A Chef Fills Us In On How To Balance Out The Gamey Taste Of Lamb

When you're tired of the usual beef and want to try something a bit more decadent, lamb is a great choice. It's succulent, flavorful, and gamey, sometimes to a fault. If you're struggling with that gamey taste overpowering your palate, there are a few tricks you can use to prevent this from happening.

Rich Parente, chef and owner of Clock Tower Grill in Brewster, NY, spoke with Today Meal to give a few suggestions to help create a balanced meal. Besides his cooking experience, he also raises sheep and pigs on Clock Tower Farm, which supplies the restaurant and gives him even more insider knowledge that he was able to share.

He explains that first, you'll need to consider the cut of lamb you're using as well as the origin of the meat you're dealing with: "Understanding where the lamb comes from, and the cut of meat you're working with is a good start in dealing with the gamey flavor of lamb. New Zealand lamb tends to be gamier than American lamb, and fattier cuts will have a stronger game flavor to them, too." From there, he explains that the marinade, cooking process, and pairings you use are the keys to creating a well-balanced bite.

The right preparation is the key to a balanced lamb flavor

Rich Parente explains, "Marinating lamb ahead of time in yogurt is a good way to deal with gaminess." To understand why this works, it helps to understand what makes lamb meat gamey. Lamb and other gamey meats like venison get their flavor from the food they eat. That flavor then gets stored in the fat, which is what you taste when you cook and eat the meat. Yogurt contains a protein called casein, which is a fat-loving compound. As a marinade, it binds to the fats in the meat and helps to neutralize their gamey flavor.

If you're not a fan of or can't eat yogurt, Parente offers another suggestion: "I also like to marinate lamb steaks in rosemary, olive oil, and red or white wine, and then I leave the lamb in the fridge overnight to absorb all those flavors." Wines are acidic, which means that they can denature the meat and reduce the gamey taste. At the same time, the marinade infuses the meat with the flavor of the herbs and wine, helping to create a more balanced profile.

Besides marinades, Parente also notes that the cooking method can make a difference in reducing the gamey taste. He says, "Braising lamb is a good way to offset some of its naturally gamey flavor," adding, "That long cooking process helps mellow out some of that gaminess and impart the meat with all the other flavors in the pot."

Get your pairings in order

"Managing the gaminess of lamb is more about the cooking process and less about the side dishes," Rich Parente cautions, but he explains that you can still help balance out and complement that flavor by pairing the meat with certain sides. One suggestion he offers is braised red cabbage with apples and cider vinegar, which he states is "a great tangy-sweet accompaniment that cuts through the richness of fattier cuts." The acidity of the vinegar reduces the gamey flavor in the fat on the meat, while the fat itself mellows out the vinegar and prevents the tanginess from becoming overpowering.

If you're not into cabbage, Patente says that "classic garlicky roast potatoes are always a great option, too." Potatoes' dense, starchy flavor offsets the rich, gamey flavor of the lamb. Plus, the garlic can add pungent notes that work well against the strong-tasting profile of the meat. With these tips, you're ready to prepare lamb like a pro without worrying about the gaminess overpowering your tastebuds.