Q&A: Gamey Lamb

I saw your recent post about boning-out lamb quarters and have a question for you. Is the taste of the lamb quarters very “gamey” (like the taste of lamb stew made with lamb shanks) or if I grill/sear it and then finish it in the oven will the taste be more on par with lamb chops/shipudim/kebab?

Asked another way, if I once threw out a lamb stew because the gamey smell was so strong, but love the latter, should I cook this cut of meat or not?

The flavor of lamb, like cilantro has its fans as well as its haters. And much of it has to do with the gaminess of the meat. Which is a shame, because lamb is soooo good.

The gaminess comes from several factors, the age of the lamb at slaughter being the most significant. The lamb forequarter that I wrote about was from Pesach, so it was pretty young. Meat from older animals will have a much more pronounced flavor.

Trimming the fat will help tame the game. As my friend Fred says, “Calories are a unit of measure of flavor.” The fat in the meat retains flavors, for better or for worse. Lamb chops will typically have less fat and so they’ll be less prone to a gamey taste/smell. Despite the chunk of fat in the photo, much of the fat was removed from the inside before I roasted it, which was then rendered into lamb fat, in which I fried many a potato.

The lamb didn’t cook for very long, and I cooked it using a dry indirect method (oven roasting), which also reduces the gamey flavor. My braised lamb has a more pronounced gamey flavor than the shoulder roast. In roasting or grilling, you’re burning off the strong flavors. In stewing or braising, they flavors are released into the cooking liquid, so they don’t go anywhere but back into the food.

Finally, seasoning will help by masking the gamey flavor. That’s why bold flavors like garlic or mint pair well with lamb; because they can balance the flavor of a lamb dish. Moroccan tagines, Caribbean lamb curries, and other regional cuisines feature highly seasoned lamb dishes.

Personally, I prefer the pronounced gamey flavor. I even let the lamb age in the refrigerator for a few days first.

It can be spelled gamey or gamy. Take your pick.



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