One of the best ways to cut the cost of your shopping bill but still enjoy good quality meat is by buying cheaper cuts. It’s easy to end up buying the same things each week, such as chicken breasts or pork chops, but these are the more expensive cuts of meat. Many of the cuts that our grandparents ate regularly are forgotten about, even though they make great tasting, inexpensive meals and can be used in a variety of recipes. Don’t be put off buying cheaper cuts of meat because you are unsure of what to buy or you don’t know how to cook them.
A great way of finding out more about the cheaper cuts of meat that are available in your area is to talk to your local butcher or your local supermarket meat department manager. When shopping for lamb, always check the dates that are stamped on the packaging to know if you are getting fresh meat. If lamb is not contained in a package, look at the color of the meat, as that is a major factor in determining how fresh it is. Lamb should be pink/red in color. Any meat that is dark red is older and will not be as tender. Also, look for other markings on the label that will give you more information about the lamb. USDA Prime will be the highest in tenderness and flavor. USDA Choice is still high quality meat, but slightly less tender. While USDA Prime has somewhat of a higher fat content, all grades of lamb have similar protein, vitamins and nutrients.
Cheaper cuts of meat often come from tougher, muscled areas of the animal and require slow cooking in stews or casseroles to soften them up. By slow cooking these cuts of meat, which can be done either in a slow cooker or in a covered pot in the oven, you can easily make tasty meals. Where dishes call for “braising” or “stewing”, you can often use any of the cheaper cuts of meat. Braising refers to the cooking technique, where the meat is browned first in a pan and then cooked for several hours in liquid on low heat in a covered pot.
Less Expensive Lamb Cuts
This is one of the cheapest cuts and can be very versatile – it can be roasted, stuffed or rolled.
Lamb shanks have become popular in recent years, which has pushed the price up a bit. But they are still a good value and are suitable for slow roasting, stewing or braising. Lamb Shanks are excellent on a dinner party menu. They also make for a delicious meal, when slow roasted in individual aluminium foil packs with white wine and herbs.
Shanks are a cut of lamb taken from either the shoulder (fore shank) and arm of a lamb or the upper part of the leg (hind shank). The fore shank includes part of the shoulder, as well as part of the leg, while the hind shank includes only part of the rear leg. Lamb shanks have a paper-thin membranous covering and a thin layer of fat. While a lamb shank is leaner than other parts of a lamb, the meat can be tough. This cut of lamb must be braised or roasted.
Osso buco is the name for a classic Milanese dish of cross-cut slices of veal shank, which are often labeled osso buco and slowly braised in a vegetable-rich, tomato-based sauce until the meat is so tender, it falls away from the bone with the merest nudge of a fork. The shanks are traditionally served over saffron risotto or polenta.
If you’ve ever seen a whole veal shank, you’ll understand why cutting it crosswise into thick sections makes complete sense. The same is true of lamb shanks, pork shanks and turkey legs. Ask to have them cross cut for a nicer presentation, because it is so much more appealing to serve shanks in slices rather than as joints on a platter. Most likely, you’ll have to place a special order with the butcher in your market, but lamb shanks are much cheaper than veal.
Tips For Slow Cooking Lamb
- Brown the lamb first, in batches if necessary. This will caramelize the meat and improve its flavor.
- Although lamb is a little more fatty than other meats, don’t trim all of it away before cooking. The fat contains a lot of the flavor and helps make the meat tender. The excess will rise to the surface of the cooking liquid and can be skimmed away.
- Remember to only lightly season slow-cooked dishes at the beginning of cooking. As the meat braises the cooking liquid reduces and concentrates the sauce, which can easily become too salty.
- When simmering lamb, do it over a low heat so that the liquid bubbles only very gently around the meat. This will keep the meat tender.
- Keep an eye on slow-cooked lamb. Unless you want it so tender it falls apart. Check it after about 45 minutes for tenderness, as lamb cooks much faster than other meats.
Lamb Osso Bucco
Makes 6 servings.
- 2 lamb shanks trimmed of fat and cross-cut into 1 or 1 ½ inch thick pieces
- 2 heaping tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups tomato sauce
- 1 ½ cups dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Heat oven to 325°F. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a paper bag. Drop the lamb pieces into the bag and shake, thoroughly covering the pieces with the flour mixture.
Pour the olive oil into a Dutch Oven and brown the shank pieces over medium-high heat. Remove the browned lamb and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, carrots and celery to the skillet. Cook for three to five minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic, tomato sauce, wine, basil, thyme and bay leaf. Add the browned lamb and return to a simmer.
Place the pan in the oven, covered, and bake for 1 hour.
Turn the meat. Cover and cook another hour or until the lamb is tender enough to fall off the bone easily.
Remove the bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. It is traditional to serve this dish with risotto.
