What Is Mutton Steak?

T. Carrier

Mutton steak is a meat dish. Unlike more traditional steaks, the meat in mutton steak consists of sheep meat. Three types of sheep meat exist, with mutton deriving from adult sheep. The steaks are characterized by their small size, their strong taste, and their relative toughness. Mutton dishes are more popular in some regions than others.

Mutton is harvested from adult sheep.
Mutton is harvested from adult sheep.

Sheep may be classified by their age. A young sheep that has not yet reached its first birthday is known as a lamb. A slightly older adolescent sheep goes by the title of hogget. The term mutton describes a fully formed adult sheep, and the subsequent meat taken from these sheep. Some regions refer to the meat of an alternative animal, the goat, as mutton.

About eight different parts of the sheep are used for mutton steaks.
About eight different parts of the sheep are used for mutton steaks.

Generally speaking, steaks refer to slices of meat taken from different parts of an animal. This material usually must be separated from fibers of muscle. In most cases, the term steak references beef products. Other animals may produce steak meat as well, however, including sheep.

Different portions of the sheep may be used for a mutton steak. In general, about eight separate body areas are used for edible cuts of mutton, including the following: leg, loin, neck, breast, shoulder, rack, flank, and chump. Most of these meat cuts are slow-roasted. The shoulder is used for a majority of mutton steaks, with the meat being taken from the shoulder blade. Many cooks and consumers prefer the mutton basted and cooked rare, while others prefer grilled steaks.

The meat in mutton steak generally comes from sheep over the age of two. Since these animals are oldest, their meat does not possess the tenderness of younger stock. In addition, mutton meat tends to possess a strong flavor that may prove too intense for some palates. Other differentiating characteristics between sheep meat are a smaller size and different colors. Specifically, a darker pink — bordering on red — color equates with a mutton.

The flavor of mutton steaks can be further enhanced. Spices and additives like pepper and soy sauce can soak into the meat and give it a stronger taste. Individuals can also marinate other ingredients on the steak, such as beans, onions, and mushrooms. A popular side dish vegetable accompaniment for mutton steak and other mutton foods is turnips. Thin strips of fatty mutton can even be cut into a substitute for bacon called macon.

Mutton dishes like mutton steak are more prominent in certain regions, such as the the Mediterranean region. In some regions, religious law dictates that sheep be killed in a certain manner before they can be consumed. Therefore, mutton steaks may be less pervasive in these regions.

After being used for their milk and wool, sheep can be slaughtered for mutton when old.
After being used for their milk and wool, sheep can be slaughtered for mutton when old.

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