Pronounce it: laam

A lamb is a sheep that is under one year old, and is known for its delicate flavour and tender flesh.

Young lamb is slaughtered between 6 and 8 weeks - it is the palest of all lamb. Spring (also called early or summer lamb) is 3 to 5 months old. Lamb between 1 and 2 years is called 'hoggart' - it has a stonger flavour and slightly less tender flesh; anything over 2 years is called mutton, which has much more flavour - but also a tougher flesh that needs slow-cooking to tenderise it.

The older a lamb, the deeper the colour of the meat, though the time it has been hung for and the breed that it comes from will also make a difference.


All year round.

Choose the best

Always buy lamb from a source that you trust - a good supermarket, local butcher, farmers' market or shop, or a website mail order company. Of those five sources, the last four are more likely to be able to tell you the most about the meat, for example, where it comes from, how it was reared and slaughtered. Traceability like that is crucial in ensuring that the lamb you are buying has been humanely treated while alive, had the shortest possible journey to the slaughterhouse (long journeys are highly stressful for all livestock) and has been expertly handled once salughtered - all of which will have an impact on the meat's flavour and tenderness.

Organic lamb, and lamb from rare breeds, is the most expensive, as the highest farming standards should have been adhered to at all stages of the animal's life. The length of time that a lamb has been hung for will also determine how flavoursome and tender it is, about 8 days is best.

Read more about animal welfare in general at Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming.

Many different cuts of lamb are available - which you buy depends on how you want to cook it. For roasts, the best cuts include leg, breast, best end of neck (also known as rack of lamb), shoulder, saddle, rump and loin.

For quick cooking, choose fillet, chump chops, loin chops, leg steaks, best end cutlets and butterflied leg. For slow cooking, leg, shoulder, shank, neck and chump chops are among the best options.

Lamb is also available minced (good for pies and burgers) and you can also buy lamb offal (mainly the kidneys and liver but also, less commonly, the heart and the sweetbreads), which is quick to cook, cheap and nutritious.

When choosing any cut of lamb, look for firm, fine-grained meat with a velvety texture; it should be moist, rather than dry or slimy. Any fat on the outside of the lamb should be white (fat that is yellow might well be rancid). Properly hung lamb should have a deep red, rather than bright red colour, although very young lamb will be paler than older lamb.

Prepare it

If desired, certain cuts of lamb can be marinaded, to add flavour and moisture and to tenderise a little further. Before it goes in the oven, lamb should be at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before cooking. Keep it covered, in a cool place.

Store it

Unless the lamb is vacuum-packed, take off the packaging or wrapping (making a note of any use-by dates beforehand) and put the lamb at the bottom of the fridge on a dish that is large enough to contain any drips (vacuum-packed lamb should be kept in its packaging). Make sure the lamb doesn't touch any cooked foods or anything that will be eaten raw.

Any cuts that are bought loose will keep for up to 2-4 days. Larger cuts for roasting will keep up to 5 days. Minced lamb or lamb offal should be eaten within a day of purchase. For vacuum-packed meat, follow the use-by date on the packaging.


Try beef or pork.

Skills & know how

As well as helping you decide what to cook we can also help you to cook it. From tips on cookery techniques to facts and information about health and nutrition, we’ve a wealth of foodie know how for you to explore.

About BBC Good Food

We’re all about good recipes, and about quality home cooking that everyone can enjoy. Whether you’re looking for some healthy inspiration or learning how to cook a decadent dessert, we’ve trustworthy guidance for all your foodie needs.

Our recipes

All our recipes are tested thoroughly by us to make sure they’re suitable for your kitchen at home. We know many of you are concerned about healthy eating, so we send them to a qualified nutritionist for thorough analysis too.

Tell us what you think…

Love the new look or think we’ve missed the mark? We want to hear your thoughts – good and bad – to make sure we make the new website as useful as possible.


Subscribe to BBC Good Food magazine and get triple-tested recipes delivered to your door, every month.


Discover the dates and details of all the BBC Good Food Shows.


See your favourite chefs on Sky Channel 247, Virgin TV 260 and find their recipes at

Good Food Apps

Download the BBC Good Food Recipes, tips & cooking tools app and get good food on the go.