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Roast Leg of Lamb

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Roast Leg of Lamb is traditional for Easter dinner, and is a moist and delicious alternative to turkey for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other holidays.  It looks impressive on the platter, is easier to carve, and is almost impossible to mess up! 

This recipe shows you the basic techniques, and describes the different flavors you can add to personalize your lamb, and make it the best ever.  I've even included instructions for making a quick lamb pan gravy. 

My favorite version is shown below:  rosemary and garlic-studded lamb, with brown sugar topping.

 
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Step 1: Tools and Ingredients

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1 Leg of lamb (bone-in makes a more impressive presentation, but isn't necessary)
salt
pepper
savory (optional) (I used a handful of fresh garlic - see Step 2 for other options)
fresh herbs (optional) (Don't try to substitute dried! I've used rosemary here - see Step 2 for other options)
1/4c brown sugar (optional)

oven-safe pan large enough to accommodate lamb
paring knife
carving knife
kitchen twine (if using a boneless leg)

Step 2: Prepare garlic and fresh herbs

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Chop the garlic into slivers, and coarsely chop the fresh herbs.  (Wash the herbs, then remove any stems, dead leaves, or critters.)

The important thing is that you're mixing two items:  a fresh herb, and a strong savory flavor.  Any of the savories listed below can be sliced and combined with the herb of your choice.  Try out something new!

Substitution ideas:

Herbs that taste good with lamb:  rosemary (what I've used here), mint, oregano, thyme, basil. Dried herbs just won't do, so avoid them.
Savory: garlic (what I've used here), hot peppers, citrus zest (use a peeler to get large curls), dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, apricots, etc).

Step 3: Cut & stuff lamb

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- Place leg of lamb in roasting pan.
- Cut deep slits all over the surface of the lamb, using your paring knife.
- Stuff bits of your savory and herb mixture into each slit. (See Step 2 for options.) Make sure to stuff them mostly below the surface of the meat to avoid burning your seasonings.

If you're using a boneless leg, stuff plenty of seasonings inside where the bone used to be, then tie a couple of loops of kitchen twine around the leg to hold it together nicely.  This isn't rocket science - just hold it together.

Step 4: Season surface

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Sprinkle the leg of lamb with salt and pepper, then add any other seasonings you desire.

Here I've used about 1/4 cup of brown sugar, spreading it over the top surface of the lamb in a thin layer.  If you're using sugar, don't leave spilled sugar on the bottom of the pan - it can easily burn.

You can also add chili powder, honey, a spice rub, or any other flavoring you're excited about.

Step 5: Roast lamb

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Throw the lamb in a pre-heated 400F oven.

After 15-20 minutes, turn the temperature down to 325F and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer reads your target temperature.  This is the only way to be sure your roast is done properly!  Take temperature readings at the thickest part of the leg, but don't get too close to the bone - it will be much hotter than the surrounding meat.

Basting the leg with the pan drippings is always a good thing, and you can add more brown sugar or other seasoning if you like.

Notes on time & temperature:

Obviously the cook time will vary depending on both the size of your lamb leg and the target temperature - mine reached medium in about an hour.  I would actually have preferred medium-rare, but the temperature climbs fast near the end of cooking!  Beware, and check frequently when you're nearing target temperature.

Rare:  120-125F (center bright red, pink outer)
Medium-rare: 130-135F (center pink, light brown outer)
Medium: 140-145F  (center light pink, brown outer)
Medium-well: 150-155F (light brown center, brown outer)
Well done: 160F + (all brown, aka dry and burnt)

Step 6: Rest meat

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Place your cooked lamb leg on a platter, and let it rest for 15-30 minutes before cutting into it.  This will allow the juices to re-flow into the meat, making it properly moist, juicy, and flavorful.

Step 7: Prep gravy

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While the meat rests, pour the delicious pan juices into a pot to make gravy.

A truly excellent gravy starts with a roux, but you can make a very good, solid gravy without the added time and effort.  Here's the trick.

