Maximize The Flavor Of Your Lamb And Season It A Day Ahead

In the U.S., lamb takes a backseat to beef. A typical American will eat about one pound of lamb each year, per USDA, while a whopping 60 pounds of beef, per USDA. Just for comparison's sake, we eat over 90 pounds of chicken and about 50 pounds of pork. Lamb represents about 1/2 of one percent of the meat we eat.

According to the Boston Globe, lamb meat had a brief period of popularity in the upper-crust households of 19th-century America. As the meatpacking industry heralded beef as the top meat of the U.S., lamb was set aside due to a desperate need for wool during World War I. Prioritizing wool production over meat production meant older, tougher, gamier sheep would make it to the butcher.

While Americans will probably never match Kazakhstan's almost 20 pounds of lamb per year habit, per OECD, it is making a bit of a comeback. Bloomberg explains how the pandemic spurred that change. If you're one of the cooks discovering lamb, you need to know about where your lamb comes from, and how to season those shanks, chops, and racks.

The ultimate lamb needs to be seasoned the day before cooking

The debate over how to season any meat is an ongoing issue. One camp follows the advice laid out in the Los Angeles Times, which heralds the benefits of salting meat right before it hits the heat of a pan, oven, or grill. There are probably even more cooks who've adopted salting meat well before, up to a few days, before cooking. 

As opposed to drilling into the science of salt's chemical processes, food writer Oliver Schwaner-Albright, in Food & Wine, took it upon themselves to do some simple A-B testing of these two techniques. They found varying differences in the chicken, beef, and pork that were seasoned the day before, or at the time of cooking.

For lamb, the differences were stark, and the overnight seasoning was the clear winner, according to Schwaner-Albright. The minimal effort of applying salt, and remembering to do it the day prior pays huge dividends. The lamb was "exquisite, " and "tasted richer, fuller, meatier."

Lamb recipes to win over the lamb-hesitant

If that's enough to pique your interest in cooking some lamb, Jamie Oliver explains the five most common cuts of lamb and the best way to use them. Most butcher shops and supermarkets will carry these cuts of lamb from the leg, rump, shoulder, loin chops, or rack. For a traditional rack of lamb, Costco takes the effort out of that elegant offering.

For more recipe inspiration, it makes sense to turn to Australia. Aussies only trail Kazakhstan when it comes to per capita lamb consumption, per OECD. Magazine has collected their favorite lamb recipes from down under, drawing from the inspiration that stems across the globe, ranging from kofta to a quick Mongolian stir-fry. They also range from the more familiar, rosemary, and garlic roast lamb, which can be the center of a celebratory feast, or a homey, and innovative one-pan lamb meatball casserole.