EXPLORING UNFAMILIAR LAMB CUTS
There's a world of flavorful and accessible lamb cuts beyond the classic, elegant leg of lamb and impressive rack of lamb roasts that are the stunning centerpieces of holiday tables. We set out to explore less familiar cuts and learned that lamb definitely deserves a spot at the everyday dinner table.
I really love our Ovation lamb. The flavor is mild and creamy while still being distinct. It's lamb-y without the gaminess that some people find really off-putting. You know what you're eating, but it's not overwhelming.
STRIPLOINS & SHANKS
We chose these cuts because they're often overlooked or are unfamiliar, yet they're accessible, versatile, require minimal prep and are incredibly easy to cook.
TACKLING TWO DISTINCT CUTS
Low and slow cooking time on any ragu lends itself to hardy cuts like shanks. They aren't a special occasion cut, like rack of lamb or leg of lamb. They're not a classic centerpiece dish, but they totally can be. The texture, flavor & everything I think is better if you use bone-in cuts, especially because of the marrow.- Jade
I prefer manageable recipes that I can make as part of my daily routine. I knew the striploin would be easy. I was just cooking for me and I don't like to eat really fatty meat. This cut is so straightforward. It's tender but still super flavorful. It was easy to insert into my meal plan.- Liv
THE TEST KITCHEN DYNAMIC DUO DELVES IN
Liv and Jade first cooked these cuts at home in the comfort of their own kitchens. They brought their weeknight cooking experiences, lamb insights and inspiration to the Marx Food Test Kitchen where they finalized their recipes and demonstrated just how easy it is to prepare lamb striploins and shanks.
LIV: EASY FOR EVERYDAY
"This is a totally accessible cut," Liv says. Her experience preparing the lamb striploin was one of ease and excitement.
"I took the striploin home and cooked it that night. It was super easy to insert into my meal plan," she says. "I put it in the pan and it was ready in the same amount of time as the rest of my dinner. I made this and thought, 'I want to eat lamb every day!'"
Her recipe favors simple preparations that are full of complementary flavors. "I used canned beans and mixed them with marinated beans from the olive bar, because that's what I would really do on a weeknight, versus cooking everything from scratch."
Created in the depths of a cold Seattle winter, Liv says, "My recipe is so desperately wishing it was summer out! This is definitely something I would grill outside." Whether seared, pan roasted or grilled, the lamb striploin is quick and easy to cook — indoors or out!
JADE: WEEKEND BIG BATCH MEAL PREPPER
Jade spent her junior year of high school studying abroad in Italy ("which was super dope!") and drew inspiration for this recipe from one her host nonna used to make every Sunday: homemade gnocchi with meat sauce.
Inspired by these Sunday suppers, Jade put together a simple lamb shank ragu and showed off her gnocchi-making prowess in the Test Kitchen. "The sauce comes out rich but not heavy. This recipe takes some time, but will easily serve six to eight people. Both the sauce and gnocchi freeze really well, so you can save some for later-I'm usually just cooking for myself and it's hard to scale down recipes for one to two people."
While Jade braised her sauce on the stovetop, it can also be done in the oven or even finished in a slow cooker after the shanks have been seared, making weekend meal prep even easier!
With two different approaches, Jade and Liv discovered how easy, accessible — and delicious! — lamb is.
"Lamb really can be thought of as a go-to meat, just like beef or pork. It doesn't have to be reserved only for special occasions."
A boneless lamb steak cut that cooks similarly to a pork tenderloin, the striploin has a firm yet tender texture and a mild, clean lamb flavor: you know that you're eating lamb, but it's not overwhelming. Liv describes the flavor as "lamby without being gamy." Quick to prepare, this cut is versatile for a variety of different cooking techniques.
- Prepare like you would a pork tenderloin or beef strip steak:
- Season both sides generously, pan sear and finish in the oven; OR
- Grill (indoors on a grill pan or BBQ outdoors).
- The striploin is ideally served rare (Liv pulled hers from the oven when it registered 135°F on an instant-read meat thermometer).
- Remove from heat when the temperature registers 135-140°F (rare) or 140-145°F (medium rare).
- Let the striploin rest for 3-4 minutes before slicing.
"This is like the intersection of tenderness and flavor."
Lamb foreshanks and hindshanks are cut from the lower front legs and hind legs. Since these are hardworking muscles, they need to be cooked low and slow, simmered in liquid. Braising makes them unctuous, fall-off-the-bone tender and deeply flavorful; the fat in the meat and the marrow in the bones lends a luxuriousness to the braising liquid, which can then be used as a sauce when serving. Foreshanks are slightly smaller than hindshanks (less "meaty"), but they can absolutely be used interchangeably in recipes.
- Sear the shanks first.
"I always brown all of my meats for braises. I think it helps the flavor with the Maillard reaction." — Jade
- Make sure the shanks are mostly submerged in the braising liquid.
- After searing, you can braise in the oven, on the stovetop or in a slow-cooker.
- Make sure that you stir the sauce occasionally to avoid scorching, especially if you are simmering on the stovetop and have a tomato-based sauce like Jade's.
"Nonna's gnocchi was made with ground meat but the low and slow cooking time on any ragu really lends itself to tougher cuts like shanks."
OVATION LAMB CUTS AT A GLANCE
|Striploin ||Foreshank ||Hindshank |
|In Brief||Lean & Tender Boneless Strip Steak||Bone-in Cut From The Front Leg||Bone-in Cut From The Hind Leg|
|Cooks Like||Pork Tenderloin||Beef Short Rib||Picnic Roast (Pork)|
|Typical Piece Weight||8-10oz||12-14oz||16-18oz|
|Servings Per Piece||2 Servings per Strip||1 Serving per Foreshank||1-2 Servings per Hindshank|
|Cooking Techniques||Grill, Sear, Pan Roast||Braise, Slow Cook||Braise, Slow Cook|
|Cook Time||15-20 minutes||2 ½ – 3 hours||2 ½ – 3 hours|
Note: Our good friends at the USDA recommend cooking all lamb to an internal temperature of 145°F, followed by a three minute rest, for safety.