Lamb Shanks in Foil Packets
- 4 (2-1/2-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 (2-1/2- to 3-inch) strips orange zest
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each), trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 teaspoons unsalted butter
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F.
Arrange four 16×16-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a work surface. Put 1 rosemary sprig, 1 garlic clove, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and 1 strip of orange zest on each square. Set aside.
Pat the lamb shanks dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, brown the shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer 1 shank to each foil square, arranging it on top of the herbs. Draw up the edges of the foil to capture any juice, but don’t seal the packets yet.
Return the skillet to medium heat, add the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping the skillet with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat. Portion the wine drippings evenly among the 4 packets, pouring it over the lamb. Dot each shank with a teaspoon of the butter.
Fold the foil to form rectangular packets, sealing the seams tightly. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet; it’s fine if they touch but they shouldn’t overlap. Bake for 2-1/2 hours; then check for doneness by carefully opening one of the packets (watch out for the steam) and testing the meat with a fork—it should be tender and pulling away from the bone. If necessary, continue to bake for another 10 minutes and check again.
Transfer the contents of the packets to large pasta bowls, surrounding the shanks with the liquid from the packets. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.
Pappardelle with Braised Lamb Shanks and Winter Vegetables
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 lamb shanks, cross-cut into 1-inch-thick slices, as for osso buco
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 shallots, chopped
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 cups beef broth
- Juice and julienned zest of 1 orange
- Juice and julienned zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 branches fresh rosemary
- 1 thick parsnip, cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 small rutabaga, cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 small celery root, cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 pound dried pappardelle, fettuccine or other wide, flat pasta
- 1/4 pound button mushrooms, sliced
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Lemon wedges
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Dry the pieces of meat with a paper towel, season them well with salt and pepper and brown them on all sides; set them aside. Add the garlic and shallots to the pan; cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Add in the wine; simmer 5 minutes. Add the stock, orange juice, lemon juice, tomato paste, rosemary, the browned lamb shanks and any juices they have released. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
Stir in the orange and lemon zest, parsnips, rutabaga, mushrooms, tomatoes and celery root. Cook, partially covered, until both the lamb and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes more. Set aside to cool. When the lamb is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and add it back to the stewed vegetables. Discard the bones.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, reheat the lamb and vegetable stew; bring to a simmer.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pasta directly from its cooking pot to the pot with the stew. Add the cheese and parsley; toss to combine. Season well with salt and pepper and serve in heated bowls, garnished with lemon wedges.
Lamb Shanks – Jewish Style
- 4 Kosher lamb shanks (about 1 pound each), cross cut and visible fat removed
- Kosher (coarse) salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 medium onions, halved root to stem and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
- 3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned, low-sodium chicken broth, divided
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 1/2 cup dried apricots
- 1/2 cup prunes
- 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
- Black pepper to taste
Soak the lamb shanks in water to cover in a large bowl, changing the water frequently until it runs clear. (This will take about 15 minutes in all.) Remove the lamb shanks, dry them very well with paper towels and then season them all over with salt.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shanks and brown them on all sides, about 15 minutes altogether. Remove the shanks and set them aside.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook the onions until they are soft, about 10 minutes.
Mix saffron with 1/4 cup of the chicken broth and add to the pan. Stir to mix well, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the remaining chicken stock and return the lamb shanks to the pot.
Place the pot in the oven and roast, covered, turning and basting the shanks frequently, for about 1 hour.
Add the apricots and prunes and continue roasting, covered, until the meat is very soft, about 1 1/2 hours.
Transfer the shanks to a platter and keep warm. Remove as much fat as possible from the sauce, using a spoon or a fat separator. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Spoon the sauce over the lamb shanks, garnish with toasted almonds. Serve by itself or over couscous.
Slow Cooker Wine Braised Lamb Shanks
- 4 large lamb shanks
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup Burgundy wine (or beef broth)
- 1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper. Place in a 5-qt slow cooker. Sprinkle with the parsley, garlic, oregano and lemon peel.
In a small saucepan, saute the onion and carrot in oil for 3 – 4 minutes or until tender.
Stir in wine or broth and bouillon. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour over the lamb.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender.
Remove lamb and keep warm. Strain cooking juices and skim fat. In a small saucepan, bring juices to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Serve with the lamb.
- Lamb Shanks, Fall Break, and Fires (choppednctomi.wordpress.com)
- Slow Cooked Spicy Lamb Shanks (cookingwithtonyblog.wordpress.com)
- Classic Lamb Shank Pot Roast (andrewscookery.wordpress.com)
- Chef’s Winter Recipes: Ryan Johnston’s Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks (friendseat.com)
- White Wine Braised Lamb Chops (seasonsforcooking.com)
- Passaggio Pinot Noir Braised Lamb Shanks (passaggiowinesblog.com)