What is a Mutton Chop?

by Charlie

Mutton chops are typically bright red, highly flavorful, and rich in fat. Although it is not so popular in the US, it is a common delicacy in the Middle East and Europe.

A mutton chop is a small cut of meat from a mature sheep with a bone in it. Although it is more common for a mutton chop to be taken from the sheep’s ribs, it can also be cut from other parts like the neck, legs, and shoulders

Why is it called a mutton chop?

Although it is an English word, mutton originally comes from an old French word – mouton. 

In the 11th century AD, the commoners of England were ruled by the Normans. French was the official language of the normans who occupied a higher caste in society.

Cow, sheep, and pig meat were seen as food for the rich and wealthy Normans, and they preferred to use their own words for them. Cow meat was called boeuf, pig meat was called porc, and sheep meat was named mouton. These meat types were perceived as luxury food items for the elite.

The Normans were overthrown in the 13th century, but their words food have remained part of English culture. Sheep meat is now referred to as mutton, while cow and pig meat are called beef and pork.

Interestingly, historians believe that chicken and turkey meat were not renamed after their equivalent french words because they were perceived as food for the poor.

Is mutton also goat meat?

Depending on where you live, mutton may also mean goat meat. In the UK, US, and many other English speaking countries, mutton refers to sheep meat exclusively. Goat meat, on the other hand, is called chevon.

However, in some English-speaking parts of Asia like India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and some Caribbean islands, mutton refers to both goat and sheep meat. People sometimes confuse the two kinds of meat since they can have similar textures. 

What is the difference between a mutton chop and a lamb chop?

Although mutton chops come from sheep, restaurants that serve it usually differentiate it from lamb chops. This is because sheep meat can vary in texture and taste due to the age of the sheep.

Lamb chops are small cuts of meat from young sheep, typically between four months and a year old. Mutton chops, on the other hand, refers to meat from adult sheep at least a year old. Although the definition of mutton says the sheep must be at least a year old, most sheep sold as mutton are well over two years.

There’s an intermediate age category in some places like the UK to highlight the difference between the ages. A lamb is defined as being less than one year old in the UK, a hogget is between one to two, while mutton is more than two years old.

Most people can tell the difference between lamb and mutton as the difference is stark. Meat from lamb is usually pinkish or light red, with little fat and a soft texture. The taste is also less flavorful than mutton. Mutton is dark red and more flavorful due to the sheep being much older.

Lamb is more common in the US since mutton is not as popular; it is also more expensive. 

Mutton is generally regarded in the US as an acquired taste due to its gamey flavor. If you enjoy other game meats like rabbits, deers, or pheasant, there’s a high chance you’ll love mutton.

Some people also prefer to refer to all sheep meat as lamb regardless of age. You should always ask how old the sheep was to be sure of whether you’re buying mutton or lamb.

How do you cook a mutton chop?

Because mutton is much tougher than lamb, it is not advisable to cook it the same way. Roasting, grilling, and braising are the three most common ways to cook lamb since its meat is already tender.

For mutton, the first thing you have to keep in mind is that you must tenderize the meat to enjoy it. This is why slow-cooking methods like stewing are preferable. 

Stewing involves immersing small cuts of meat in liquid and allowing it to simmer for a long time. It is one of the best methods for cooking mutton because it softens up the meat while preserving the nutrients in the stew. 

When cooking mutton, you should leave the meat to simmer for anywhere between three to six hours. The number of hours required to tenderize the meat depends on how tough the meat is.

Stewing is different from braising in that while braising uses minimal amounts of liquid, in stewing, the meat is submerged in the liquid.

Another important part of tenderizing mutton is how you slice the meat. Slicing the meat the wrong way may cost you more time when tenderizing. You should always cut the meat across from the direction of the muscle fibers. Cutting across the meat helps break up tough proteins in the muscle fibers.

You may also choose to marinate your mutton to give it an extra flavor. You can use different sauces for your mutton, depending on the kind of taste you want to impart on the meat. You will have to leave your mutton in the sauce for more than six hours so it absorbs the flavor. 

Final Thoughts

  • Mutton chops are cut from adult sheep typically more than two years old.
  • Although mutton is an English word, it emanates from an old french word for sheep meat.
  • In the UK, US, and most other English-speaking countries, mutton refers to just sheep meat. However, English-speaking Asian countries sometimes use mutton to refer to both goats and sheep.
  • Although lamb and mutton are technically from sheep, lamb meat is taken from young sheep between four months and a year old. Mutton always describes meat from older, adult sheep.
  • Mutton is tough, so it requires slow-cooking methods to tenderize the meat first. 

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