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Lamb and Mutton: What’s the Difference?

Lamb and mutton: what is the difference, and is one better than the other? 

There is indeed a difference, and part of the answer will depend on who you ask. 

It’s all in the palatableness you are looking for. 

What’s the Difference Between Lamb and Mutton?

Technically lamb and mutton are both domestic sheep, just at different times of their life cycles. 

Lamb is a sheep that is up to a year old, and a spring lamb is just three months of age. 

Mutton refers to an adult sheep that is over one year old. 

If going for mutton many would recommend a sheep that is three years old. 

Often if it is mutton you are after it is because of the stronger, and more gamey flavor. 

Other differences in the characteristics are that lamb will be less fatty, and more tender than mutton. 

Spring lamb is of course the least fatty and has the most tender cuts.

The longer muscles are allowed to work in an animal the tougher the meat will be. 

Mutton tends to be an acquired taste, and more popular in some countries over others depending on people’s tastes. 

Mutton is less expensive than lamb and is therefore more popular in countries where incomes are lower. 

As incomes rise people tend to go for the more delicate flavor, and tender taste of lamb. 

In the Middle East and Europe tolerance for the taste of mutton is more common. 

Meat is often slow cooked to give it a richer, more mellow flavor than a quick cooked cut. 

Sometimes people confuse goat meat with sheep. 

These meats are similar, but goat tends to have more of a gamey flavor to it. 

What is Lamb?

Lamb is a domestic sheep that is up to one year old. 

It is much less fatty, and much more tender than a sheep that is over a year old. 

As an animal gets older its meat gets tougher and stronger in flavor. 

A spring lamb is a sheep that is three months old and gives the sweetest and most tender flavors. 

One of the most coveted and more expensive cuts are the lamb chops.

What is Mutton?

Mutton is the name given to the meat of an adult sheep, that is over a year old. 

This meat tends to be tougher, and more gamey in flavor  than a younger animal. 

Some people have acquired a flavor for the older animal and prefer the strong taste it provides. 

The best cuts of mutton are usually the loin, rib and rump.

Common Cuts of Lamb

lamb and mutton

Lamb shoulder is a cut that is very popular, it can be boned, stuffed and rolled, or cut into shoulder chops. 

Rib chops are a well known cut that results in the lamb chops or rack of lamb when chops are left intact in one piece. 

Lamb breast is a cut that has a lot of connective tissue and cartilage and is often used to make ground lamb.

The neck is another tough cut that is often used to make slow cooked stews.

The shank is another very tough part of the lamb. 

Since the legs are being used all the time the muscles and connective tissue is not very tender. 

The best way to cook the lamb shank is low and slow, getting as tender as possible.

Lamb loin is one of the most tender and sought after parts of the animal. 

This is the cut we get loin roast, and loin chops from. 

The sirloin cut is commonly cut into chops and steaks. 

The flank is usually braised, slow cooked, or used for ground lamb.

Leg of lamb is most often cooked whole, although it can be cut into chops and cooked in other ways. 

I like to cook mine whole with garlic cloves inserted into little cuts made into the meat for maximum flavor. 

Common Cuts of Mutton

lamb and mutton

The cuts are similar to lamb. 

The flavor profile is the thing that differs the most.

As well as the cooking method.

The shoulder is often boned, stuffed and rolled, or cut into shoulder chops. 

Rib chops are a well known cut that gives us chops or ‘the rack’.

Mutton breast is a cut that has a lot of connective tissue and cartilage and is often used for ground meat.

The neck is another tough cut that can be used for stews, or marinated overnight for delicious shish kabobs 

The shank is tough and must be cook slow. 

Cook shank low and slow.

The loin is one of the most tender of the older sheep. 

The sirloin cut is used for chops and steaks. 

The flank is usually braised, slow cooked, or used for ground lamb.

The leg of the animal is most often cooked whole, although it can be cut into chops and cooked in other ways. 

How to Cook Lamb

How you cook your lamb will most likely be determined by where you live and what you are used to. 

In Western countries, depending on the cut, lamb is often prepared rare or medium rare with a pink center. 

In the Middle East no one would eat lamb cooked that way, preferring their meat to be cooked through and through until every once of red color is completely gone. 

Some might think this to be sacrilegious, however, most often the meat is cooked slowly to the point of the meat falling off the bones.

I personally like slow cooked lamb most of the time.

But a medium rare rack of lamb is hard to turn down.

How to Cook Mutton

Mutton is more often going to be slow cooked, because it tends to be tougher.

Marinating for periods of time can also help give mutton a more tender profile.

Both methods of cooking are delicious in their own ways.

At the end of the day it, it comes down to personal preference.

No right or wrong.

Enjoy your food the way you like it!

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Hello! I’m Chef Tariq.

I’m a food, travel & lifestyle blogger who is passionate about creating recipes from my Arab American background. I love to travel and share my experiences and top tips along the way.

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Hello! I’m Chef Tariq.

I’m a food, travel & lifestyle blogger who is passionate about creating recipes from my Arab American background. I love to travel and share my experiences and top tips along the way.

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