While many of us will have eaten pork and chicken on numerous occasions and will know how to cook it thoroughly each and every time, because lamb can be a bit more of a luxury and something that’s more often consumed on those rare occasions, it’s not always easy to tell when it’s cooked properly.
To make this clearer and so that you can make sure your juicy cut of lamb is perfectly safe to eat, here is all you need to know about how the inside should look, if lamb can be eaten rare the same as other types of meat, and if there are any dangers when doing so.
Can Lamb Be Eaten When It’s Still Pink In The Middle?
As many of us know, color doesn’t determine everything when it comes to meat which is why we can consume steak for example even when it comes out as bright pink in the center after it’s done cooking.
While this can be completely normal for some meat such as steak, for others like chicken it is advised to instead stay away from eating the meat until it changes color to a fleshy white instead.
This can make it hard to judge what types of meat these rules apply to, however for most cuts of lamb, after it’s done cooking it can still be slightly pink in the middle and will still be safe to eat.
This means that similar to steak, you can serve most lamb cuts rare or medium rare to make the flavor as rich and delicious as you would like it to be.
The important part however is to always check the internal temperature of the meat since this will be the clearest indicator as to if the lamb has been cooked thoroughly to the point where all the harmful bacteria have been removed.
For most types of lamb, this temperature should be 145 degrees Fahrenheit, however if you’re cooking any kind of ground or minced lamb, it’s always advised to make sure the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees just to be safe.
Does Pink Mean The Lamb Is Undercooked?
Because color is not necessarily a determining factor when it comes to checking if a type of meat has been cooked thoroughly or not, it’s completely normal for lamb to come out looking slightly pink in the middle even when it’s been cooked for a decent amount of time.
What matters more is the internal temperature which can be measured with a digital food thermometer which is always handy to keep around the house to ensure all your meat and other foods are cooked to perfection without needing to slice them open and see for yourself.
Can All Lamb Cuts Be Pink In The Middle?
While it’s completely normal for some types of lamb cuts to be slightly pink in the middle after cooking, there are a few exceptions that should be avoided just to be sure that eating them won’t lead to any health complications.
These are the types of cuts that will be fine to eat when rare or pink:
- Leg of lamb steak
- Leg of lamb roast
- Rib lamb chops
- Rack of lamb
- Chump chops
- Loin lamb chops
In terms of what to avoid, it’s always important to make sure minced lamb is not pink in the middle when it’s fully cooked and reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
The reason this is different for minced lamb is that there’s a much smaller amount of actual meat to heat up so there would be no need for it to be pink if it’s cooked for long enough.
You should also avoid eating lamb shoulder, burgers, sausage, and brisket if they are pink in the middle since these can lead to some nasty health complications if they’re not cooked correctly.
Is Rare Lamb Completely Safe To Eat?
Just like other types of meat that can be eaten rare, while it may be the go-to option who love its deep and rich meaty flavor, it’s not without its risks.
For one, despite it being low, there is always a slight chance you can pick up a foodborne illness when consuming undercooked rare lamb.
This can commonly lead to food poisoning symptoms which include stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.
The only way to mitigate this is to always make sure that the meat has reached an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees once it’s ready to serve, however the USDA advises that to eradicate the risk of food poisoning entirely, and to make sure no bacteria has been left to fester on the meat, a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature you want to reach to be on the safe side.
What Color Should Lamb Be When It’s Fully Cooked?
If you plan on cooking the lamb so that it’s medium rare or rare then it should have a pink inside, however if you want it to just be medium, it should have pink throughout but have a much darker color on the inside that borders on being a deep brown color.
If you want the lamb to be well-done then it should be mostly brown on the inside.
You don’t really want the lamb to be cooked any longer than this as it can come out being a little too tough to chew with a black inside that can leave an incredibly unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Other Ways To Tell If Lamb Is Cooked Thoroughly
While a food thermometer is the most accurate and easiest way to tell if a cut of lamb has been cooked for long enough, if you don’t have one of these handy then luckily there are still a few other ways you can test this out.
One of the easiest ways is to test the texture of the lamb with either your fingers or with a tong.
Once the lamb is nearly done cooking, quickly remove it and press down on the outside centre to judge how well it’s done.
Depending on how hard or soft the lamb feels, this can mean a few different things:
- Very soft = Rare
- Soft = Medium rare
- Springy = Medium
- Firm = Well done
- Hard = Overcooked
While this method isn’t always the most accurate, if you don’t have a thermometer on hand then it’s still a reliable way to roughly estimate how well done the cut is so that you know whether to heat it up for a little longer or if you feel it’s ready to serve.
How Long To Cook Each Cut Of Lamb
Since each cut of lamb has their own specific amount of meat on them, along with being different sizes, they can all differ a little in terms of how long they need to be cooked for, so it’s therefore never a bad idea to get a good understanding of each so that you can cook them to perfection for the future.
These times apply to when you’re roasting lamb in a barbeque or oven:
With mini roast lamb, lamb rump and topside roasts, these should be cooked for 22 minutes per 500g if you want them rare, 28 minutes for medium and 32 minutes for a well-done cut.
A rack of lamb and crown roasts take a little longer at 24 minutes for rare, 33 for medium and 43 until it’s well-done.
A loin chop, along with leg and shoulder cuts will only take 12 minutes to cook until rare with 15 minutes cooking them to medium rare and 30 minutes making them well-done.
A butterfly cut will take 22 minutes to reach rare, 25 minutes to become medium and 29 to be fully cooked and well-done, these times also apply to boneless lamb shoulders.
Does Lamb Need To Be Rested Before Being Served?
It’s hard not to want to tuck in straight away as soon as the lamb comes out of the oven piping hot, however according to the USDA, any cut of lamb should be left to rest for at least 3 minutes before you start eating.
The reason for this isn’t so that it cools down, but because it gives the juices time to redistribute and soak into the meat which can be lost if you start cutting right away.
This will allow the meat to retain its natural flavors, making it as juicy and delicious as possible when it’s time to finally to start eating.
While most cuts won’t need to be left out for longer than 5 minutes, if you have a full roast then you can let it sit for 10-15 just to make sure it retains as much juicy flavor as possible.
Why Can’t Minced Lamb Be Eaten Pink In The Middle?
The reason for this is because of the way minced lamb is prepared, specifically how it’s put through a grinder which means any bacteria that was initially on the surface of the meat is now mixed in with the internal meat, meaning food-borne bacteria will be present throughout all of the meat before you start cooking.
To make sure it’s completely safe to eat, it’s therefore vitally important to always cook minced lamb and any ground meat to a high enough temperature to ensure all the bacteria is removed and that it’s completely safe to eat.
While you can eat most lamb cuts rare or medium rare, and while it is definitely worth trying for the rich flavor alone, try not to prepare it this way too regularly to avoid any potential health complications that could come as a result.