LAMB RECIPES, SAUCES & TIPS
There’s so much more to lamb than throwing a few chops on the grill once in a while. There’s lamb steaks, rack of lamb, and rolled-breast roasts to try too. And that’s why you need these delicious lamb recipes in your repertoire.
Have you ever roasted a leg of lamb? It may sound intimidating, but the fabulous fact is, that leg of lamb is actually one of the easiest, most foolproof cuts of meat to cook. Once we’ve gone through the paces on lamb today, your lamb dishes will turn out perfect every time.
Here’s what you’ll find in this article on lamb and lamb recipes:
- Different cuts of lamb
- Buying your leg of lamb – boneless? marinate it?
- How to carve a leg of lamb
- Roasting times for all cuts of lamb
- Roast Leg of Lamb with Blackberry Herb Sauce recipe
- Tantalizing Tandoori Lamb Chops
- Pan Fried Herbed Lamb Steaks
- Lemon Confit
While I’ve cooked different lamb cuts on many occasions, cooking a whole leg can still feel intimidating. It’s a large, expensive cut of meat, and you might wonder whether you’re going to dry it out or make it tough. Should you marinate it? And should you do something to sauce it to make it an extra special lamb recipe?
Let’s work our way through all these questions and get the answers for you!
LEG OF LAMB IS JUST THE BEGINNING
I’ve created a chart showing you all the different cuts of lamb there really are! Some of them are little known, like the Barnsley Chop. Who knew?
The Barnsley chop is a name for a particular lamb chop cut. It is named after the town of Barnsley, which is located in Yorkshire in the North of England.
Essentially a double loin lamb chop sliced from the saddle roast, it’s a larger cut of meat that can be grilled or pan-fried. You’ll rarely find it in supermarkets, as it’s typically a special cut only found in butcher shops under the name “saddle chops”.
Next time you’re in the butcher shop, take a minute to see what kinds of lambs cuts are available. After reading this article, you’ll know just how you want to prepare them!
THE ANATOMY OF A LEG OF LAMB
When we talk about a leg of lamb, we’re looking at one of it’s back haunches of the animal.
In most grocers, you’ll find a leg that includes the upper portion of the leg only. It’s kind of like the lamb’s “thigh” in terms of anatomy that we can understand.
Choosing Shank On or Off?
Usually leg of lamb is sold without the shank attached, but you can special order a full leg with the shank left on.
The image shows both cuts of leg of lamb. When you go to the butcher, ask for an “American leg,” or a “shank-on leg.”
Some people prefer the entire leg, as they think it looks more dramatic on a serving platter. But really, besides having more lamb bones for making stock, there’s no major advantage to having the shank left on.
Which is Better, Boneless or Bone-In?
My recipe uses a semi-boneless leg of lamb which is what I prefer. Here’s why.
The bones hold much of the flavor of any meat. So much so, that’s how meat broth and stocks are made. Either by roasting raw bones with aromatic vegetables, or using bones from a cooked piece of meat.
When you roast a piece of meat with the bone still in, you’re getting all that flavor back into the meat itself. It’s true, a bone-in leg of lamb can be a little trickier to carve, but I’ve taken care of that with full instructions and illustration a little later in this post.
NAN’S TIP: Make sure your lamb has been trimmed of most of the “fell”. That’s the thick outer layer of fat that can give lamb a strong “mutton-y” taste. Do have the butcher leave a thin layer of fat to help insulate the meat and keep it from drying out.
Should You Marinate a Leg of Lamb?
Here’s where we can get creative and lend tons of flavor to our final dishes.
Marinades are usually used to help break down the tough fibers in meat, hence our love of marinading our flank steak here in my house! But because lamb is naturally tender, you absolutely don’t need to marinate it.
That said, I usually marinate my lamb, but not for the long periods of time called for with tougher meats like beef or pork. Long marinating times can start to destroy the integrity of the texture and flavor of your lamb. And it’s not cheap, right?
If you choose not to marinate, just season simply with some herbs, citrus and garlic, and you’ll be good to go!
How Do You Eat Your Lamb?
Rare, Medium, or Well Done?
