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The term 'mutton' usually refers to the meat from a fully-grown sheep, instead of meat from a young lamb. Some cooks refuse to work with mutton because, when cooked improperly, it can become tough and bitter instead of tender and succulent. Other cooks believe that properly roasted mutton is well worth the effort. It may taste richer and meatier than lamb, with a similar texture and juiciness. A few secrets for roasting mutton include adding the right seasonings before cooking, roasting at very low heat for many hours, and keeping the mutton moist.
Many cooks believe the most of the flavors that go well with lamb will also work well with mutton. Those that love exotic flavors might rub their mutton roast with olive oil and mint, and sprinkle it with onions. Rich flavors may also be gained from dousing the meat in red wine and adding cumin, paprika, and chipotle seasonings. The only real rules are that the mutton must be covered in some kind of liquid or fat. Otherwise, it may become dry and even start to scorch.
Inserting the herbs and spices directly into the meat is often an effective way to infuse a cut of roasting mutton with flavor. Stabbing the mutton deeply with a knife creates pockets into which the cook may insert peeled garlic cloves, slivered onions, and bundles of herbs. A flavor injector, which looks like a giant syringe, may help the cook add a mix of herbs and oil or liquid directly to the inside of the roast. Those without a flavor injector may stretch the pockets with their fingers, and then fill them with the desired flavorings.
Preheating the oven is essential when roasting mutton. Well-distributed heat starts cooking the meat right away, ensuring that it roasts from the moment it enters the oven. Typically, cooks should preheat the oven to about 300°F (about 150°C) and roast the mutton for about 30 to 40 minutes for every pound (66 to 88 minutes per kg) of meat. For instance, a mutton roast weighing 5 pounds (about 2.27 kg) should typically be roasted for two and a half to three hours and ten minutes.
Adding liquid to the bottom of the roasting pan and covering the mutton roast when it first goes into the oven should create steam inside the pan. This helps the roasting mutton cook evenly and traps moisture to create succulent meat. The covering may be removed about two-thirds of the way through the cooking time to allow the roasting mutton to become brown and crisp on the outside. If covered, basting may not be necessary, though the cook may baste thoroughly every hour if he or she chooses.
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