Some of the best tips for cooking lamb include choosing high quality cuts and utilizing an accurate meat thermometer. Selecting the proper cooking method, either moist or dry, is also an important aspect of cooking lamb. Seasoning the meat with complimentary ingredients and handling it correctly after cooking can also be helpful.
A delicious lamb dish begins with high quality meat. The meat should come from an animal that was slaughtered at between five and 12 months of age; the younger the meat, the more tender. Lamb should also be firm to the touch and bright pink or red. Any graying in the meat likely indicates inferior flavor. Fat on the lamb should be smooth and even in color, with the bone being red and moist. Starting with the best quality meat available is one of the most essential aspects of cooking lamb.
No matter what cut of this meat is being prepared, using an accurate meat thermometer is essential. In most instances, lamb should be cooked medium rare and medium when cooked with a dry method. The thermometer should read between 145° Fahrenheit (63° Celsius) and 160° Fahrenheit (71° Celsius). Generally it is best to remove the meat from the heat 5 to 10 degrees before the desired temperature is reached because the lamb will continue to cook as it rests. Lamb prepared with liquid should only be cooked until tender to protect the inside of the meat from becoming dry.
The cut of meat will determine how the lamb should be cooked. In most cases, tougher cuts should be cooked with a moist method; braising and stewing are popular. Cuts of lamb that do well with this method are shanks, legs, shoulders, and necks. The moisture in the cooking process helps to add flavor and tenderness to these tougher cuts of meat. Chops, racks, and roasts often do well with a dry cooking process. They can either be roasted, pan seared, or grilled. As these cuts of lamb are naturally delicate and flavorful, additional moisture is not needed to break down the meat and make it tender.
The seasonings used when cooking lamb are also important. Mint and garlic are popular because these tend to complement the subtle flavor of the meat. Cinnamon, basil, curry powder, and mustard may also be good options. As with most meats, quality kosher or sea salt should be used on the meat prior to cooking. This will enhance the natural taste of the lamb without adding a salty flavor and help the outside of the meat to caramelize.
With any cut or cooking method, allow the meat to rest after cooking lamb. This will give the juices a chance to redistribute throughout the meat, thereby maintaining its flavor and moisture. Cutting into lamb too soon after cooking will cause most of the juices, and therefore the flavor, to run out. Depending on the size of the cut, lamb should rest for five to 20 minutes before serving.