Lamb roasts can be packaged in a number of ways for retail sale, from the heavy-duty cryogenic bags used in meatpacking plants to your local butcher's familiar tray and plastic film wrap. Some roasts, mostly deboned or semi-deboned, are also wrapped in a bag of elastic mesh. This is just a way to hold the roast together, and has no effect on how you cook your lamb.
Boneless Lamb Roast
Deboning a leg of lamb or other roast helps it cook more evenly, and boneless roasts are unquestionably easier to carve. However, the deboned meat usually has several deep slashes and empty spaces where the bones were removed, and isn't ready to go directly into the roaster. First it must be tied up to hold the meat together in a nice, neat package. Traditionally, butchers did this freehand with cotton twine, but stretchy mesh bags are now a popular alternative.
Twine vs. Bag
The traditional technique of tying roasts with twine required a degree of skill, especially if the roast was tied the old-fashioned way with a single uninterrupted piece of twine. That takes time and practice, both of which are costly in high-volume modern retail establishments. In contrast, the mesh bag comes in a continuous tube. It simply pulls on over the roast, like a sock over a foot, and is then cut to length. This is both faster and less-skilled work, and therefore is more cost-effective -- and profitable -- for the retailer.
Cooking the Lamb
Lamb cooked in a mesh bag is usually roasted, and the mesh makes little difference to your preparation method. Simply season the roast liberally with spices, herbs or a seasoning paste, and place it in your roasting pan. Whether you favor quick, high-temperature roasting or slow, low-temperature roasting, the net requires no change in your technique. Netted lamb can also be slow-braised in broth or sauce, which yields a lushly tender end result with a texture similar to pot roast or pulled pork. The net is a great advantage in this case, holding the meat together in the pan even when it's fall-apart tender.
Removing the Bag
Tying up the lamb, whether with a mesh bag or traditional twine, does limit your cooking options. If you'd like to cut up the lamb, or just to stuff it, the mesh bag must come off. Simply cut it off if you're making lamb stew or shish kebab, because it's of no further use at that point. If you're stuffing your lamb, reserve the bag. Wrap the roast tightly in parchment paper, then slide the mesh back on over the parchment. Once it's in place, hold down the netting with one hand and use the other to slide the parchment out from underneath.
- Professional Cooking; Wayne Gisslen
- Huon Distributors: Twine and Netting
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images