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How to choose and cook New Zealand lamb

How to choose and cook New Zealand lamb

From elegant rack and cutlets to ultimate-comfort shanks, here's how to choose and cook succulent New Zealand lamb.

Butterflied Leg

With the bone removed and the flesh flattened out, a butterflied leg of lamb cooks in a hot oven (220°C is good) or on the barbecue on high heat (flip once or twice during cooking) in no more than 30 mins. Rest for 10 mins before slicing, then it's good to go alongside a herby new potato salad with steamed broccolini, or wrapped up with slaw and sauces in flatbread. Farro's pre-seasoned butterflied lamb makes for the ultimate flavoursome, easy meal.

Lamb Rack

When you want to impress guests or loved ones, you cannot beat a perfectly prepared lamb rack.
To yield the perfect, succulent pink flesh, sear the outside first, then follow with a short time in the oven – no more than 15 mins will do it, followed by 10 mins rest. If cooking cutlets, allow a scant 2-3 mins on high heat on each side and resting time.

Lamb Shortloins

Also known as lamb backstraps, these are essentially the meat from a rack without the bone. The delicate flavour and lean texture of this premium cut lends itself to light seasonings and simple quick-cooking – several mins, turning often, in a frying pan or on the barbecue grill. Aim to sear the exterior and keep the inside blush pink to serve. You can also flatten them for even quicker cooking: slice down the centre, open up and pound very lightly to achieve even thickness.

Rump

Lamb rump is also good whole– roasted or cooked on the barbecue, or can be diced, marinated and threaded onto kebab skewers or used in curries, stews and braises. Flavour-wise, rump holds up well to bold flavours – Provencale herbs, prunes and olives; Northern Chinese cumin, black vinegar, chilli and garlic; North African rubs and harissa.

Loin Chops

Cut from the portion between the rack and the rump, loin chops boast some decent fat marbling, so the key is to cook this until the fat melts down and tenderises the flesh around it. That's best done in a heavy pan or on the barbecue – marinate first, or brush with oil before giving it over to the heat.

Leg Bone-In

Popping a leg of lamb in the oven is a Kiwi tradition that never gets old, but a whole leg is also a beautiful thing when cooked low and slow over indirect heat in a lidded charcoal or wood red barbecue. Leg benefits from an overnight airing, and bold seasoning – studying with garlic cloves and anchovies works wonders.

Tenderloin

Because it does little work and therefore has little intramuscular tissue, lamb tenderloin is, as the name suggests, naturally tender. Treat it gently, cook in a hot pan, or sous-vide and then give a very quick sear, for best results.

Lamb Shank

From the lower leg, fore shanks come from the front legs and hind shanks from the back; the former is smaller than the meatier latter. Shanks are a tough cut suited to slow-cooking with moisture, stewing and braising – the collagen in the shanks will melt in the sauce making it rich and velvety. Air out shanks overnight, season and cook in a lidded casserole dish with some liquid (they love bold flavours like chilli, cumin, ginger, pepper, garlic), removing the lid and giving a blast of heat at the end.