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No Matter if it’s a Chop, Crown, or Kabob…Stay Safe with Easter Lamb

Whether it is consumed as a kabob or crown, lamb is an Easter favorite for many families.  If you plan to prepare lamb this spring, we have some helpful hints for a safe meal.

What is Lamb?

Lamb is sheep less than one year of age while sheep meat from animals older than one year is called mutton. Sheep are the oldest domesticated meat species - they have been raised by humans for more than 9,000 years.

Types of Lamb to Buy

When shopping for lamb, look for meat that is fine textured, firm, and that has red coloring and white marbling (white flecks of fat within the meat muscle). The fat trim should be firm, white, and not too thick. One pound of raw weight, bone-in lamb will yield 8 to 9 ounces of edible meat while ground and boneless cuts will yield 10.5 ounces of edible meat per one pound raw weight.

Lamb Cuts

There are five primary cuts of lamb you can find in your neighborhood grocery store: shoulder, rack, shank/breast, loin, and leg. A “rack” of lamb is also known as the rib.  A lamb “crown roast” is made by sewing two rib roasts together to make a crown.  A lamb “chop” may come from various areas.  “Loin” chops are from the loin and “rib” chops are from the rib.  Less expensive chops include the “blade” (from the shoulder) and “sirloin” (from the leg) chops.

Lamb Preparation

To get started, wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap. This is the simplest and most effective way to prevent the spread of bacteria. When handling raw lamb, make sure you wash your hands after touching the raw product as well. If you’re preparing ground lamb products, such as kabobs, cook them to an internal temperature of 160° F. If you’re cooking whole cuts, such as chops or racks, cook to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F and allow them to rest for 3 minutes before you serve them. You can add extra flavor to your lamb by marinating it in your refrigerator set at 40 °F or below.  Marinate lamb roasts, steaks, or chops in the refrigerator up to 5 days.  On the other hand, lamb cubes or stew meat can be marinated up to 2 days.  Also, make sure to boil used marinade before brushing on cooked lamb and discard any uncooked leftover marinade.  Prevent cross-contamination by washing containers used for marinating raw lamb with warm water and soap before putting cooked lamb or fruits and vegetables in the container.  For more information on storage and preparation of lamb see USDA’s Lamb from Farm to Table factsheet.


If you decide on ordering take-out, make sure fully-cooked lamb dishes, such as Kabobs or Gyros, are hot at pickup. Use cooked lamb within 2 hours (1 hour if the air temperature is above 90 °F) and refrigerate leftovers at 40 °F or below in shallow, covered containers.  Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days, and reheat to an internal temperature of 165 °F. It is safe to freeze fully-cooked lamb dishes, and these leftovers should be use within 2 to 3 months for best quality.

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Posted in: HolidaysTagged: Meat | Food Prep