You may have heard mixed reviews about the flavor of lamb. Some people say it is delicious. Others say lamb tastes bad. There are a number of factors that you must consider before you can properly answer the question, “What does lamb taste like?” It depends on where the lamb was raised, the cut of meat, and how it was cooked.
Generally speaking, lamb has a unique flavor that is not like other meats. It is less tender than beef. It also has a lot of fat which significantly affects the flavor. Lamb meat can taste sweet and smoky or it can taste bitter and gamey. Even well-raised and properly cooked lamb will have a very mild gamey taste.
Where was the lamb raised?
Lamb comes from three primary countries. They are the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. Each of these places raises their lamb differently and that affects the flavor.
The breed of sheep that is raised on American farms is one of the largest. The flocks are usually a cross between Columbia and Suffolk sheep. These animals are grass fed in pastures or rangeland for most of their lives. Several weeks before slaughter, the lambs are fattened up with a corn-based diet. This adds a healthy marbling to the meat.
Australian sheep are mainly raised for their wool. These animals are kept on pasture their entire lives and not finished with a corn ration before slaughter. They are also harvested at about a year old, which is later than American sheep. The meat is less tender, highly marbled, and has a much stronger flavor.
One of New Zealand’s main exports is lamb meat. These lambs are also pasture fed in their entirety. However, New Zealanders slaughter their lambs closer to six months of age. As a result the fat percentage in the meat is quite low. The meat has a very strong flavor, much like mutton. Mutton is the meat from a sheep over fourteen months of age. If you wonder what does mutton taste like, keep reading!
Wales, France, and Iceland also produce lamb on a small scale. However, it is kept domestic and rarely imported.
What is the cut of meat?
Once you have decided if your lamb is grass-fed or grain-finished, choosing the appropriate cut of meat for your recipe is important. There are several main cuts of lamb available. You may even want to know, what does ground lamb taste like?
When considering what cut of lamb to choose, think about the work the muscle in question does. The shoulder of a lamb is in constant motion and as a result this meat is not very tender initially. This cut needs longer, slower cooking times to ensure a crowd pleasing meal.
One of the most popular cuts is the lamb chop. Lamb chops are made from the ribs of a lamb. Cooked properly, they are juicy and tender. If you are cooking for many people, you can buy a rack of lamb which is lamb chops kept together as a whole.
The loin chop comes from below the ribs at the waist. They resemble a mini t-bone steak. Loin chops can be a lovely cut of meat and served individually or kept together for a loin roast.
At the rear of the lamb we have the rump. The rump is a versatile cut that can be served whole or as individual chop portions. Not only do you have to watch how you cook it, letting this cut dry out results in a poor-tasting chewy mess.
Much like the shoulder, the leg of lamb is a hard-working muscle. It has a strong flavor as a result, but cooked properly can be enjoyed by many. Due to its low fat content, overcooking it results in a dry meat so take care in your preparation.
One of the cheapest cuts you can find is lamb shank. This is made from the bottom part of the back leg. Cook this meat on a lower heat for a longer period of time to activate the collagen. It turns the meat extremely tender and soft.
Other cuts of lamb such as the lamb brisket, flank, and skirt are not sold as individual cuts. Rather, they are cleaned up and put in a grinder to make ground lamb. What does ground lamb taste like? As with the other cuts, the secret is in the cooking method you use.
The answer to what does mutton taste like is that the meat has had more time to grow fat and develop its flavor. It is much gamier than lamb and also much tougher. Regardless of the cut, It is mostly used for stew as it needs a long time under low heat to tenderize it.
Read my other post on Cooking deer meat.
How is it cooked?
If you want to know what does lamb taste like, it can be affected by how it is cooked. A popular way to cook lamb is in a stew. This allows the meat to cook for a long time at a low heat and really tenderize the meat. This method is recommended for the shoulder, the leg, and the shank.
You can also grill lamb. This works well with lamb chops, loin chops, and the rump. You can also grill ground lamb burgers.
Some cuts of lamb lend themselves to a quick pan-fry. This is quite suitable for the rump, as a proper pan-fry locks in the juice and keeps it from being overcooked.
Almost all cuts of lamb can be roasted in the oven to produce a hearty meal. Just be sure to follow the recipe directions carefully. People who say lamb tastes bad when asked “what does lamb taste like?” have often been served the wrong cut cooked in the wrong way.
If you have had a bad experience with lamb, give it another chance with the proper cooking methods. When learning what does lamb taste like, it often takes a few attempts to really understand and appreciate this versatile meat.
Check my other article on the Best beef to smoke.