| |

Can You Eat Lamb Rare Or Medium Rare?

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Lamb is an often underrated, but incredibly delicious meat that you can incorporate into your meal plan for a change-up from the classics.

It has a distinct and delicious flavor that is very different from beef, pork, and chicken, and there are tons of cuts you can experiment with.

Unlike the mild flavor of pork and chicken or the rich meatiness of beef, lamb has a delicate, gamey flavor that is incredibly balanced and super flavorful.

The unique flavor of lamb comes from something called branched-chain fatty acids (BCFAs) in the lamb’s fat.

If you’ve never cooked lamb before you might be wondering how to prepare it.

Does it need to be cooked through like chicken? Can it be cooked rare or medium rare like steak? Or is it somewhere in between like pork? Before cooking, figuring out the proper temperature is key for flavor and safety!

So, can you eat lamb rare or medium rare? As long as you aren’t eating ground lamb, then you can definitely eat it rare or medium rare (and it will probably taste best this way!). That’s because most potentially pathogenic bacteria are concentrated on the surface of the meat and are killed with high heat searing.

Read on to discover more about different cuts of lamb, whether you can eat lamb rare or medium rare, why you should always fully cook ground lamb, tips to cook the most perfect lamb, and more!

Can Lamb Be Medium Rare?

If you’ve never cooked lamb before, you might be wondering whether it needs to be fully cooked like chicken or if it can be served at a medium rare temperature like steak, or if it’s somewhere in between like pork.

When it comes to eating lamb, you can enjoy it at any temperature as long as you are eating a cut or chop and not ground lamb.

It’s safe to eat at cooler internal temperatures like medium rare because most of the pathogenic bacteria that can make you sick is concentrated on the outside of the meat.

Unlike chicken, which can contain bacteria like salmonella throughout the meat, properly butchered and stored lamb typically only has bacteria on the outside of the meat.

So if you sear or cook the outside of the meat at a high temperature, that bacteria will be killed making your meat safe to eat.

When cooking lamb to medium rare, you will want to look for a temperature of about 120-125°F.

Can Lamb Be Rare?

In terms of whether or not lamb is safe to eat at a rare temperature, that comes down to individual preference.

As mentioned above, since most of the bacteria that could make you sick are found on the outside of the meat, as long as you sear or cook the outside at a high temp it will be safe to eat.

One thing to keep in mind when cooking lamb is that it does have a gamier flavor than meat like beef or pork.

The less you cook the lamb, the stronger that flavor will tend to be. If you love the gaminess of lamb and the texture of rare meat, then go for it!

If you still want a deliciously tender piece of lamb, but don’t want as strong of a gamey flavor, then medium rare is likely your best bet for temperature.

When cooking lamb to a rare temperature, aim for a temperature of about 115°F.

Can You Eat Ground Lamb Rare Or Medium Rare?

Unlike whole chops, loins, or other cuts of lamb, ground lamb, like other ground meats, cannot be eaten rare or medium-rare.

It needs to be cooked to a higher temperature because all of the bacteria on the outside of the meat gets spread throughout as it is ground.

That increases the risk of food poisoning if the meat isn’t cooked to the proper temperature.

Like other types of ground meat, ground lamb should be cooked to 160°F. It doesn’t need to be rested or anything before you enjoy it, since it is cooked all the way through

Tips For Cooking The Best Lamb

There are many cuts of lamb that you can enjoy from shoulder to chop to roast. One of the most delicious cuts of lamb to enjoy is the lamb chop.

You can buy them as either individual chops or a whole rib roast that you cut into individual chops after cooking.

Cooking the whole rib roast takes longer, but can be more forgiving in terms of not overcooking the meat and ending up with tough, chewy lamb than individual chops.

A lamb shoulder is much larger and can take longer, but is an incredibly delicious cut to enjoy.

Whatever cut you choose to cook, here are a few helpful tips to make sure you’re cooking the best lamb possible.

1. Invest In A Digital Meat Thermometer

Whether you cook a lot of lamb or just a lot of meat in general, a great tool to have on hand is a meat thermometer. These affordable gadgets will make sure you cook your lamb to the perfect temperature.

These thermometers are the key to perfectly cooked lamb, pork, chicken, and steak, so spend a few dollars to invest in a meat thermometer like this one right here.

The internal temperatures for different doneness levels of lamb are below. They were for chops, roasts, and other cuts.

  • Rare lamb should be cooked to 115-120°F
  • Medium rare lamb should be cooked to 120-125°F
  • Medium lamb should be cooked to 125-135°F
  • Medium well lamb should be cooked to 135-145°F
  • Well done lamb should be cooked to 150°F and above

2. Try Making A Brine For Your Lamb

A great way to add some extra flavor to your lamb is to try brining the meat for about 30-60 minutes before cooking.

Brining is a process that uses salt and water to help meat draw in moisture, which prevents it from drying out once cooked, which is especially helpful for thinner cuts of meat.

The recipe for a lamb brine below is super customizable depending on your preferences and what you have in the pantry.

Just make sure you let your brine cool FULLY before putting your lamb into the liquid. If you put it in too hot the outside will cook and seize up, which isn’t a great texture.