- Heat the pan drippings in a wide pot. 
- Sprinkle in about a teaspoon of super-fine* flour, stirring with a whisk to incorporate quickly. 
- As mixture thickens, stir in an almost equal volume of milk or half-and-half.  If you prefer less milky gravy, add incrementally and taste-test as you go; I like this ratio as lamb pan drippings are pretty strongly flavored.  (I had about 1 cup pan drippings, so used about a cup of whole milk.)
- Simmer lightly for a few minutes.  You want the flour to fully re-hydrate to thicken the mixture, but don't want to boil the milk.
- Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings.  (I had to add a pinch of salt.)  It should taste strongly of lamb, be enriched by the addition of milk, and feel soft and velvety on your tongue. 

Congratulations, you've made a quick pan gravy!


*Wondra, or "instant" flour.  It's finely-ground, low-protein flour that has been pregelatinized (steamed then dried), all making it easier to dissolve in liquid and less likely to form lumps.

Step 8: Carve and serve

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Arrange the leg of lamb on a nice oblong tray.  I like to decorate the tray with more of whatever fresh herb I've used in the lamb - in this case, rosemary.  Pour off any additional juices that may have collected, and stir them into the gravy.

Grab a fork and a carving knife, and carve the lamb at the table.  It's dead easy, and much simpler than carving a turkey - all you have to do is start on one side and cut slices until you reach the obvious bone.  Then spin the leg 90 degrees, and continue cutting.  If you're using a boneless leg of lamb, the process is even easier!  Remove any kitchen twine, and cut into 1/8-1/4 inch slices.

Save the bone for stock, and the leftover meat (if there is any!) for sandwiches. 

cdstudioNH3 months ago

I just got my precious leg of lamb from my farmer, so this info will be invaluable... Thank you!

This looks so delicious.! What time is dinner?
scoochmaroo5 years ago
Step 7 could be its own instructable! 
I agree.

A tip for those wishing to use the flour method to thicken your gravy: In a separate container measure your flour then add increments of your liquid (water or milk). By adding wet to dry you can avoid lumpy gravy   :S

Also +2 awesome points for using ridiculous amounts of garlic and rosemary!
canida (author)  mikeasaurus5 years ago
That's not a ridiculous amount of garlic - I only used a little bit!  ;)

The Wondra flour is a shortcut/cheater method to avoid having to add wet to dry.  I don't like pre-measuring the flour, so using the pregelatinized stuff is easier.
mmm... and a +9 for the double-word score: pregelatinized.

canida (author)  scoochmaroo5 years ago
I didn't have enough pictures!  Maybe next time.
 Once again, canida FAILS to make anything less than perfect. ;)

Looks amazing.
canida (author)  titanvince165 years ago
Thank you! 

Though I must admit the lamb was overcooked - I was aiming for low-130s (med-rare) but didn't get it out of the oven before the meat had reached medium. ;)

So, are you going to try it?
 Yea definitely. It looks amazing.

Love your recipes.
lemonie5 years ago
One of my favorites, it looks great too.

L
canida (author)  lemonie5 years ago
Hard to go wrong with a leg of lamb, isn't it? 
lemonie canida5 years ago
You can, depends upon whether one knows how to cook or not... I sometimes buy goat, that can be very good too, less fat though.

L
henryvrgl5 years ago
This was very insightful. You've done a fine job of explaining each step.
What I found most informative is how you've taken the time to describe what pairs well with the dish and how it should taste. I lot of times recipes fail in that dept. Once again, a fine job. Thank you for sharing.
canida (author)  henryvrgl5 years ago
Thank you!  I'm glad to hear it was helpful.  That's the way I think of recipes, so I try to set them out in an easily-testable, easily-modifiable fashion.
trebuchet035 years ago
Wondra.... check... I need to remember that :p
canida (author)  trebuchet035 years ago
Handy stuff to have around, though I don't use it often.
Goodhart5 years ago
|Oh that looks so good I could eat it for breakfast

I love what rosemary does for meats (I have had a decent rosemary chicken not long ago).
 
canida (author)  Goodhart5 years ago
In fact, I did eat it for breakfast. ;)
And fresh rosemary is amazing.
That is a beautiful, beautiful thing. :D
canida (author)  jessyratfink5 years ago
Thanks!  It's hard to go wrong with an awesome leg of lamb, short of burning it. ;)
Jayefuu5 years ago
Yes! Exactly how I do it. Garlic and rosemary, a wee bit pink inside. Perfect. And great pics (as usual).
canida (author)  Jayefuu5 years ago
Awesome, thanks!