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Your guide to the best cuts of lamb

New Zealand lamb is recognised as some of the best in the world. Sustainably and ethically reared on our native green pastures, grass-fed NZ lamb is naturally lean and packed with flavour.

Below, we’ll explore the different cuts of lamb, how to cook them, and some of our favourite lamb recipes.

Lamb mince

It’s no secret that kids love mince, so it tends to be a staple in most Kiwi households. Often when we think of mince, we’re thinking about beef mince specifically — but lamb mince is a great, flavourful and lean alternative.

Lamb mince can be used as a direct substitute for beef mince in any recipe, but it also has a few unique uses of its own. Its grassy flavour profile means it belongs perfectly in Mediterranean cuisines.

Use lamb mince in koftas, moussaka, flatbread pizzas, or spicy harissa sausage rolls.

Whole lamb joints

If there’s one superior way to eat lamb, it’s as a roast. A whole leg or rump roast can make an incredible centrepiece at any dinner party — or just as a hearty sunday dinner. Also from the hindquarter, rump and shanks are very desirable lamb cuts.


Leg of lamb

A lamb leg roast is a hero at the dinner table any time of the year. Pair it with fresh spring peas or vibrant mint sauce, or slow cook it in a rich wintery tomato sauce. 

As the name suggests, the leg of lamb is cut from the rear thighs of the sheep. As a medium-tender cut, it benefits from slow roasting or slow cooking. It can be roasted on the BBQ or in a 180° C oven for 30 minutes per 500g.

A whole leg can also be slow cooked in a sauce for 5-6 hours to allow the meat to become especially tender and shreddable — perfect for a ragu.

Leg of lamb recipes

Classic Roast Lamb - This classic roast lamb recipe features a fantastic rub, as well as roast veggies, mint sauce and sides by Anika Moa and Toni Street.

Leg of Lamb with Cranberry Mint Glaze - For a festive twist on a classic lamb roast, try this cranberry mint glaze.


Butterflied lamb leg

Butterflied lamb leg is the same cut as a leg of lamb, however the bone has been removed and trimmed so the meat lies flat.

You might choose butterflied lamb leg over a whole leg of lamb due to its faster and more even cooking. Being thinner, with an overall more even thickness, butterflied lamb leg cooks quickly on the barbecue or even in a large pan. 

A 2kg butterflied lamb leg can be seared on a hot barbecue for 5 minutes on each side, then left to cook through for 15-20 minutes over a low heat. 

Butterflied lamb leg recipes

Greek-style Lamb Salad - Barbecue a butterflied lamb leg, then thinly slice and serve with this zesty and bright greek salad.


Lamb rump roast

Lamb rump is sometimes considered a chef’s cut, because it can be small enough that a chef might present a whole roasting joint for only a few guests. The rump comes from the back of the sheep, above the rear legs and tail.
It has a thick layer of fat over the top edge, which imparts plenty of rich flavour and crisps beautifully when cooked, though some prefer to trim this off. To cook lamb rump, sear the rump all over in a frying pan. If the fat is still attached, place the lamb fat-side down first and let it side to render down the fat before turning.
Once seared all over, transfer to a 200° C oven and cook for just 15 minutes. Rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.


Lamb shanks

Lamb shanks are wildly popular, but many may be hesitant to cook them for themselves. These are cut from working muscles and must be cooked low, slow and with plenty of moisture to become falling-off-the-bone tender.

Shanks are taken from the smaller end of a leg roast — just above the knee joint and below the leg. They can be cut from both the front or rear legs, which can change the shape, however both can be used interchangeably.

Shanks are almost exclusively slow cooked in liquid, either in the oven or in a slow cooker.

Lamb shanks recipes

Baked Lamb Shanks - Slow cook your lamb shanks in a sauce of red wine, herbs and veggies for two and a half hours for wondrously tender results.


Lamb drums

Lamb drums, or drumsticks, are the same cut as a lamb shank but with a little more work put in by your butcher. Drums have had the end of the shank bone cleaned of excess fat and meat. This reveals the bone, creating visual appeal at the table but also making it even easier for the meat to release.

Cook in the same way you would cook a lamb shank.

Lamb shoulder

A lamb shoulder, also called a forequarter, is cut from the top of the sheep’s front legs. It is sometimes sold as a boneless roast, or cut into shoulder chops.

Shoulder is a less popular cut due to the bones in it making it harder to carve. This means it’s quite affordable, but it’s still full of deliciously marbled meat that’s noticeably sweet.

To save the effort of carving meat, the shoulder is best used as a slow cooking cut. Cook low and slow for 3-5 hours until the meat easily falls from the bone. Shred and use for sandwiches, pizza toppings or in a ragu.