Introduction: DIY Lathe Roasted Whole Lamb

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Say it with me - LATHE LAMB! "Lathe lamb" was the phrase of the day when our hackerspace, The Rabbit Hole, went to Fedora Labs. Our mission? To primarily use only industrial-grade power tools to lathe roast and enjoy a whole lamb. That's right, lathe roast a WHOLE lamb! It turned out delicious - and here's how we did it!

Tools needed for roasting:

  • Three phase 208V power supply
  • Industrial Lathe
  • Leafblower
  • Ductwork for leafblower manifold system
  • Sawzall
  • Charcoal chimney
  • 4-6x 8.8lbs of hardwood lump charcoal
  • 1 bag of hardwood/fruitwood for smoking (pre-soak chunks in water)
  • Stainless steel wire
  • Clamps (capable of clammping on the spit)

Items needed for the lamb:

  • 4 bunches of fresh rosemary, basil, and parsley
  • 10 lemons
  • 5 - 6 heads of garlic
  • Dried herbs: rosemary, oregano, and parsley
  • 1 loaf sliced bread (I used multigrain)
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • Plenty of olive oil
  • Sea salt/ground pepper
  • 1 bottle of balsamic vinagrette dressing
  • Basting brush/turkey baster bulb pipette
  • Meat thermometer
  • 2-3 trash bags depending on size
  • Large bore needle
  • Pliers
  • Butcher cotton twine

Items needed for the gyros:

  • Pita bread
  • Tzatziki sauce
  • Red onion, cucumber, and tomato salad (

If you need to move or clean the lathe:

  • Telescopic Forklift (Loader Lift Tractor)
  • Nontoxic degreasers!
  • Dish soap

P.S. We are very aware that this is overkill :)

P.P.S. Enjoy the video :D

P.P.P.S. If you think this is as epic as we did, please vote for us in the Meat Contest!

Step 1: Move the Lathe to Your Yard!

Your lathe is most likely not located in your yard. To move the lathe, it may require a telescopic forklift (or loader lift tractor).

Be sure to properly affix straps to the lathe in a balanced manner. When you have it where you want it, set it down gently and remove the straps.

Park your telescopic forklift to the side.

Step 2: Clean the Lathe

If you haven't already cleaned your lathe, please consider that this is a necessary step if you are ever going to use it as a rotisserie! Any industrial grease must be carefully cleaned from parts of the lathe that will come into contact with the meat. The bed of the lathe will more than likely need a bit more effort. So get cleaning!

Step 3: Connect the Lathe to Power

The lathe ran on three phase, 208V of power. We ran wires from the lathe to binding posts on the diesel powered generator through wire nuts. Please be careful - if you do not know what you are doing, please get someone who does!

Test to make sure the lathe turns on!

Step 4: Get the Leafblower in Place

Yes, you saw right, a leafblower :). The primary goal of this leafblower is to become a powered air source for the fire - to get the fire nice and hot!

We used a clear spot on the lathe to place the body of the leafblower. Be sure to tie it down to the lathe so that when it turns on, it doesn't rattle off of the lathe.

Step 5: Create the Leafblower Manifold System

Create a manifold system for the leafblower. This will require ductwork and aluminum tape. The goal is for the manifold to go from the leafblower to the underside of the grate holding up the coals. You can of course experiment with this, but the pictures show our version of it.

Make sure to tape the joints with aluminum tape so that no air gets out of the ductwork, otherwise you will end up with significant air loss!

Test at each point to make sure you're getting adequate airflow. You may also need to build a temporary support structure to keep the ductwork in place. We used simple gardening/fence stakes.

Vroomvroom :)

Step 6: Coal Maintenance + Meat Temperature

Normally, most other sites will say this takes 5-6 hours to cook, but we found that our lamb cooked in about 2-3 hours. It was most likely a combination of the lathe's rotational speed and the short distance from the coals. I'm sure the leafblower didn't hurt :).

We started out with a bed of unlit coals. Once the lamb was on the lathe, we added some hot coals that had been pre-started in our charcoal chimney

Of course, as these hours pass, you will need to add coals as necessary. We added 6-8 coals at a time (maybe every 20-30 minutes) along with 2 smoking wood pieces.

Once a few hours pass, you'll want to temp the meat deep in the leg/shoulder. For medium rare, you'll want around 150. Otherwise, 160-170 is a good place to take it off the spit/carve it.

Step 7: Prepare the Basting Marinade!

    These next steps can be done at the same time as preparation of the lathe.

