Welcome to another installment of Grilling 101. Well folks, this is it. The last weekend of August is upon us. Come Tuesday we’ll be in September territory, and the unofficial beginning to autumn will happen next week after Labour Day. For most people, this is the time of year when they begin to put away the grill, and with good reasons. The colder weather makes it harder to eat outside, and the back to school rush makes it harder to get together with friends. But before doing that, let’s send the grill out on a high note by talking about lamb.
The word lamb is used to refer to any sheep within the first year of its life. Full grown sheep are usually sold as mutton. Usually lamb is sold unprocessed, but it’s possible to buy some cuts salted or smoked.
Nutrients wise, lambs are excellent sources of protein and iron, like all red meats. However, lamb also has several nutrients that make it unique when compared to pork or beef. For starters, lamb has a high quantity of rudimentary trans fats, which are known to have beneficial effects on the body. The most common fat in lamb—conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—is linked to the reduction of unwanted body fat mass. Of course, these are still fats, so it’s best to consume them in moderation like anything else.
Finally, lamb contains high amounts of essential vitamins and minerals for your body. Its primary vitamin—VitaminB12—is used to assist in blood cell formation and improving brain function. Aside from Iron, lamb is also rich in Zink and Phosphorus. The former is used to produce hormones, including insulin and testosterone, and the latter is used for body maintenance and growth.
When it comes time to buy yourself a lamb chop, there are three types you should consider. The first is the shoulder chop, cut from the front of the animal. This cut has a lot of connective tissues and fats compared to the others, which give more flavour at the cost of requiring longer cooking times. Following that is the rib chop, cut from the center of the animal and come with longer rib bones. This cut has less meat than the shoulder chops, and is more expensive. The trade-off is that it’s easier to cook than the shoulder chops, and comes with good presentation value, making it a prized cut of meat. Finally, the loin chop is cut from the back of the animal, between the rib and the rear legs. Their flavour and drawbacks are much the same as a rib chop, but they have larger quantities of meat.
Once you’ve selected your cut, it’s best to prepare it for grilling by rubbing some sea salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil into the meat. This acts as brine, first drawing out the moisture from the meat and then breaking down the proteins so they can re-absorb the moisture. The end result is a more flavourful and tender final product. At around 40 minutes after salting, your chops are ready to go on the grill. The best way to grill a lamb is to start them off on the lower temperatures, then finishing them off on medium or high. This method prevents the internal meat from becoming undercooked if the outside is charred due to high temperatures. The best time to increase the temperature is about 10 degrees Fahrenheit from your desired internal temperature. For reference, an average rib chop will be medium-rare done at an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, so increase temperature at 120. And as usual always let your meat sit for 10 minutes once it comes off the grill so that residual cooking can take place.