A butcher's guide to cuts of lamb

Mark Farquhar, head butcher at Donald Russell, chews over various cuts of lamb in this at-a-glance guide

Published 15th Sep 2015
Updated 8 th Apr 2021

Do you know your saddle from your shank? In this era of pre-packaged foods, ready meals and a general disconnect between farm and plate, the novice cook can feel a little lost. You want to cook lamb, but which cut will work best? Fortunately, as head butcher at Donald Russell, Britains leading mail order meat supplier, Mark Farquhar knows his way round a lamb.

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Foreshank - lamb cut

Although taken from opposite ends of the lamb, these are similar in that they are both flavoursome bone-in, slow-cook cuts, which take in the equivalent to the knee and elbow joints. The shank is taken from the leg, and the smaller foreshank from the shoulder. Braise for meat so tender it will fall off the bone. Braising involves cooking meat in liquid (often stock or wine, or a mixture), at a low temperature in the oven, or on the hob.


Leg - lamb cut

A traditional leg of lamb is cut from the hindquarter of the animal, and is full of flavour. At Donald Russell, our leg roasts are Swiss Cutto make them easier to carve, but are also available as boneless joints for totally hassle-free carving.


Loin - lamb cut

This incredibly succulent, tender cut is the equivalent of sirloin in beef. Lean and full of flavour, loin cuts include double loin chops, Valentine steaks, noisettes and lamb mini steaks, or simply lamb loin on its own, which can be pan-fried or roasted.


Fillet - lamb cut

Very tender and mild in flavour, lamb fillets are highly prized, finger-shaped pieces that are ideal for pan frying.

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Best end
Best end

This part of the lamb combines prime loin meat with the ribs, and is from where we cut our racks of lamb. Our racks at Donald Russell are French trimmed, which means the excess fat is trimmed away to reveal clean, white bones, which look superb on the plate. Once roasted they can be sliced into tender cutlets.


Lamb cut - saddle

Saddle products are cut from the back area of the animal, and contain both loin and fillet cuts, such as traditional Barnsley chops. All our saddle joints (including our boneless short saddle, and our back-on-the-bone easy carve saddle) at Donald Russell are hand-tied so they keep their shape beautifully during cooking.


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These old-fashioned favourites are delicious pan-fried. Ours are superbly prepared and come fully kitchen ready.


Shoulder - lamb cut

A humbler cut of lamb, the shoulder makes excellent value products for tasty family meals. As a roast, the shoulder is prized by foodies for its flavour, which is richer than leg. It can be traditionally roasted, or slow cooked to bring out its full flavour and make it incredibly tender.


Neck fillet - lamb cut
Neck fillet

These two humble cuts come into their own when braised, releasing their rich lamb flavour. At Donald Russell, we cut the small, tapered neck fillet into our handy diced lamb neck fillet ideal for stews, and we cut, roll and stuff the breast into our stuffed lamb pot roasts.

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Diced lamb - lamb cut

Our diced lamb and minced lamb are prepared using the offcuts of our naturally reared, traditionally-matured lamb roasts and steak products, which explains why they bring such a deep, sweet flavour to your family meals.

This article was produced in partnership with Quality Meat Scotland

Ray Philp has been at the Scotsman since 2011. Since then, he has written widely about music in magazines such as Red Bull Music Academy Magazine and Resident Advisor, and was a former editor and regular contributor at The Skinny magazine.
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