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A mutton leg is a cut of meat consisting of the rear leg of a sheep or goat. It is different from a leg of lamb in that the sheep is generally older, being at least 2 years old. The meat of a mutton leg is very lean and can be well marbled, although there can be a fair amount of tough tissue that is attributed to the age of the sheep. In comparison to a leg of lamb, mutton has a stronger taste with a slightly more gamey flavor. The leg can be cooked as a roast, cut into steaks or shredded into smaller pieces so it can be incorporated as an ingredient in larger dishes.
When butchered, a mutton leg is the portion of a sheep behind the loin and flank, comprising the back half of the hind quarter, including all of the leg except for the trotter or hoof. It can be cut and sold as a single large piece of meat with the bone still inside it, or it can be deboned and rolled into a roast. The leg can be cut crosswise to make mutton leg steaks, or the meat and tendon on the lower end of the leg can be shaved to expose the bone for a more dramatic presentation when cooked.
When used in cooking, one aspect of a mutton leg is the amount of connective tissue contained in the meat. This has a tendency to seize up tightly when cooked too quickly, making the meat tough and chewy. For this reason, the leg is usually roasted very slowly for a long period of time to allow for the tissue to break down so the meat becomes very tender.
Another attribute of a mutton leg is the lack of protective fat around the outside of the leg. This could lead to the meat drying out when it is cooked in certain ways. This is especially a problem when the leg has been cut down into cubes or steaks.
There are a number of traditional mutton leg dishes across several countries. It is popular as an entire roast, with the leg baked for a time with spices after being marinated. In India and Southeast Asia, it is used in spicy curries and stews. A mutton leg in Latin American cuisine is sometimes stewed for a long period of time and then shredded to provide the filling for a taco.
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