Lamb can be a little tricky to find in your local stores, but this time of year most supermarkets will have a small selection.
Since I found the lamb loin chops a couple of weeks ago at Costco, that was going to be my first stop. Costco had plenty of boneless legs in stock this week, and I picked out one that weighed 5lbs. It cost $25 and I didn’t think that was too bad at all.
The Lamb came wrapped in netting (jet net) which is typical for boneless cuts. You can leave the netting on and season the outside, but you can get more flavor on the meat if you cut the netting away and apply seasoning to all the nooks & crannies that are created from removing the bones. You’ll see what I’m talking about in the video.
The first step in the process is seasoning the meat:
With lamb I like to keep it fairly simple and use 5 ingredients that really help the flavor of the lamb shine.
Here’s what you’ll need:
2 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary (chopped fine)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme (chopped fine)
4-5 Cloves Fresh Garlic (minced)
2 Tablespoons Course Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Course Ground Black Pepper
Once you remove the lamb from the packaging, rinse it under cool water and blot dry with paper towel.
Lay it out on a large platter or cutting board and brush the entire outside with Olive Oil. This will help the seasonings adhere to the outside.
Liberally sprinkle the salt and pepper on all sides. With boneless cuts you can really get access to a lot of meat surface. This allows more areas to build flavor with the seasonings.
If you’re doing a bone-in leg, you may want to cut slits into the meat, so the flavors can penetrate it.
Combine the herbs and garlic in a small bowl and sprinkle over the outside as well. Once again, get as much as you can in the area where the bone was removed.
Since I removed the “jet-net” the roast will spread out, so you’ll need to shape it back into a roast after seasoning. I use 4 pieces of Butcher Twine to tie the leg into the shape of a roast. This will help it cook evenly while it’s on the smoker.
If you place it on the smoker without tying, parts of lamb will get done faster and it won’t be near as good.
Once you have it seasoned and shaped, let the leg of lamb hang out in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. This gives the herb mixture time to work on the meat. One hour before placing it on the smoker remove the roast from the refrigerator and let it come to room temp.
To cook the lamb, I fired up my Yoder YS480 with cherry BBQr’s Delight pellets. It doesn’t matter what type of smoker/grill you’re cooking it on as long as you can maintain temps in the 275 range.
With lamb you want to use a mild wood. Anything in the fruit family will work just fine, but be careful with harsher woods like hickory or oak. They can easily overpower the lamb and give it a foul taste. Remember you want the lamb flavor to be the star not the wood. The flavors I’m using accent the natural taste of the meat.
Once the smoker is up to temp, place the Lamb on the center rack and probe it with a thermometer. I used a ChefAlarm, you can check it out here >>
You’ll want to keep a close eye on the internal temperature with lamb.
It’s easy to overshoot the target temp and that will result in a dry finished product. Leg of Lamb is best served med. rare to medium and that is 140-145 degrees.
To keep the lamb from drying out during the cooking process, I made up a simple baste. It’s a mixture of vinegar and oil with the same flavors that we used to season the outside of the roast. You’ll want to apply the baste after the first hour of cooking and anytime it looks dry. I shoot for every hour cooking on the Yoder.
Here’s the recipe:
1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
½ cup Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Course Ground Black Pepper
½ tsp Chopped Rosemary
½ tsp Chopped Thyme
2 cloves of minced Garlic
Mix the vinegar, herbs, and seasonings in a bowl and whisk in the oil. Naturally it wants to separate just give it a good stir before basting.
Instead of using a standard BBQ mop to apply the baste I tried something a little different. A few weeks ago I was down in New Orleans and watched some local chefs cook whole lamb. To baste the meat they had a long stick with a bunch of fresh herbs tied to the end. I had to inquire about it and they swore that it added flavor to the meat. It made sense to me, so I decide to try that this week.
I used a wooden spoon and butcher twine to affix a few sprigs of the rosemary and thyme. It worked really well. I’m not 100% sure that it added any extra flavor but it saved me from washing a BBQ mop!
The total cook time for the lamb was 2:15 minutes. At this point it hit 143 degrees internal and that was I far as I wanted it to go. The next crucial step is to let it rest.
Giving it 15 minutes on the cutting board before slicing allows the temperature to settle and keeps the moisture from running out when slicing. You should do this with all cuts of meat once it comes off the grill/smoker.
The lamb is now ready to serve and can easily be cut into whatever size you like. I shoot for ½” slices across the grain. Having it tied into a roast while cooking makes this easy. Just use a long bladed knife and it will go right through it. You can also remove the butcher twine before slicing.
The meat should be slightly pink and packed with juice. Lamb is packed with great flavor and the herbs really stand out. It doesn’t need a sauce or anything to accent it.
Serve the lamb along with your favorite vegetables and your family will love it!