Arm, Blade, Shoulder, Loin, Chop, Roast, Rib - these are all words that appear on packages of lamb meat. When trying to choose what cut you want and how to cook it - it can be overwhelming in the store. One could spend an eternity staring at each selection, wondering what they are going to do - never really coming to a decision with confidence. If you have ever felt this lamb meat anxiety (or LMA) then I am here to at least clear up some of the confusion. I haven't used lamb a lot. However I did buy a couple chops a week ago for a Christian Seder dinner.
What is a Shoulder Chop
I bought two different types of shoulder chops - the arm and the blade. First you need to understand what a shoulder chop is. Imagine yourself getting down on all fours. Where is your shoulder at? This is the same place as the lamb. Now if you walked around like that for a while I bet your shoulders would start to hurt. They are doing a lot of work. So shoulder meat on a lamb does a lot of work. This makes the cut tougher and yet more flavorful. Shoulder cuts are economical. To save some money it's worth time investing on how to cook them.
Lamb Shoulder Arm Chops
The arm chop is recognized by the small circular bone on one side. That bone is naturally the arm bone. It has a good chunk of fat at the opposite end. It's a nice cut that has a good deal of flavor.
Lamb Shoulder Blade Chops
The blade bone and backbone on the bottom half of this chop. The fat is distributed more throughout this chop than the arm chop.
How to Cook Lamp Shoulder Chops
Braising in a flavorful liquid is a good and safe way to prepare them. Grilling is also an option and the option that I choose. Now you have to grill them really fast and not pass medium or they will be too tough. I found that the arm chop was better for the grill than the blade. The blade was difficult to eat. You had to work around a lot of grizzly spots. I wouldn't grill it again. I think the blade is just better suited for braising where you can break down some of that connective tissue. To sum it all up it nice simple table:
Best Cooking Options
Lamb Shoulder Blade Chop, Braising (I wouldn't grill them again)
Lamb Shoulder Arm Chop, Grilling (braising also works)
Eric's Reading Recommendation: This is my favorite books when it comes to learning about different cuts of meat, including lamb, and how to cook those cuts. It's from one of the best meat companies on the planet, Niman Ranch. The recipes in it are fantastic!