Personal preference should determine how long you cook your lamb. Personally, I adore medium-rare, with a hint of red, but mostly pink, and that goes for my chops and lamb breasts too.
But when I’m preparing lamb for guests, I’ll generally cook my lamb recipes closer to medium, still really tender, with some pink in the center. This way I’m most likely to please all the guests.
I will say that a large cut of meat, like a leg of lamb, can have some variability in its final cooked temperature.
Part of the leg might be a little rarer, and others more done. I don’t find that particularly distressing, as many times you’ll have people that want a little rarer or more well-done pieces of meat.
INTERNAL TEMPERATURES FOR LEG OF LAMB
All of these cooking times take into account starting with a piece of lamb that is close to room temperature. The times also allow for a 15 minute resting period after cooking, to allow the lamb to rise to it’s final cooked temperature.
It’s best, especially if you like rare or medium-rare lamb, to take it out at a lower temperature than those officially recommended by the USDA.
For a lovely medium-rare semi-boneless leg of lamb, I’ll roast it for 15-17 minutes per pound and make sure it comes out of the oven as it reaches 125 degrees F.
After 15 minutes of rest, while it continues to cook internally, it re-absorbs all its juices and will come out a perfect medium-rare.
REMEMBER! These times are only guidelines. Depending on many factors, your leg of lamb may roast slower or faster. Check after one hour and then continue roasting, checking frequently, until the lamb reaches your desired internal temperature.
Roasting Temperature: 325°F
- Rare: 125°F (about 15 minutes per pound)
- Medium-Rare: 130°F to 135°F (about 20 minutes per pound)
- Medium: 135°F to 140°F (about 25 minutes per pound)
- Well-Done:155°F to 165°F (about 30 minutes per pound)
ROASTING TIMES FOR CUTS OF LAMB
Now that you’ve learned so much about lamb, how long will you cook it?
Well, that depends on the cut of lamb you’ll be preparing and what cooking technique is used. (I know that’s not an answer, but this is!)
The kind folks at Ontario Lamb Farms have created a comprehensive cooking time chart that has the answer to all those questions. And I mean, all cuts of lamb, at various cooking temperatures. It’s a great tool for every cook’s kitchen!
Here’s the link to the chart at their fabulous website, and don’t forget to check out all their great information about fresh Ontario lamb! Fresh Ontario Lamb Cooking Times & Temperatures
ROASTED LEG OF LAMB WITH BLACKBERRY HERB SAUCE
This recipe for Roast Leg of Lamb with Blackberry Herb Sauce uses a wet-rub that gives a garlicy-orange undertone to your lamb.
It functions as a marinade, but without the large amount of oil and acidic ingredients that are usually present in marinade recipes. But you still don’t leave it on for an extended period of time.
After four hours in the refrigerator, and another hour coming to room-temperature, it’s ready to go in the oven.
That means it’s one of those great lamb recipes that can be prepared the morning of a party and popped in the oven later in the day.
BALSAMIC VINEGAR PLAYS NICE WITH LOTS OF DIFFERENT FRUITS
My Blackberry Herb Sauce is a fast and easy recipe that plays the sweetness of fresh blackberries off the tangy-sweetness of balsamic vinegar. With the addition of a smidge of honey, the sauce is reduced down to a syrupy sauce that’s not-to-sweet for your perfectly roasted lamb.
I added rosemary to the Blackberry Herb Sauce, to marry with the rosemary I used in the wet-rub.
But you can use mint, basil, or any other herb of your choice in both the wet-rub and sauce recipes. Stick to one basic herb to keep the flavors distinct and direct. Too many flavor profiles can ruin a sauce and overwhelm the meat.
Most people might choose fresh mint, but I’ve never been much of a fan myself.
You can experiment with different fruits too! I’ve used raspberries, currants and pomegranate molasses in my lamb recipes also, with fabulous results.
YOU CAN FIND THE RECIPE BY CLICKING THIS LINK: Roast Leg of Lamb with Blackberry Herb Sauce
HOW TO CARVE A LEG OF LAMB
- Place the leg of lamb on a cutting board with the bone-end facing away from you. The bone runs through the meat at an angle, giving you two sizable pieces of meat on either side. Start with the side facing your dominant hand, then turn the roast around carve the second side.
