There are five major cuts of lamb available in the U.S.: shoulder, rack, shank, loin, and leg. Most lamb is sold in supermarkets with fat trimmed to 1/4 or 1/8 inch. You can trim this thin layer of remaining fat from the meat before or after cooking.


Fresh lamb should be stored in the refrigerator or frozen immediately after purchasing.


Refrigerate fresh lamb at 40°F or below immediately after purchasing. Ground lamb or stew meat should be used within 1 to 2 days. Lamb chops, roasts, and steaks should be used within 3 to 5 days. Fresh lamb can also be frozen immediately at 0°F or below.


Lamb can be frozen in its original packaging or repackaged. If you plan to freeze lamb for long periods of time, be sure to wrap the original packaging with airtight freezer wrap or place in an airtight freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. To maintain optimum quality, frozen lamb roasts, steaks, and chops should be used within 6 to 9 months, and ground lamb within 3 to 4 months.


There are three ways to thaw frozen lamb safely: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.


Once frozen lamb has thawed in the refrigerator, roasts, steaks, and chops can be stored safely in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days and ground lamb for 1 to 2 days. If you decide not to use it during this time period, you may refreeze lamb without cooking it first.


When thawing in cold water, leave frozen lamb in its packaging, making sure it is air tight. If not, transfer it to a leak-proof bag. Keep the lamb submerged in cold water, changing it every 30 minutes to continue thawing. Plan to cook it immediately. It should not be frozen unless cooked first.


As with the cold water method, when frozen lamb is thawed in the microwave, it must be cooked immediately. It should  not be re-frozen unless cooked first.


Cooked lamb from take-out should be hot when bought. Be sure to use it within 2 hours (or 1 hour if the air temperature is above 90°F). Otherwise, refrigerate it at 40°F or below in a shallow, covered container, and eat within 3 to 4 days cold or reheated to 165°F. Prepared lamb can also be safely frozen and should be eaten within 2 to 3 months for best quality.