If you want your brining liquid to cool faster, you can use half the water to simmer and then add the other half of the liquid when you remove the pot from the stove.

You can also transfer the liquid to the fridge or freezer to speed things along.

Brining your lamb can also help to remove some excess blood from the meat, which can reduce the gamey smell and taste that some people don’t love about lamb.

It won’t completely get rid of it, so don’t worry if this is a flavor your love! Brining won’t make lamb not taste like lamb anymore.


  • 3.5 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup red or white wine or your favorite vinegar (you can optionally just use water)
  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of brown or white sugar, honey, or maple syrup

Optional Flavor Add-Ins

  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 6 thick-cut lamb chops*


  1. Place a medium-sized saucepan on the stove and add all ingredients except your lamb chops (keep those in the fridge until step 4, so they don’t go bad).
  2. Bring the water, wine or vinegar, salt, sugar, and herbs to a gentle simmer at medium heat. The water doesn’t need to come to a boil, but you want to make sure the sugar and salt have completely dissolved in the liquid.
  3. Once the sugar and salt have dissolved, remove the pot from the stovetop and let the brining liquid completely cool. You can pour it into a bowl or a Tupperware container and place it in the fridge or freezer to speed up the process.
  4. Once the brine has cooled, put the lamb chops in a large freezer bag (you may need 2) and pour in the brine.
  5. Seal the bag and place the lamb chops in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Don’t go longer than this unless you’re brining a lamb shoulder or other tougher cut.
  6. When you’re ready to cook the lamb chops, remove them from the brine and pat them dry. Follow your preferred cooking method, though you may not need to add any more salt to your lamb chop since the brine helps season it from the inside out.

*You can use this recipe to brine shoulder and other cuts as well. Depending on the size, you may need to add more salt and liquid to keep everything covered.

3. Generously Season Your Lamb Before Cooking

If you don’t have time to make a brine for your lamb, don’t worry! You can still enhance the flavor by making sure you generously season your lamb with a good amount of salt.

Salt helps to awaken our taste buds so that we can taste all the subtle flavors of the lamb we’re cooking.

You may also want to rub your lamb chop in a little olive oil before adding your salt to help it stick.

It’s typically a leaner kind of meat, so adding a little extra fat can help with the crisping process and let the seasoning stick better. Feel free to add some pepper too!

4. Let Your Lamb Rest Before Carving And Eating

One of the most important steps to cooking delicious meat that is often skipped is allowing it to rest after you finishing the cooking process.

Resting your meat is when you let your lamb sit, undisturbed, for a few minutes before slicing and eating.

Do not skip this step since it is critical for having the juiciest most tender and flavorful lamb ever.

This resting time allows the meat to reabsorb the meat juices that have moved towards the center of the meat and away from the heat as it cooks.

If you cut into your meat too soon after you finish cooking it, those juices will end up all over your plate or cutting board, instead of in the lamb where they belong. The length of time you let it rest depends on the cut and thickness.

Something like a roast can rest, covered in foil, for up to 20-30 minutes for the best results.

A lamb rack should rest for about 10-15 minutes and smaller chops should rest about 5-10 minutes. The thicker or bigger the cut, the longer the resting time!

Something else to keep in mind is that the meat often continues cooking during this resting period.

We will typically take the meat out of the oven about 10°F below the final temp we’re hoping to achieve since you will get that temp from residual cooking as it rests.

5. Try Making A Delicious Marinade!

A marinade is a liquid that you soak different foods in, generally meats, to give them more flavor and to tenderize the texture. Since lamb can be a leaner cut of meat, that makes it a little more prone to drying out as it cooks.

A marinade is a great way to add flavor and maintain a moist and juicy texture, regardless of the cut of lamb you are using. It helps tenderize meat because technically it is slowly starting to break down the cellular structure of the meat.

This breakdown happens thanks to the addition of an acid of some kind. You can use your favorite vinegar, citrus juice, pineapple juice, or wine, and then add salt, spices, sugars, garlic, and herbs.

If you are brining your meat, you don’t need a marinade and vice versa. Though if you do brine your chops you could make a yummy little dry rub out of some herbs and spices for a little burst of flavor.

Try making this delicious Garlic and Rosemary Marinade:


  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1.5 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped (sub for 1.5 teaspoons dried rosemary)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider or rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds of lamb chops or lamb loin


  1. Combine all the ingredients except the lamb in a bowl.
  2. Place the lamb in a glass dish in a single layer.
  3. Pour the marinade over the lamb, making sure you flip it over and rub the marinade into all sides of the lamb for even flavor distribution.
  4. Cover the top of the dish in plastic wrap and place your lamb in the fridge for at least 1 hour. If you can leave the lamb overnight, even better!
  5. Cook your cut of lamb as directed to your desired internal temperature. Make sure you let it rest before serving!

Final Thoughts

Lamb is a very flavorful kind of meat that makes a great alternative to the standard pork, chicken, and beef that we tend to enjoy in the US.

Whole cuts like chops and loins can be served rare (though this may not be everyone’s preference) and medium rare since the potentially harmful bacteria on the outside is killed once exposed to high heat.

If you need some more tips and tricks on how to cook lamb, check out this great video from the folks over at Babish Culinary Universe!

Up Next: Do Hot Pockets Expire?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *