Fabrication Nation: Deli Team Lamb Breakdown

One of my favorite parts about being a butcher at Bi-Rite Market is getting to talk to people about where their food comes from.  Last week I was able to walk some of our deli team through the breakdown of a lamb.  We normally work with Don Watson and his Napa Valley Lambs, but recently Marc Cohodes of Alder Lane Farm (whose gorgeous pastured eggs we sell at the Market) has been exploring raising lamb and wanted us to help evaluate one of his animals.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to demo a lamb breakdown and give some members of our deli team the chance to see where the cuts that they sell every day come from, as well as talk through the various cooking methods for some of the underappreciated cuts.  As the demo wound down, everyone was excited about getting the chance to try some of the cuts and cooking methods that we had discussed.  Jenny, not a big lamb fan, was given a leg roast.  Robeen and Laura braised a shank and a neck, and Wes cooked a shoulder chop.  Here’s what each of them had to say about their lambfest:

Hi guys, my lamb turned out awesomely!  Beginners luck (maybe).  I marinated the leg in rosemary, garlic, evoo, salt and pepper for a couple hours. Then I added a little more salt and threw it in the cast iron. Seared it a little, then put it in the oven for a half hour. No muss, no fuss. Using my thermometer, cooked it to about medium, which I realize is how I like my meat. I let it rest for about 15 while I made some pasta, and it was perfect. Seriously, delicious. And I just used the leftovers with some veggies in a stirfry. The meat was super tender after being recooked. Thanks for encouraging me to try something new, Chili. It was great.


Hey guys, I finally cooked the lamb shank Chili gave me and want to share. I’ve never braised anything before so I was a little nervous, plus I was so tired when I got home that I was super close to just doing it another time, but I just sucked it up and braised it and I’m really glad I did. I started by frenching the shank then rubbing it with a nice layer of salt and pepper. Then I seared it and set it aside in my Dutch oven. I sweated the mirepoix, then added some beef stock and red wine and got it nice and hot for the oven. I then added it into the Dutch oven and stuck it in the oven at 300 to cook for about 3 hours, turning occasionally. I then took the liquid and veggies and reduced them quite a bit. The end result was a little salty, but that’s how I like it. I strained the veggies as a bed for the shank, then poured the reduced stock+wine on the shank. I apologize if this seems super simple to you but I wanted to share how I prepared it because I really wanna know how you all prepare yours. I hope all of your prospective lamb pieces turned out as great as I thought mine did 🙂 Bon appétit!



Ok, finally got a chance to cook my cut: lamb shoulder chop. Seasoned it well with salt, pepper, ground cumin, fresh-chopped rosemary, minced garlic clove & olive oil. Let sit for a while until it came to room temp. Seared it off in a blazing-hot cast iron skillet with butter and olive oil, meanwhile basting. Flipped after an imprecise 3 minutes. Basted quickly and dropped in the oven at 425. Checked after 10 mins (by touch: done). Also roasted russet potatoes with herbs in the oven. They turned out nicely. The cut was very fatty and chewy, the meat a mild pink color.  I might try slow-roasting it next time. If I were to sear and finish it in the over again, I might shave off a few minutes of oven time, or drop my temp to 375-400. Thanks again, Chili! The lamb butchery class was time well spent.


Alrighty, last but not least…. All of yours sound so delicious! After looking in my fridge and around my kitchen I found that I was not in the least bit prepared to braise lamb as I usually would…. no onions, celery, savory herbs, carrots, stock, or even olive oil haha…but that didn’t stop me, oh no! After taking a peak in my flavor bible book (one of my favorites) I decided to take my lamb to a place I had never taken it before.  I made a spice rub from nutmeg, cinnamon, a little ground clove, salt and heavy pepper, and lightly coated the neck with that. I seared it as well as I could with some butter, removed it and put in about 3 cloves of roughly chopped garlic, threw in more butter until they got nice and golden, replaced my lamb and added water about half way up. I also added a small piece of vanilla bean. I covered it, and in the oven she goes at about 250…. after two hours I checked and it was coming along nicely, but I was getting hungry so I turned up the temp to 300, and after about 45 minutes she was oh so ready. I thought it a bit pathetic of me to reduce down my garlic butter water as a sauce, but I did have some polenta which I thought would taste great as a base…and it most totally did. There was much more flavor than I had ever anticipated from this neck, and the added fat already in the neck that released into the broth made the polenta really creamy. In the end I was happy I didn’t use so many extra ingredients this time because it made me realize how much flavor the neck really carries. Amazing! My pic is of the whole finished neck, but I ended up shredding it in my polenta to get all those juicy bits out, yum! And I didn’t even need an added sauce (although I did add a little more butter while cooking the polenta because I just really like butter). The baking spice flavor combination was fantastic, I actually wished that I had used more….I ate leftovers last night and again, delicious!



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