Tips for Cooking Grass-fed Lamb
Dry-heat cooking for lamb chops and leg of lamb
- Your biggest culprit for tough grass-fed lamb chops is overcooking. This lamb is made for rare to medium rare cooking. If you like well-done meat, then cook your grass-fed meat at very low temperatures in a sauce to add moisture (see the back of this handout for tips on moist heat cooking).
- Marinades are wonderful for both tenderizing and flavor. But if you use a marinade, remember that the acidic ingredients (the vinegar or lemon juice) can dry meat out as well as tenderize it. So we recommend marinating for no more than a couple of hours if you’re going to use dry heat to cook. Also remember that grass-fed meats have a richer flavor than grain-fed, so you don’t want to mask it with strong ingredients. You can mix up a quick and easy marinade with just a few drops of balsamic vinegar, some fresh-squeezed lemon juice, an equal amount (or more) of olive oil, and fresh minced garlic. For safe handling, always marinate in the refrigerator.
- If you prefer not to use a marinade, just use your favorite spices. Garlic and rosemary are a great combination for lamb, as well as coriander and cumin. Again, spice lightly to bring out the flavor of the lamb, not to overwhelm it.
- Make sure the meat is completely defrosted, either in the refrigerator or for quick thawing place the meat in a Ziploc bag and then in a tub of water. Never use a microwave to thaw your grass-fed meat! It’s best if the meat is room temperature, although that’s not critical.
- Pat the meat dry with a paper towel, and then sprinkle salt on one side. The salt will help create that delicious caramelized effect when it’s cooked on high heat.
- Stovetop cooking is great for grass-fed lamb chops because you have more control over the temperature than on the grill.
- Whether on the grill or the stovetop, first pre-heat the grill or pan, then coat with butter or oil. Once it is thoroughly pre-heated, place the chops on the grill or in the pan, salted-side down. Let it cook on that side at medium-high heat for approximately 2 minutes to sear. Salt the uncooked side, then flip over and allow that side to sear. Then turn to LOW heat to finish cooking.
- Never use a fork to turn your chops because precious juices will be lost. Always use tongs or a spatula.
- In the last few minutes, you can add garlic butter (or butter mixed with your other favorite spices) to carry the taste of fresh garlic through the meat just like steak chefs.
- If you are grilling, baste to add moisture throughout the grilling process.
- Grass-fed lamb has high protein and low fat levels, so the lamb will usually require 20-30% less cooking time than grain-fed and will continue to cook when removed from heat. For this reason, remove the meat from your heat source 10 degrees before it reaches the desired temperature. Use a thermometer to test for doneness and watch the thermometer carefully. Since grass fed meat cooks so quickly, your meat can go from perfectly cooked to overcooked in less than a minute.
- Let the lamb sit covered and in a warm place for 3 to 5 minutes after removing from heat to let the juices redistribute.
- When roasting, sear the meat first to lock in the juices and then place in a pre-heated oven. Remember that the leftovers make wonderful healthy luncheon meats with no additives or preservatives.
- You can store leftover bones in a bag in the freezer until you have enough to make a pot of rich bone broth.
Moist heat cooking for lamb shoulder, shank, ribs/breast, & leg of lamb
Moist heat cooking is essential for lamb shoulder roasts, shanks and ribs/breast. You can also use it for lamb chops or leg of lamb if you like well-done meat. Leg of lamb in particular has a very rich flavor when slow-cooked in moist heat.
- Reduce the temperature of your grain fed meat recipes by 50 degrees for roasting or use the low heat setting in a crock pot. The cooking time will still be the same or slightly shorter even at the lower temperature.
- If cooking in the oven, place the meat in a covered dish with some liquid and whatever vegetables and spices you like.
Thank you to American Grassfed Association, for many of the tips on this page.