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All About Lamb

Lamb is a delicious sign of spring. From roasts and chops to stews and comforting braises, lamb has something to offer everyone at the table. Though we love a foolproof classic combination, let’s move beyond thinly sliced roast slathered in mint jelly and explore all the preparations that make this meat shine.

Fun Fact: It’s a Polish tradition to include a “butter lamb” on the table as part of the Easter meal. Butter is shaped into a lamb either by hand or in a mold.


Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pomegranate-Wine Sauce

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pomegranate-Wine Sauce

Grilled Rack of Lamb and Fennel
Grilled Rack of Lamb and Fennel

Choosing the Right Lamb

Will you be serving a crowd or putting together a simple dinner for two? Lean on your butcher to help select the best cut.

Leg of Lamb

  • Tender and iconic, leg of lamb can be purchased in several iterations, from the full leg to the shank (or lower) end or the sirloin end.
  • Bone-in leg of lamb will take longer to cook, but won’t need to be tied with twine like a boneless leg of lamb.
  • A whole leg (usually about 6 pounds) should feed at least 8 people.

Rack

  • The lamb rib rack is an impressive, 7-8 tined cut that grills beautifully but can also be crusted with herbs and roasted.
  • Frenching the rack (or removing the layer of fat and meat around the rib bones) ups the ante – ask your butcher for help.

Chops

  • Tender rib chops are cut from the rack and the long rib bone provides a delicate effect on the plate.
  • Sirloin chops are tiny T-bone steaks with a generous ratio of meat-to-bone.
  • Wallet-friendly shoulder chops have the bone-in elegance of their counterparts with a more toothsome texture that’s great for braising.

Shoulder

  • Also called a square-cut shoulder, this cut is great for low and slow roasting or for cubing into stew meat.

Top Round

  • This tender, flavorful cut is a larger piece from the leg.
  • Use this cut for kebobs, thin steaks or a quick-cooking roast.

Shank

  • Lamb fore shanks are stars of the braising world; use a long, slow cook time to develop a velvety texture.
  • Each shank will serve one person generously.

Lamb Chops with Red Wine-Glazed Spring Vegetables
Lamb Chops with Red Wine-Glazed Spring Vegetables

Leg of Lamb with Crispy Onions
Leg of Lamb with Crispy Onions

Seared Lamb Shoulder Chops with Warm Chimichurri

Seared Lamb Shoulder Chops with Warm Chimichurri

Cooked to Perfection

Lamb roasts and steaks should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F while ground lamb needs to reach at least 160°F.

Slow Cooking (leg, shank, shoulder roasts, stew meat)

  • Tougher cuts of lamb render fork-tender stews and braises, but remember to sear meat before starting the slow cooking process to build flavor.
  • A leg of lamb can be deboned, stuffed and rolled for a more nuanced roast.
  • Slice roasted lamb for memorable next-day sandwiches and salads.

Quick Cooking (chops, rack, ground lamb)

  • Lamb’s gamey nature marries well with the smokiness produced by cooking over an open fire.
  • If grilling a whole lamb rack, cap the cleaned rib bones in aluminum foil to prevent them from burning.
  • Smaller cuts like rib chops and sliced roast cuts can be fully cooked on the stovetop.
  • For a lamb-infused shortcut, try ground lamb in place of ground beef in your favorite burger or meatball recipes.

Lamb Sliders with Celery-Yogurt Sauce
Lamb Sliders with Celery-Yogurt Sauce

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Roasted Lemons
Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Roasted Lemons

Kofta Soup

 

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18 comments

Comments

Nicole K says …

One of my favorite meats

Brenda Goodwin says …

We love lamb! Racks, ribs, sirloin chops or leg of lamb are great on the grill! We marinade a boneless leg in olive oil, garlic salt, smashed garlic and oregano overnight, after "cleaning it up" to get rid of most of the fat. We cook it to an internal temperature of 125. Whenever we're fortunate enough to have left-overs, we make curry, adding celery, sometimes, and always onions and red or green peppers. Sometimes we "switch it up", marinating with rosemary instead of oregano, or drizzle some Greek lemon butter over after cooking. Delicious!!

Melissa Doherty says …

Thinking Lamb for Easter Dinner Sat night. Family of 10 coming 5pm I work till 2...Need quick easy even BBQ. Can you make suggestions veg's included also need 2 pies you pick and I'll pick up 2:30 Saturday after work in Oakville.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MELISSA - I would suggest calling our Oakville location directly at 905.849.8400 to see what they have in stock and they can take your order. Since our menu options differ, they can let you know what they have in stock!

John Vitka says …

a hint,for roast lamb. Soak overnight in water to cover and a cup of white vinegar. dry in the morning and remove the fell by scraping with knife. this will reduce the gameness smell while cooking.

Tom Spence says …

Finally, a comprehensive guide

Tom Baker says …

Lamb

Kathleen Conner says …

Bought my first lamb a few days ago, so this is really timely. Thanks!

Alphonso says …

This page is very helpful!

vana says …

Do you carry lamb tenderloins

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@VANA - The exact options differ between stores. Check with your local store to see if they have this cut!

Satjeet says …

Is the lamb sold at whole foods halal?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SATJEET - Our exact product options differ between stores. Check with your local store to see if the lamb that they carry is Halal.

Non Halal says …

@SATJEET - You don't want halal. Eat haram its better for us.

Phil Scuderi says …

I asked my local Whole Foods (Winston Salem, NC) if they could get a lamb top round. The person behind the counter looked perplexed. I said it was a type of roast. The person then pointed to a shoulder roast in the case and said "that's a roast." Unfortunately, this seems to be a common occurrence when asking about any specialty meat. Very disappointing experience. I will order it online from a specialty store.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PHIL - Sorry about your experience. Were you able to speak with anyone in meat leadership? If not, I'm sure they will be happy to special order this for you if they do not have it in stock.

Michael Jeter says …

I live in Mobile, AL. My Whole Foods(WF) store does not carry lamb shoulder, and nether does any other local grocery. Does any WF store carry whole lamb shoulder, and can I order it to be delivered to the Mobile store?

Jerry Griffith says …

Thanks for the information about lamb and lamb cuts. I want a lamb shoulder, around 3 lbs. to make a lamb tangine. Can't find it. Do you keep lamb shoulder in stock and, if so, about what price per lb. Thanks so much.