamb:
- Roasted rack of lamb
- Moroccan lamb tagine
- Braised lamb shank
- Garlic lamb chops
After more great ideas for your next lamb dish? Check out this article.
If you give any of these dishes a try, I am sure you’ll fall in love with lamb too!
Vegan Alternatives to Lamb
Tempeh is a great item to use instead of lamb.
Since you can buy it in somewhat large chunks, you can easily use it not only in stews, kebabs, or wraps, but you can also make vegan lamb roasts with it if you like as well.