    • Blend 2 bunches of fresh rosemary, parsley, and basil together with the cloves from 2 heads of garlic until they form a paste (this can be done the day before you're set to roast your lamb and stored in a tupperware container).
    • Mix this paste with the fresh juice of 8 lemons. Keep the rinds as they will go into the lamb.
    • Add the balsamic vinaigrette dressing, half a bottle of the red wine, and a cup of olive oil as well to this mixture.

    Submerge the other fresh bunches of rosemary, parsley, and basil into this marinade and let them steep while you get the lamb ready!

    Step 8: Prepare the Lamb!

    • When you get a lamb from your butcher, a good thing to find out is its live weight - which starts around 80 lbs and can go up to 120lbs. This translates to 20 - 40 lbs of actual meat. Our's happened to be at 100 lbs.
    • Our's came with its head off and some of its offal inside like the liver, tongue, heart, and a kidney. We took these out and roasted them separately.
    • Set down 2-3 trashbags on the table to keep it clean while working with the lamb.
    • We approached the lamb in 4 sections - outer left, outer right, inner left, and inner right. We approached each section in the following manner:
      • Rub the section with half a lemon making sure to squeeze as you rub. The whole lamb will require 2 lemons - toss the squeezed rinds inside the lamb.
      • Liberally salt and pepper the section. Liberally dash with dried oregano, parsley, and rosemary.
      • Using the basting brush, baste over these layers of seasoning with olive oil. If you want to, salt again.
      • Repeat for each section!
    • Cut slits into the lamb skin/outer section and insert slices of garlic. About 3/4 of a head of garlic will be needed per side.

    Gorgeous isn't it!

    Step 9: Stuff the Lamb!

    • Once the marinade's been made, and the outside/inside of the lamb has been prepped, take the lemon rinds and place them into the lamb cavity.
    • Also place the fresh herbs that have been marinating into the cavity, but make sure to keep the basting marinade.
    • Place slices of bread into the cavity, and pour the rest of the red wine on the slices of bread. As it heats up, the wine will evaporate and cook into the lamb.
    • Then place any leftover garlic cloves you might have into the cavity.

    Step 10: Close the Lamb Up!

    Sew it up! I found that using pliers with a large bore needle threaded with butcher's cotton twine worked quite well - take note of the stitch.

    You can, if you would like, re salt and pepper the outside - sometimes handling the lamb gets the spices on your hands! The lamb won't mind!

    Step 11: Get the Lamb on the Spit and Into the Lathe!

    • The spit was a steel bar that we degreased, then washed it with dish soap and oiled with olive oil.
    • To get the lamb on the spit, we used the holes in the neck to the butt while leaving about 5" of spit on either side. This of course will depend on the size of your lamb and the length of spit you have.
    • If you do not have spit spears welded onto the spit (they help keep the meat rotating with the spit instead of only the spit rotating), then use clamps like we did! We added clamps to the neck region, the hind leg region, and the rib area. This way, when the lamb did not rotate with the spit, it would get caught by the clamp handle and rotate that way. A bit clunky, but it worked!

    Step 12: Adjust the Lamb/connections If Necessary

    • Depending on how much clearance you have between your lathe and the bed of your lathe, you may need to adjust how you fasten the lamb to the spit. We ended up having to cut the neck and the arms off of the lamb for it to cook without running into the lathe bed.
    • We also initially used twine to wrap the lamb up in a tighter formation, though we ended up using stainless steel wire to tie it into place as the steel did not burn like the cotton twine!
    • If you do make any changes - you can also take this time to re-season with the dried herbs and a quick baste with your marinade.

    Step 13: Lathe Lamb!

    Using a charcoal chimney, get some coals started. This way, when you have the lamb chucked into the lathe, you'll be ready to go!

    Our lathe did not have enough clearance for the lamb so we had to improvise. One side of the lathe spit did not get chucked into the end, and we had a couple of fore-legs that we had to sawzall off. But once that was taken care of, we were spinning!

    The lathe went at 100rpm, which sounds like a lot, but actually translates to 1.6 revolutions per second. So it's not terribly fast, though certainly faster than your normal spit. The lamb ended up being around 3-5" away from the coals. While this sounds very close, because of the speed of the lathe, we never actually had any burning occur!

    Baste the lamb with the marinade every 15 minutes or so with a turkey baster/brush. You'll want to keep the skin looking moist and it will absolutely soak up the flavors of the marinade!

    Step 14: Carving the Lamb + Gyros

    Usually, you'll want to let the meat rest around 15 minutes before cutting but we decided it would be more appropriate to carve it using a Sawzall. So we temporarily stopped the lathe to carve a bit of meat and then started it spinning again.

    Now for the perfect gyro!

    Take your pita bread, put some tzatziki sauce on it, some delicious greek salad and then a few delicious slices of lamb! Enjoy!

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