Like other meats, lamb is perishable and should be handled and stored properly to avoid spoilage and food-borne illness. The basic rules of food safety are: keep cold foods cold, keep hot foods hot and keep foods clean. Remember to:

* Refrigerate or freeze lamb immediately after purchase. Use an ice chest to transport meat if you will not be able to refrigerate the meat within an hour.

* Wash your hands and all equipment thoroughly in soapy hot water before and after handling meat.

* Wash all work surfaces, utensils and cutting boards with soapy hot water after exposure to meat. Keep lamb carving board separate from other food preparation.

* Keep raw meat and meat juices from coming in contact with other foods when thawing, storing and preparing lamb.

* Never serve raw meat.

* Use a sharp, clean knife when cutting lamb.

* Use a meat thermometer to make sure lamb is cooked to the desired doneness.

* Refrigerate leftovers promptly after serving.


After returning from the supermarket, immediately store lamb in the store’s plastic packaging in the coldest part of the refrigerator, preferably at 32° F to 40° F for a day or two. If you do not plan to use the lamb within 24 hours or if the packaging is torn or if the lamb is wrapped in butcher paper, remove the store’s packaging and cover it with plastic wrap, foil or a sealable plastic bag.

Freeze ground lamb for up to 3 to 4 months or lamb cuts and roasts for 6 to 9 months. To maintain quality, rewrap the lamb tightly in heavy-duty freezer wrap, a sealable freezer plastic bag or freezer wrap to prevent freezer burn.

Tip: Label your freezer package with the name of the lamb cut, the date and the weight or number of servings.


Lamb Cuts

(32° to 40° Farenheit)

(0° Farenheit or colder)
Ground Lamb 1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months
Roasts, Chops 2 to 3 days 6 to 9 moths
Cooked Lamb 3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months

Thaw frozen lamb in the refrigerator overnight. Leave it in the freezer wrap and place it on a plate to keep juices from dripping onto other foods. It will take about 3 to 5 hours per pound to thaw meat in the refrigerator. For faster thawing, use a microwave oven, following the oven manufacturer’s directions. Do not thaw frozen lamb at room temperature as the surface of the meat may reach room temperature which encourages spoilage.