Lamb Shank vs. Lamb Chop, What’s the Difference? 

Do you want to know what’s the difference between lamb chops vs lamb shank?

You’re at the right place. In this blog post, we’ll explore the difference between lamb shank and lamb chops by defining their location, examining their preparation methods, flavor profiles, and the sheer delight they bring to the dining table. 

Keep your taste buds ready, for these delicious lamb cuts are going to offer you an unforgettable culinary experience. Let the lamb games begin!

Lamb Shank vs. Lamb Chops (aka Lamb Rack): A Quick Comparison

FeaturesLamb ChopLamb Shank
Cut of meatRib or loinLower leg
TendernessMore tenderLess tender
FlavorMilder flavorRich buttery flavor
Cooking timeQuickerLonger
Cooking temperature 145°F (63°C) for medium-rare and 160°F (71°C) for medium160-180 degrees Fahrenheit
CostMore expensiveLess expensive
Best cooking methodsGrilling, broiling, pan-frying, roastingBraising, stewing
Best served withSauces, vegetables, potatoesRice, pasta, bread
OccasionSpecial occasion, weeknight mealSpecial occasion, winter meal
AvailabilityGenerally available year-roundAvailable, but may be less common
PriceTypically more expensiveUsually less expensive

Lamb Shank vs. Lamb Chops aka Rack of Lamb: Detailed Comparison

Here is a detailed comparison of lamb chops and lamb shank.

1. Understanding the Cuts

When it’s about comparing lamb chops versus lamb shank, it’s important to understand:

  • What are these cuts?
  • And where do they come from?

Here is an overview of each lamb cut.

What is a lamb shank?

A Lamb shank is basically a cut of lamb that comes from the lower leg part of the animal. This section gets a ton of exercise, so the muscles here are pretty tough and packed with connective tissues.

Because of its toughness, lamb shank needs to be cooked slowly over a long period to make the meat tender. When you prepare it using the right cooking method, the meat turns incredibly tender and delicious. The tough connective tissues break down and create a super tasty sauce or gravy on slow heat.

Lamb shanks are a popular choice for hearty stews and slow-roasted dishes, and their strong flavor goes well with a wide range of ingredients and seasonings.

What is lamb chop?

Lamb chops are lamb cuts coming from the rib, loin, or shoulder of the animal. There are three main types of lamb chops:

  • Loin chops resemble mini T-bone steaks, with a section of the loin and tenderloin separated by a T-shaped bone.
  • Rib chops are taken from the lamb’s ribs. They’re usually cooked and served as individual chops. When a bunch of them are left together, they’re called a ‘rack of lamb.’
  • Shoulder chops, also known as blade and arm chops, these cuts are taken from the shoulder of the lamb. They’re around 1 inch thick with a nice amount of fat marbling to give them a rich and tasty flavor.

Since lamb chops come from the less worked parts of the lamb, they’re more tender and have a milder flavor compared to tougher cuts like the shank. That’s why they’re often cooked to medium-rare or medium, so they stay juicy and retain their delicate taste.

2. Flavor and Texture

The flavor and texture of these cuts can vary significantly because of their different locations on the animal.

Lamb Shank

Lamb shank, originating from the exercised part, is known for its rich and robust flavor profile. The meat itself is naturally full-bodied and slightly gamey.

Most remarkably, lamb shank’s flavor profile can be transformed through slow, gentle cooking methods. Slow cooking breaks down the connective tissues. This breakdown releases collagen to create a rich, unctuous sauce with a depth of truly luxurious and buttery flavor.

This hearty meat cut also pairs well with robust, aromatic herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme, garlic, and bay leaves. So, the lamb shank’s final flavor also depends on its preparation method and the ingredients used. 

Lamb Chop

Lamb chops are famous for their tasty, juicy goodness and tender texture. People often say they have a sweet, slightly gamey flavor with hints of grassiness, and they’re just right in terms of balance and robustness.

