Cooking Mutton Or Lamb For A Feast? 10 Essential Kitchen Tips
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When it comes to non-vegetarian delights in Indian cuisine, you might assume that chicken is a clear-cut favourite in most parts of India, while fish is a must-have in the coastal regions of the nation. You would, if you do assume this, be discounting two very important meat sources, mutton and lamb. These red meat varieties, especially mutton, plays a very important role in most Indian regional cuisines, and not just those influenced by Mughlai cuisine

So, apart from the Kashmiri, Rajasthani and Delhi-Lucknow regions, mutton is a huge favourite in Hyderabad and Kolkata cuisines. Most South Indian states, including Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, have plenty of traditional mutton dishes and even some lamb specialties. Bengali, Odia and Assamese cuisines also have a significant presence of mutton dishes, while Maharashtrian cuisine also features mutton delicacies that are famous across and beyond the state. 

This clearly means that most non-vegetarian Indian homes do focus on creating mutton delicacies and indeed some lamb delicacies. However, cooking these red meat varieties can pose quite a challenge for many, especially beginners. If you are indeed new to cooking any or all of these delicious Indian mutton and lamb delicacies, then what you need right now are some basic tips on how to go about cooking them right. Here are some basic tips that can help you cook mutton and lamb dishes for your next Indian feast at home. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Chef Ranveer Brar

Choose The Right Cuts 

Not all cuts of mutton and lamb are suited for all Indian dishes. For example, biryani cuts are usually larger, while Kormas require cuts with more fat to create that rich and deep flavour in the gravies. So, know which specific cut is needed for your recipes. The best part about Indian butchers and even online meat vendors is that most of these will automatically recommend the right cuts for the right recipes, so rely on their information while grasping the basics.  

Marination Matters  

Marination is a critical part of cooking Indian mutton and lamb dishes—and in fact for all non-vegetarian Indian dishes. The addition of spices and ginger-garlic pastes adds flavour, while adding yoghurt, lemon juice and vinegar can help tenderize the meat and cook it faster. So, don’t skip the marination process even if you are short on time.  

Learn To Retain Moisture 

One of the main reasons why cooking mutton and lamb can be a challenge is because when not cooked properly, these red meats can become tough and chewy. Of course, the freshness and age of the meat matters here a lot, but so does the cooking technique you choose. Marination can help retain moisture, and so can searing the meat before adding it to curries. Make sure you don’t overcook or undercook the mutton and lamb either.  

Use Ground Spices Wisely 

Most Indian mutton and lamb dishes are known for being spicy and rich, but that does not mean you should go crazy with the use of ground spices only. In fact, use a blend of whole and ground spices judiciously to create a variety of flavours for your mutton and lamb dishes. It is also important to note that commercially available ground spices can often make meat dishes too spicy, so try making your own fresh spice blends like garam masala and biryani masala at home. 

Take Your Time To Slow Cook 

Patience is key when cooking mutton and lamb in Indian kitchens because it is only through slow cooking that the true richness of these meaty curries can emerge. Yes, pressure cooking is a great shortcut method and you should use it to cook mutton and lamb as a beginner. But, if you are interested in learning more, give yourself and the dish a few hours of slow cooking to get flavours right.  

Focus On The Gravy Base Too 

In most mutton and lamb dishes prepared across India, onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic are used in varying amounts for the gravy base. Knowing which of these to use for which dish and getting the proportions right can make or break the final dish. And even if you do get the proportions right, cooking onions down properly also matters. For example, onions need to be fried to make Korma, without which you simply won’t get an authentic Korma gravy.  

Use Natural Tenderizers 

Have you ever noticed how most mutton and lamb dishes cooked in India ask for the addition of yoghurt and even raw papaya while others are cooked with veggies occasionally? This is because these simple additions can naturally tenderize the meats while also adding more flavour. So, don’t skip this step or avoid adding these natural tenderizers to your mutton and lamb dishes.  

Add Dairy Products

Ghee, milk, yoghurt, butter are all the dairy products that not only add flavour—and often a pale colour—to Indian mutton and lamb dishes, but also balance the spiciness of the curry. Adding these dairy products can also help you turn these meat dishes into luxurious, creamy and festive affairs instead of plain old meat curries. Alternatively, you can and should also add cashew or almond paste for the same results. 

Cook Until Done  

While European-origin mutton and lamb dishes are usually enjoyed in rare, medium and medium-rare formats and we can easily get the right temperature references for these, the same cannot be said for Indian dishes. In fact, all Indian mutton and lamb dishes are cooked until well done, so don’t skimp on the cooking time. Cook the meat adequately until it is falling off the bones to get the best Indian dishes.  

Resting Period Matters 

You might have seen that Indian mutton and lamb dishes, whether they are curries or biryanis, always taste better the next day. This is because the meat gets enough time to rest properly and develop flavours. So, if you do want the best mutton and lamb dishes then prepare ahead and let the dish cool down and rest properly—if not overnight then at least for an hour or two.