Try lamb on the grill this summer

05/13/2014 12:00 AM

05/12/2014 1:14 PM

Who says hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken get to have the starring role in warm-weather barbecues?

Think beyond the obvious at your next outdoor gathering.

Think about lamb.

Yes, lamb. It’s not just for Easter. Lean, tender lamb can be the centerpiece of summer entertaining menus.

Just as turkey has moved beyond Thanksgiving to become everyday fare, the same is true with lamb meat — it’s readily available for all seasons and easy to prepare, allowing for lamb kebabs, burgers, thinly sliced leg of lamb and chops to be a delicious addition to your grilling occasions.

Myths behind the meat

“In my career as a cookbook author and cooking instructor, I have never seen a more misunderstood ingredient than lamb,” said Amy Riolo, award-winning author, chef, television personality and culinary educator. “While prized in most other places in the world, lamb remains a mystery to most Americans.”

If you haven’t tried lamb in a while, you may be surprised by this flavorful protein. While often confused for mutton, the tougher meat of older lamb, young lamb is tender.

Diners may shy away from this choice protein, believing it to have a gamey taste. But modern lamb is raised differently than in the past, resulting in a sweeter, succulent taste.

This rich-tasting meat contains, on average, 175 calories per 3-ounce serving, making it a smart choice in bathing suit season.

Lastly, people assume it’s expensive, but value cuts, such as the shoulder, the leg and ground lamb, can fit into grocery budgets that have been squeezed by higher beef prices.

Nutritional benefits

Lean lamb cuts — including the leg, loin and rack — make for a protein- and nutrient-packed dish. In fact, on average, a 3-ounce serving delivers almost 50 percent of your daily protein needs and is a good source of iron.

Also rich in zinc, selenium and vitamin B-12, a 3-ounce serving of lamb can provide nearly five times the amount of essential omega-3 fatty acids when compared with beef. Lamb is also raised without the addition of synthetic hormones.

Grill up goodness

Riolo provides these tips for serving up the most scrumptious, savory lamb right from your own grill:

• In a hurry? Choose cubed leg of lamb for kebabs, rib chops or boneless butterflied leg of lamb — cuts that can be grilled in minutes.
• Aromatics are lamb’s best friends. Onions, garlic, spices and lemon juice enhance the natural sweet flavor.
• Grilling lamb with garlic, mint and olive oil is a great way to introduce lamb to first-timers. Cut slits into the lamb meat and insert pieces of garlic cloves, then rub with oil and dried mint.
• Use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature. Lamb will continue cooking after you pull it off the grill, so it’s best to remove it about 10 degrees lower than your target temperature.
• Lamb is best served medium rare (145 degrees) or medium (160 degrees). All ground lamb should be cooked to 160 degrees.

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