They’re not as strong in flavor as other lamb cuts like the shank. When cooked to medium-rare or medium, they stay nice and juicy, keeping all the delicious moisture.

The taste of lamb chops can be affected by various factors, such as what the lambs eat, their breed, and even the time of year they’re harvested. For example, grass-fed lamb chops have a stronger, earthier flavor compared to those fed with grain.

Like lamb shanks, lamb chops also go amazingly well with different seasonings and flavors. Classic herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme, garlic, and black pepper are commonly used. However, they can also handle more intense and bold seasonings like cumin, coriander, and mustard.

The fat on lamb chops plays a part in their flavor too. When you cook them, the fat melts away and helps baste the meat, making it moist and adding a delicious depth of flavor. It’s no wonder lamb chops are a favorite among meat lovers.

3. Suitable Cooking Methods

The cooking method can make or break your meal. It’s crucial to understand which methods work best for the lamb shank and lamb chop.

Lamb Shank

Because the shank is a tougher, leaner cut of lamb, it’s best prepared using slow, moist-heat cooking methods. These cooking techniques help to break down the connective tissue, resulting in tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. Here are a few of the best ways to cook a lamb shank:

  • Braising is a real crowd-pleaser for lamb shanks. First, you sear the meat on all sides to get a nice, brown crust. Then, simmer it in a liquid mixture of stock, wine, herbs, and veggies. 
  • Slow Roasting is the way to go when you’ve got some time. Season the shanks, and let them cook in the oven for several hours at low temperatures. Thus, you’ll end up with incredibly tender and flavorful meat.
  • Slow Cooking is best for cooking the seared shanks. First, lock in the goodness of seasonings in lamb shank. Then, let it cook on low heat for several hours, and you’ll have melt-in-your-mouth lamb shanks.
  • Pressure Cooking can be a game-changer if you’re pressed for time. It speeds up the breakdown of tough connective tissues in the lamb shanks. However, remember that the flavors may not develop as fully as with the other methods.

No matter which method you choose, remember that lamb shanks need plenty of time to cook slowly. This allows the tough connective tissues to break down and the flavors to reach their full potential. So be patient, and you’ll be rewarded with tender, delicious lamb shanks that will have everyone asking for seconds.

Lamb Chop

Lamb chops are tender cuts of meat that cook quickly and stay juicy. Here are some common ways to cook them:

  • Grilling is a popular method to get lamb chops a tasty outer crust while keeping the inside tender and juicy. You can marinate or season the lamb chops and grill them on high heat. 
  • Broiling works when you can’t grill outdoors. The high direct heat from the oven’s broiler quickly sears the chops, locking in the juices.
  • Pan-Searing is perfect for stovetop cooking. Heat up a hot pan, preferably cast iron, and cook the chops quickly on both sides. This results in a nicely browned exterior and a juicy, tender interior.
  • Roasting, although not as fast as the other methods, works well for larger cuts like a rack of lamb. Season the lamb, place it in a roasting pan, and cook it in the oven until it reaches the desired doneness.

Remember that lamb chops taste best when they’re not overcooked. Medium-rare or medium is usually the preferred level of doneness, but personal preferences may vary. To ensure the right internal temperature, around 145°F (63°C) for medium-rare and 160°F (71°C) for medium, use a meat thermometer. 

4. Presentation and Serving Suggestions

Let’s look at the presentation and typical ways to serve these cuts.

Lamb Shank

The lamb shank is a real showstopper on the plate! It’s big and has a unique shape that catches your eye.

People often serve it all by themselves because it’s that impressive. And let me tell you; it tastes amazing with hearty sides like creamy mashed potatoes, flavorful polenta, or delicious root vegetables.

The best part is that these sides soak up the mouthwatering sauce that’s made during the braising process. It’s a match made in food heaven!

Lamb Chops

Lamb chops are like culinary chameleons – they can fit into any meal situation! You can totally make them the superstar of the plate, and all you need is a side of yummy roasted veggies or a fresh salad to complete the show.

