Skip to Content

Understanding The Humble Mutton Chop

A mutton chop is a cut of meat that comes from a mature sheep. These cuts will contain a bone in it, and typically come from the cheep’s ribs.

However, mutton chops can also come from other parts of a sheep’s body, such as the shoulders, legs, and neck. 

Mutton chops are usually bright red, and very rich in flavor and fat. It is very popular in some parts of the world, and much less so in others.

For example, these cuts of meat are not very popular in places like the United States, but are widely loved in many European and Middle Eastern countries. 

Understanding the Humble Mutton Chop

If you want to learn more about mutton chops, including more about what it is, why it’s called what it is, and how to cook it, keep reading!

Here, we’re going to go through everything you need to know about the humble mutton chop. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll be inspired to try making a mutton chop meal of your own.

Understanding The Mutton Chop

Mutton chops can be a confusing term for some people. To help clear up any confusion, we are going to take a look at what a mutton chop actually is.

After that, we’re going to look at one particular thing that some people might be a little confused by, depending on where in the world you are. Let’s get started.

What Is It Called A Mutton Chop?

To understand the history of the mutton chop, we need to go back around 900 years to the 11th Century AD. Specifically, 11th Century England!

At this point in time, the Normans were ruling England, and French was the official language of those who had positions of power.

In other words, the vast majority of the people who lived in the castles at that time would be French-speaking nobles. 

In this time, specific foods were deemed to only be for the use of the rich. These kinds of foods included meat from pigs, sheep, and cows.

As these nobles used the French language, they used different terms to the Englishmen to refer to these foods. For example, the meat from pigs was known as porc, cow’s meat was called boeuf, and sheep meat was mouton

Although these foods were only seen to be for the wealthy and elite, the English also learned these terms.

When the Normans were finally overthrown in the 13th century, it comes as no surprise that many of these terms remained.

As you can see from today’s names for these foods, you can see how our English names are closely connected to the French. We now refer to boeuf as beef, porc as pork, and mouton as mutton!

As a side note, it’s fascinating to point out that the names for chicken and turkey meat were not given new names when the Normans took over.

This is thought to be because these foods were seen as being good for the peasants. According to the Normans, there was no point in renaming something that they themselves would not have to eat. 

Is Goat Meat Mutton?

This might seem like an odd question if you live in certain parts of the world. However, in many places, the term mutton is also used to refer to the meat from goats as well as sheep.

This applies to countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as a few other Asian countries. Some Caribbean islands also use this terminology to refer to both sheep and goat meat.

Because of this, this is actually an important question! 

If you live in the UK, North America, or most European countries, in fact, mutton is likely to only refer to sheep’s meat. In these kinds of places, we have another name for goat’s meat – chevon.

In case you were wondering, chevon is also a word that comes from the French for goat (chèvre). 

Funny how so many names stem from the French language!

Mutton Chop VS Lamb Chop – The Differences 

Both mutton and lamb come from sheep. This is an important thing to know, assuming you are in a country that uses the term mutton exclusively for sheep. 

However, if you went to a restaurant, it is very likely that you would see both mutton and lamb chops on the menu. This is not because they come from different animals.

As we briefly mentioned earlier, a mutton chop comes from a mature sheep. Lamb chops, on the other hand, will come from a young sheep – a lamb.

Understanding the Humble Mutton Chop (1)

This differentiation is there because the age of the sheep has a significant impact on the texture of the meat. 

A lamb chop will typically come from a young sheep that is anywhere between 4-12 months old. A mutton chop, on the other hand, will always come from a mature sheep, which is at least one year old, though they are usually at least two.  

Once again, descriptions and definitions can vary greatly depending on where you’re from. For example, the UK refers to lambs as young sheep less than one year old.

For the ages between one and two, the sheep is called a hogget. When a sheep reaches two years old, their meat is referred to as mutton. 

The flavor and texture differences between mutton and lamb is no small thing. In fact, many people do not like mutton because it is far more gamey and tough.

Lamb, on the other hand, is more tender and not so gamey. If you are someone who likes a gamey flavor, chances are, you would like meat from rabbits, pheasant, or deer. 

In the United States, mutton is not a very popular meat. Lamb, on the other hand, is a popular choice, which makes it very expensive. This is due to the unique flavor of mutton. 

It’s important to note that some places refer to all sheep meat as lamb, no matter how old they are. As the age makes a huge difference in texture and flavor, you should always ask how old the animal was.

You have the right to know whether you should be expecting mutton or lamb!

What You Need To Know About Cooking A Mutton Chop?

Since mutton has a much tougher, or gamey texture to lamb, as well as a different flavor, you cannot cook them both the same way.

Although you can easily grill, braise, or roast lamb and get great results, the same cannot be said for mutton. The texture simply doesn’t produce great results. 

The first thing you need to know about cooking mutton is that it should always be tenderized. If you don’t, it will probably be too chewy for your taste. Because of this, the best way to cook mutton is to use a method that cooks it very slowly. 

Making curries or stews with mutton are the best options. In both of these, you typically cut the mutton into much smaller pieces and allow it to simmer in delicious juices for an extended period of time.

These are advised as the cooking time is long, and the meat will gradually become softer as it cooks for longer. 

Ideally, mutton should be left to simmer in the juices of choice for at least three hours. The ideal stewing time is up to six hours, which guarantees deliciously tender meat.

The amount of time you choose to stew your meat will likely vary depending on how much you need to tenderize the meat. If the meat you have has been tenderized prior using a different method, it will not need to stew for as long. 

For those who are unaware, braising and stewing should not be confused with one another. Stewing requires the meat to be submerged in a liquid of choice, while braising requires minimal liquid. 

When it comes to tenderizing meat, it’s also important to note that the way it’s cut plays a role. Slicing the meat the wrong way will result in it needing more time to tenderize properly.

You should always cut across the muscle fibers in meat. This helps the meat to break down all the tough proteins that are found in the muscle fibers.  

If you want to ensure that your mutton is thoroughly tenderized, marinating it is a must. Using a marinade is also incredible for adding extra flavor to the meat, too.

You can alter a marinade to suit your own taste preferences, and even add some delicious spiciness or sweetness to the meat. To get the best results from marinating, you should leave the mutton in the mixture for at least six hours.

Leaving the mutton to marinate overnight will ensure that it is super flavorful and unforgettable. 

A Brief Summary

To summarize, mutton comes from mature sheep, typically a sheep that is at least two years old. However, the term might also refer to goat meat.

The name for mutton comes from the French mouton, which can be traced back to 11th Century England. 

Mutton required significant tenderizing in order to be palatable, whereas lamp is much more tender. To cook mutton, slow cooking methods are the best options to go with, as it gradually tenderizes the meat. 

Jess Smith