Can Butchers Cut It? Try A Lamb Tomahawk.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of making a presentation to the Associated Craft Butchers at their annual conference and exhibition in County Kildare’s K Club. My talk was titled “Can Butchers Fight Back?”. Independent butchers face huge challenges from a variety of directions. Life is hard for the average butcher. But, they are a stoic lot by nature (stoic is another word for grumpy) and are slow to complain openly. I hope that my talk gave those in the room something to think over. At the end of the conference, I was saying farewell to a couple of chaps from Irish Country Meats (they distribute lamb to the independent butchery trade in Ireland). The lads were clearing out their fridge and offered me a couple of lamb tomahawks to try. I couldn’t say no…

As we had the meat cost-free, I felt OK about opening a bottle of 2007 Chateau Saint Ahon to match the lamb. That was a good decision.

When the meat is free, I feel I can push out the wine boat.

The tomahawk is a cut from the front of the ribcage. It includes the four frontmost ribs and when cleaned down, looks pretty tomahawk like. I decided to cook it sous vide and to flavour it with some traditional lamb flavours.

Simple, traditional ingredients make for delicious lamb.


  • 2 (FREE) lamb tomahawks
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of rosemary
  • Salt
  • Pepper
If one were cooking this over a long period in the sous vide, one would be very careful about using strong aromatics like these. However, as I gave the lamb only two and a half hours at 54ºC (130ºF), the flavour had time to permeate but not to overwhelm the delicate lamb.

I sliced the garlic and chopped the rosemary. I then patted this into the lamb.

That’s lots of garlic. It is not too much.

After seasoning with the salt and pepper, I vacuum sealed the joints and popped them into the water bath.

Sous vide gives one time to think about other things.

I then went off to think about how my talk had gone down with the butchers. I hadn’t pulled my punches. Many of our traditional butchers have gone out of business. To fight back against the onslaught of the supermarkets, they need to offer something that the supermarkets can’t or won’t offer. Some of it is soft stuff (advice, recipes, tea and sympathy), other has to be innovative and unusual. The lamb tomahawk fits that bill. As do pigs cheeks, ham hocks, oxtail, short ribs, tongue, lap of lamb and so many of the less popular, slow cooking, tasty cuts of meat. Thankfully, there is lots that the independent butcher can do to improve business. It’s not all plain sailing but there are many great butchers still doing great things. There is room for lots of co-operation amongst the trade.
But, back to the tomahawk. After the immersion, I browned it in butter in a medium pan.

The sou vided lamb browns in no time.

I served it with a couscous with lots of tasty bits and pieces cut through it. The lamb was delicious. It was incredibly tender, though had more tough connective tissue than centre loin chops might. That didn’t spoil our enjoyment.

We enjoyed a glass or four of that lovely wine too.

Thanks to the chaps at Associated Craft Butchers for asking me to speak and to the lads at Irish Country Meats for the lamb. If you are a butcher reading this, take heart. There is lots to be done and the future can be bright. Start by talking to your fellow butchers. Most are facing the same issues. Some have cracked what may seem like insurmountable problems. You can learn lots from each other. Start by talking.
Footnote on commercialism. This is not a sponsored post, unless you consider the tomahawk lamb as payment. If you do, then the guys would have had to know I was going to post about it. They didn’t. They were just being nice as I believe I am by posting this. Though, given the delightful meal we had, it really was no hardship.
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Latest comments
  • That looks delicious!
    IMHO the problem lies with the public and supermarkets …and I’m not talking about pricing. People are so used to buying meat wrapped in plastic with cooking instructions, that they are frightened to go into a butcher as they don’t know what to ask for. I’ve visited my local with friends over the years, who’ve realised how friendly and helpful the butcher can be, but they felt very uncomfortable about going in there for the first time alone. My butcher even offers cooking tips, jokes, the occasional freebee and a tour of Smithfield Market at 5am!

  • I’m with you on cultivating your local butcher. I enjoy the lively conversations I have with mine when I go in to buy a whole beef brisket, or ask for fresh ox tongue or buy a half hog and want it butchered a particular way. Conversely, I don’t think he has many customers who need 3 kilos of chicken livers, or ask for his opinions on different methods of slow cooking the gristly bits!

  • What is your side dish mixture? Looks very interesting.

  • You did the independent butchers in your country a great service by giving the talk. The lamb may not have been enough payment! It looks delectable.

  • That’s a very good looking piece of meat! It’s such a shame that traditional butchers are going out of business. We end up with supermarket butchers who are far from professional and most don’t care much about what they’re doing Sad.

  • Delicious looking lamb, Conor, cooked perfectly. Perhaps calling this tomahawk will sell more of them. Great you are supporting butchers. I notice that after having gone to the same butcher for 15 years I am still the youngest client. That doesn’t look like a good sign. Last weekend I also did rack of lamb sous-vide and left it in for 4 hours. That made it even more tender.

  • Yep: got one of them butchers also: whenever I ask ‘You wouldn’t have . . . ?’ the answer is likely to be ‘Huh!!! Of course we do’ . The ‘tomahawk’ name does ring a bell and looks moreish. . of course it will be cooked ‘my way’ but am looking forwards to the experience . . . . Kate’s ‘3 kilos of chicken livers’ brought forth a smile: since this area has had a large percentage of Estonians and Finns in the population for some sixty years, oh the butcher would quite calmly say ‘Just a tick! May not have quite as much but the boy can drive it over in the afternoon’ . . . 🙂 !

  • I’m sorry to say that one has to look long and hard here to find a proper butcher shop. In a city of 19,000 souls we have two independent meat markets. One is a pork butcher shop (and very good) and a Halal butcher (has great chicken). I’ve been told that 10 years ago there were six butchers shops in town. Then came the big super grocery store and away went the independents.
    That lamb looks amazing, we never see anything like that around here.

  • Given the international nature of food and food blogs, possibly a butcher shop could try offering and advertising that they offer cuts that are trending, even though those cuts are not usually sold in that area/country. The way to wean people off the supermarkets might be to offer them what they already think they want.

  • Conor, I have to thank you for your recipe. I’ve recently purchased my sous vide contraption and you’ve become my “go-to” for great recipes. Recently, I prepared the lamb for 13 close friends during our annual visit to Vail, Colorado. Everyone raved about the dish and was in awe of the sous vide process. I’d been going on and on about how miraculous it was and was eager to show them. Of course, I introduced everyone to your blog as the quintessential source for all things sous vide and, quite frankly, a good read and gorgeous photos that are a feast for the eyes. We all agreed that you need to come out with a cookbook. I, for one, will fly over for an autographed copy.

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