If you’re in the mood for some backyard barbecue action, throw those chops on skewers and let them sizzle on the grill. Or, for a cozy family-style feast, slice them off a rack and serve them up for everyone to share. Lamb chops are so versatile; they can do it all!

5. Availability

Whether you can find lamb shanks and lamb chops depends on a few things, like what people in your area prefer, how big the store is, and the time of year.

Lamb chops are super popular, and you can usually get them all year round at most of grocery stores. 

Lamb shanks are also available throughout the year. Yet, they might be a bit harder to find in some smaller grocery stores because they’re considered more special cuts, despite being cheaper. So, it’s better to search for them in bigger supermarkets, butcher shops, or stores that have a bigger selection of meat cuts.

In certain areas, you might find more lamb shanks during the colder months because people like to eat in the fall and winter. So if you’re into that kind of food, keep an eye out for lamb shanks when it’s chilly outside!

6. Price

The price of lamb shanks versus lamb chops can vary depending on several factors, including the region, the specific market, the time of year, and the quality of the meat (organic, grass-fed, etc). However, here’s how the prices typically compare:

  • Lamb Chops are usually among the more expensive lamb cuts because of their tenderness, flavor, and demand. They are considered a premium cut, especially the loin and rib chops, and their price reflects this.
  • Lamb Shanks are often less expensive than lamb chops. They’re a tougher cut of meat and require long, slow cooking to break down the connective tissue. However, they can deliver great flavor and offer good value for the price.

Please note that prices can fluctuate, and what’s described here is a general trend. It’s always a good idea to check with local supermarkets, butchers, or online meat suppliers for current pricing. Consider the cost in relation to the culinary experience you’re seeking. 

FAQs

Are lamb chops lean?

Lamb chops are not considered to be lean cuts of meat. They have a higher fat content than other lean cuts of meat. However, lamb chops are still a good source of protein and other nutrients.

Here is the nutrition information for 4 ounces of lamb chop:

  • Calories: 226
  • Fat: 17.6 grams
  • Saturated fat: 7 grams
  • Cholesterol: 71 milligrams
  • Sodium: 287 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 18 grams

Is lamb shank lean?

Lamb shanks are considered to be a lean cut of meat. They have a lower fat content than other lamb cuts, such as lamb chops or lamb roast. Here are the nutrition facts of 4 ounces of lamb shank:

  • Calories: 210
  • Fat: 11 grams
  • Protein: 24 grams
  • Saturated fat: 4.8 grams
  • Cholesterol: 90 milligrams
  • Sodium: 61 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Where can you buy cheap lamb chops?

You can get cheap lamb chops at Costco. They have a variety of lamb chops available, including rib chops, loin chops, and shoulder chops. The price of lamb chops at Costco varies depending on the type of chop and the weight of the package.

Here are some of the high-quality lamb chops that Costco sells:

If you’re looking for lamb chops at Costco, you can find them in the store’s meat section. They are typically placed near the other cuts of lamb, such as ground lamb, lamb shanks, and lamb roasts.

Where can you buy cheap lamb shank?

Costco is known for its wide variety of high-quality meat products at cheap prices, including lamb shank. So, you can find lamb shank at Costco at the following price (online or instore):

Case Sale Halal Lamb Shanks (25.5 lbs weight) for $4.79 per lb.

Conclusion

Both lamb shank and lamb chop offer unique culinary experiences. The hearty, rich flavor of the shank contrasts with the delicate, sweet taste of the chop. Whether you’re slow-cooking a shank for a comforting winter.

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Saba Akbar
Saba Akbar

Hello, I'm a culinary explorer and food writer with 25 years of home kitchen expertise. This blog is a treasure trove of my insights on global cuisine, cooking tips, and expert knowledge of kitchen tools.
Besides this, as a GERD survivor, I've transformed my passion for food into a quest for food's GERD-friendliness and healthiness. I believe what you eat shapes your internal environment—join me on this lifelong journey of taste and healthiness!

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