- Cut the meat into slices across the grain by cutting straight down through the thickest part of the meat until you hit the bone. Make sure you’re cutting perpendicular to the bone, across the grain of the meat.
- Continue working your way up the bone, slicing straight down to the bone. The slices will still be attached where they meet the bone.
- Once you’ve cut the entire section of meat into slices, turn your knife so that it’s parallel to the bone, instead of perpendicular.
- Starting at the end of the bone furthest from you, cut through the slices where they attach to the bone. Keep your knife close to the bone so you get as much meat as possible.
- Transfer the slices to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil to keep the meat warm.
- Turn the leg of lamb around and slice the remaining lamb the same as above. The angle of the meat with be different, so make sure you are cutting across, and not with, the grain of the meat.
- Leave the remainder of the meat on the bone for now. (After the meal, cut away as much of the meat as possible, and use in sandwiches or in a quick lamb “hash”)
Don’t throw away the bone! Make lamb stock: Cover lamb bone with water. Add 1 medium onion, halved, 3 carrots, 3 stalks of celery, 2 tsp. whole peppercorns and a handful of fresh parsley. Cover, bring to a simmer, lower heat and cook for 2 hours. Remove bone and vegetables and strain finished stock through a colander.
LEMON CONFIT – PERFECT CONDIMENT FOR LAMB RECIPES & MORE
I’m one those people that have this kind of thing in my refrigerator, all year round. And creme fraiche, pickled red onions, olive tapenade…
Once you have an entire roasted leg of lamb, how will you serve the rest of it? Here’s a great way to change it up for serving the second-time-around.
Lemon Confit can mean several different things if you ask Mr. Google for a recipe.
Most times you find recipes that use the technique calling for the use of copious amounts of kosher salt and lemons. After three weeks time, it produces a batch of “dry cured” preserved lemons, or lemon confit.
My recipe for Lemon Confit is ready just 3 days from the start of its preparation. In my opinion, having made it both ways, this particular recipe’s preserving technique is also much more versatile in many foods.
Adding Lemon Confit to meals for a quick recipe change-up is a favorite cooking hack of mine. Especially to perk up a plain weeknight chicken dish. It can be used in so many ways!
My favorite way to use it is to pop some into the food processor to make a paste that can be added to all sorts of dishes!
Here’s a few to get you started:
- Add lemon confit to cold butter and use on top of broiled trout or snapper
- Use a food processor to turn some lemon confit into a paste; add to homemade salad dressings or marinades
- Create a quick pan sauce for weeknight meals by reducing heavy cream, salt and pepper, then adding 1/2 cup drained lemon confit and fresh parsley
- Combine drained and chopped lemon confit with cream cheese and fresh herbs for a delightful appetizer spread
And because the lemons in this recipe are sliced, this technique takes much less time than making whole preserved lemons.
But you will need to make this recipe at least 3 days before you want to use it. The lemons need time to “cure” in the salty flavorings before you cover them with olive oil to keep them preserved.
Yes, it takes a little patience, but not lots of your hands-on time!
THE PRINTABLE RECIPE PAGE IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE
TANTALIZING TANDOORI LAMB CHOPS
When it comes time to choose one of my lamb recipes, I find myself reaching for my tandoor (clay oven) quite often. While using a grill for this recipe produces fabulous results, the high winds at 4500 ft. above sea level can make it difficult!
Inspired by the area around Delhi, in the Northwestern region of India, this is one of their lamb recipes that epitomizes the fabulous traditions of Moghul cuisine.
Indian yogurt is much thicker and richer than American yogurt, since its made with whole milk. My recipe compensates for that lack of fat by adding a little heavy whipping cream and sour cream to the marinade/sauce.
If you’re using a tandoor, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for your specific pot, as they do vary. It needs to be searingly hot to cook the lamb properly.
Like I said, your grill is probably the better choice for this recipe. A tandoor can create a lot of smoke in a short amount of time when used in a small unventilated space! Apartment dwellers be forewarned!
Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list, because if you look carefully, most of them are spices.
Tantalizing Tandoori Lamb Chops comes together really quick if you take the time the night before to whip up the marinade and let the chops marinate overnight.
