Dos and Don’ts of Cooking Lamb
If you happened to attend Golden Ocala’s Easter Egg Hunt & Brunch, you may have sampled our mint and rosemary-crusted leg of lamb. And this may also be the last time you eat a cut of lamb until it happens to appear on the menu at one your favorite restaurants — or even until Easter comes around again. But with some basic techniques straight from Chef Rick Alabaugh’s kitchen, you will be grilling, braising and roasting a juicy and flavorful meal of lamb just in time for your next dinner!
If lamb is your meal of choice, but you’re pressed for time, try grilling some lamb chops. Simply dry brine the chops before grilling them to your desired temperature — that’s 120° for rare to medium rare, 145° for medium and 165° for well done. While a chop is the most tender cut of lamb, it is at its most tender when cooked on the rarer side — so it’s really a matter of preference.
And if you happen to have a bit more time on your hands, try salting the lamb chops at least 40 to 60 minutes before firing up the grill.
In case you didn’t know, braising refers to browning meat in fat and then slowly cooking the meat in a small amount of liquid — keeping it tender and juicy by locking in flavor. You can braise meat on the stovetop, in the oven or in a slow cooker. No matter the location, use a tight-fitting lid to seal the liquid and avoid evaporation. In terms of temperature, set to medium heat on the stovetop and in the slow cooker and 325° in the oven.
Chef Rick recommends braising a lamb shoulder, as it is one the toughest cuts of lamb meat, and therefore, needs to be cooked long enough to break down the collagens. This is ideal for achieving the tenderness that braising demands. In the end, the shoulder will be tender, well done and ready for your feast.
Roasting suggests that the meat is uncovered in the oven until a well-browned interior and moist exterior is produced. In the case of roasting lamb, go with a rack or loin, as they are both tender.
You’ll want to roast the lamb for 15 to 20 minutes per pound at 325° for a perfect medium rare. Otherwise, it’s 10 to 15 minutes for rare, 20 to 25 minutes for medium, 25 to 30 minutes for medium well, and 30 to 35 minutes for well done — per pound, of course. Keep in mind, the lamb will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from the oven.
The best part — lamb can handle many flavors — so spice it up! Some of Chef Rick’s go-to flavors are thyme, honey mustard, rosemary and mint — so take your pick or create your own.
If for some reason, your lamb is not tender to the fork or you feel like you’ve messed up in some way, try adding that cut of lamb to your favorite soup or stew for a great source of protein. For other tips and techniques, call Chef Rick at Golden Ocala — (352) 629-6229. Let’s get cookin’!