Cut of the Month: Leg of Lamb

The Lobel family of Lobel’s Prime Meats in Manhattan and Lobel’s of New York online butcher shop are fourth- and fifth-generation butchers. With our Cut of the Month series, we will bring you their wealth of knowledge and expertise on specific cuts of meat, including their unique characteristics, preparation methods, and how to select the best cut.

Lamb is often on our minds come March. The spring holidays are just around the corner, and lamb is a popular selection for both Passover dinners and Easter celebrations. Likewise, the old English proverb about March weather also brings lamb to mind: March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. For these reasons, we’ve selected Leg of Lamb for this month’s Cut of the Month.

Cooked - Leg of Lamb

Spring Lamb

Why is it that we tend to eat lamb in spring? Well, before the rise in globalization led to consumers being able to buy strawberries in winter and apples in spring, there was a time when each food was relegated to a particular season—and for lamb that season was spring.

Because of their thick wool, sheep were originally farmed in colder northern climates, and lambs were born in spring. Therefore, spring lambs were young with delicate, mild meat. The term “spring lamb” could also be used to refer to lambs born in the spring who were raised through the early summer and slaughtered later in summer, yielding more flavorful meat.

These days, sheep can be raised in varying climates. Also, New Zealand and Australian lamb can be imported to the U.S. year-round. At Lobel’s of New York, we offer only domestic, all-natural lamb from the Rocky Mountain high-country. Through our proprietary relationships with Western suppliers, we are able to procure the finest lamb available every season of the year.

However, many people still often associate springtime with lamb. Since Easter and Passover both occur in springtime, lamb is a popular choice for menus for both occasions. Additionally, since these holidays are traditional family gathering times, large cuts that can feed a group are an ideal choice. Therefore, leg of lamb is ideal for the season.

How You Slice It

Ask your Local Butcher

Leg of lamb is cut from the hind leg and includes both the top and the lower parts of the leg, which are called, respectively, the sirloin (or butt) and the shank. Leg of lamb is considered a treat by most lamb lovers. It’s an expensive cut but is absolutely delicious.

Most people buy the whole leg, but if you have a small family, you might want to buy a half leg. On the other hand, you could buy a whole leg, have the butcher cut it into two roasts, and freeze one half. Or, if a whole leg is just slightly too big for your needs, the butcher can slice a few steaks from the sirloin end, which could be served at a later meal.

Sirloin (Butt) Half of Leg

The top part of the leg, this is a very tender, meaty roast with wonderful flavor. We like it for small gatherings, as it serves only four or five. It can be cut into chops, which are sometimes called lamb steaks.

Shank Half of Leg

The shank roast is small and therefore attractive for small families. It is not as tender as the butt end, so does best when cooked slowly.

Bone-In Leg of Lamb

This is the full leg with the bone left intact. It has marvelous flavor, is perfect for roasting, and is a traditional roast for festive family gatherings.

Boneless (Boned and Rolled) Leg of Lamb

A leg of lamb from which the bone has been removed might be referred to as boned, boned-out, bone-out, or boneless. When a customer asks for a boned leg of lamb for rolling, we cut the tip end from the shank and then bone the leg of lamb so that it can be rolled and tied. The home cook can unroll the meat and fill it with a savory stuffing made up of herbed bread crumbs, dried fruit, vegetables, and other ingredients, and then roll it up and tie it again.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb

This is a boneless leg of lamb (see above) that is opened and flattened and used most often for grilling. It’s impossible to flatten the leg meat evenly, which means this is a lumpy cut that will not cook evenly as will a beef or veal steak. Lamb lovers do not object to this at all and instead claim that this makes the butterflied leg of lamb perfect for a group: the thicker and thinner parts of the meat cook to different degrees of doneness, so everyone’s tastes are accommodated.

Watch Evan Lobel showing Martha Stewart how to butterfly a leg of lamb on the Butchering episode of “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School.”

Leg of Lamb Recipes

Evan’s Roast Leg of Lamb

This is a simple and classic preparations that includes two fragrant and flavorful ingredients that have a wonderful affinity for lamb: mustard and rosemary.

Slow-Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pistachio Crust

Lamb has an affinity for pistachio nuts, as in this bone-in leg of lamb with a crusty coating of pistachios, bread crumbs, mustard, and rosemary—an herb that has its own love affair with lamb. The roast is served Sunday-dinner style, with potatoes, carrots, and onions roasted alongside the lamb.

Spring Leg of Lamb Roasted with Ham

This unique recipe is perfect for Easter dinner in that it combines the two seasonal favorites— lamb and ham—together in one delicious roasted dish.

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Currant Jelly

This mouth-watering recipe calls for a blanket of bacon and onions over the leg of lamb, spread with currant jelly and served alongside a pan gravy.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb Marinated in Yogurt and Mint

Take your lamb outside! Lamb and yogurt is a match made in heaven, and when mixed with garlic, mint, and fresh thyme, the perfect combination just gets better. With flavorful marinades such as those we suggest with lamb, you won’t miss gravy made from pan juices.

What’s your favorite way to prepare leg of lamb? What are your favorite flavors to pair with lamb: rosemary, mustard, mint? Do you enjoy lamb for Easter or Passover dinner?