My marinade ingredients make enough to use half as the marinade and the remainder as a sauce with the grilled chops. It’s one of my favorite lamb recipes!
A MOGHUL CUISINE FAVORITE
- Cut several slits in each lamb chop with a sharp paring knife and place in a shallow glass baking dish. Make sure it’s big enough to hold the chops in a single layer with no overlapping.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sour cream, heavy cream, and all remaining ingredients except the olive oil and butter.
- Pour 1/2 the yogurt mixture over the lamb chops, turning to coat each well. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight. Store the remaining yogurt mixture in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator to be used as the sauce for your cooked chops.
- Remove chops from refrigerator, add oil to the baking dish and toss to combine mixture and coat the lamb chops thoroughly.
- Take the lamb chops out of the marinade and let sit for 20-30 minutes to reach room temperature.
- Light your grill while chops are warming. Lightly season chops with salt and pepper.
- Grill over a moderately-high heat for about 4 minutes, turn and grill 4 more minutes. Brush with melted butter, turn over again and brush top side with more of the butter. Cook an additional 2 minutes. Flip and cook this side for 2 more minutes for medium-rare to medium.
- Serve with reserved yogurt sauce if desired.
PAN FRIED HERBED LAMB STEAKS
- 6 thick center cut lamb steaks
- 1 1/2 tsp. each, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 tsp. each, garlic powder and 2 tsp. onion powder
- 2 tsp. lemon powder (click link for recipe)
- 1 Tbsp. fresh chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, mint, etc.)
- 2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
- Season both sides of lamb steaks with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and lemon powder. Let sit for 15-20 minutes to come to room temperature.
- Place a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add oil and immediately place the chops in the pan in a single layer (you may need to do this in batches).
- Sear the first side for 2 minutes, flip and repeat with second side.
- Reduce heat to medium and flip again so the first side is down and cook for 4-6 more minutes. Spoon the pan sauce over the steaks during this final stage of cooking. Flip one more time and cook until the chops reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F., about 2-3 more minutes.
- Remove from heat, place on serving platter, sprinkle with fresh herbs, lightly cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
HERE’S ANOTHER GREAT LAMB RECIPE THAT YOU NEED TOO!
When you combine two fabulous Spring ingredients like lamb and ramps, you know you’ve got Spring on a plate!
Rack of Lamb with Bacon-Ramp Pesto is delicious, but when paired with asparagus and pesto-coated pasta, it’s perfection on a plate. And oh so pretty!
Of course you’re using that luscious Bacon-Ramp Pesto for the pasta too, so it’s doing double-duty, while making this a fast and easy weeknight meal.
When you’re roasting racks of lamb, you’ll want to have at least 3-4 chops per person when serving it an a solo entree. I know H.H. can polish off an entire rack all by himself!
Click here to get this fabulous recipe for: Rack of Lamb with Bacon-Ramp Pesto
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LEMON CONFIT – Not Just for Lamb!
- 6 lemons
- 2 large shallots, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh rosemary sprigs or other fresh herb (optional)
- 1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Plunge the lemons into the water long enough to soften any exterior wax coating on the rind. Drain, rinse, then dry.
- 2. Cut the lemons into very thin slices, discarding the ends and any seeds. Using 2 small bowls, combine the shallots and garlic in one and the salt and sugar in the second bowl.
- 3. Arrange a layer of lemon slices in the bottom of a medium glass container with a lid, making sure not to overlap the slices. Sprinkle first with some of the shallot-garlic mixture, then with a little of the salt-sugar mixture.
- 4. Repeat the process of layering lemons and both seasoning mixtures. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 3 days; after a day or so, turn over the stacks so all the slices can cure evenly.
- 5. Drain the lemons in a strainer for about 15 minutes. Have ready a clean 1-quart container with a tight-fitting lid.
- 6. Pack the drained lemons tightly in the container, then fill with the oil, making sure the lemons are completely covered. The confit can be used immediately or refrigerated for at least 1 month.
Nutrition InformationYield 20 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 207Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 18gCholesterol 0mgSodium 1869mgCarbohydrates 4gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 0g
The calorie and nutritional counts are approximate.