Roasting Lamb Article -
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Roasting Lamb

Get the cooking times and preparation tips you need to make perfectly roasted lamb: crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.

Roasting is a "dry heat" cooking method, meaning that you do not add any liquid to the meat as you cook it. Dry heat is best for cuts of meat that are naturally tender.

Choosing the Right Cut

The leg and rack are the most tender cuts of meat on a lamb. Rack of lamb is often served "Frenched," with the fat and meat trimmed from between the ribs and the bones scraped clean and protruding outward. Your butcher should be able to do this for you; ask for the meat trimmings to make soup later on. 

Seasoning the Meat

Lamb is flavorful enough on its own that it doesn't need much seasoning, yet robust enough that it pairs beautifully with any number of boldly flavored seasonings, like rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme, lemon zest, cumin, coriander, mint and garlic.

  • Before seasoning the lamb, trim some of the excess fat and any silver skin.
  • Chop up herbs/seasonings and rub the mixture evenly over the surface of the meat. 
  • Wrap the coated meat tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for the best flavor.

Another popular way to season a roast is to make small incisions in the surface of the meat and push slivers of garlic and sprigs of herbs into the slits. You can do this right before you begin roasting or a day ahead for more intense flavor.

Season the lamb however you like--but don't salt it until just before cooking, as salt can draw moisture out of the meat.

Roasted to Perfection

Before roasting your lamb, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. A piece of meat at room temperature will roast more evenly.

Use a roasting rack to ensure even browning and heat circulation around the meat.

The amount of fat that your lamb has on the outside and marbled through the middle will determine the cooking time and temperature:

  • For a lean piece of meat, cook at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for the first 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) to continue roasting--the meat will take about 25 minutes per pound to reach medium rare.

    Using a hot oven gets leaner cuts of meat nicely browned on the outside before they become overcooked and dry in the middle.

  • For a fattier piece of meat, roast at 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) for a longer period of time, allowing the fat to slowly melt and bathe the roast in its own juices. Meat cooked with this method will take about 30 minutes per pound to reach medium rare.

The most accurate way to determine doneness is with a meat thermometer:

  • 110 degrees F (42 degrees C) is rare
  • 120 degrees F (58 degrees C) is medium-rare
  • 145 degrees F (68 degrees C) is medium-well

Avoid cooking your lamb beyond this temperature as the meat can become dried out and tough. For safety, the USDA recommends cooking roasts to 145 degrees F.

Rest Your Roast

Once your roast is within 10 degrees F (5 degrees C) of its ideal cooked temperature, remove from the oven, place a foil tent loosely over it, and let rest for 15-20 minutes. As the meat rests, the internal temperature will increase by several degrees, the muscle fibers will relax, and the juice that has come to the surface of the meat during cooking will begin to return to the center. A well-rested piece of meat will be more tender and retain its juices better when you slice it.

    Dec. 26, 2009 4:08 am
    Excellent article. It points out several areas where people make mistakes. With lamb temperature is everything.
    Jan. 12, 2010 7:33 am
    Very helpful article. I just bought a leg of lamb and needed a little guidance. I am looking forward to rubbing the meat with spices tonight and letting it sit overnight. Thank you.
    Feb. 11, 2010 11:50 am
    awesome article...can't wait to put these tips in effect this weekend :D
    Mar. 4, 2010 5:59 am
    this is a great article and very helpful, especially when the cooking times vary from recipe to recipe, it really gives a good guide to follow. Thank you!
    Mar. 26, 2010 1:09 am
    Enjoyable, useful article, but... in the section titled "Roasted to Perfection", the temperature conversions from ºF to ºC don't match up. Which temperatures are correct?
    Mar. 26, 2010 8:28 am
    Thank you. Very detailed. Can I save it in my Recipe Box?
    Mar. 27, 2010 5:36 pm
    I just cooked a rack of lamb in my Big Green Egg! Came out FANTASTIC!
    Mar. 28, 2010 8:09 am
    I,ve never cooked lamb before nor even tried it, but this sounds really good. I,m going to give it a try. Thanks I,ll let you know how it turns out. Mary Jo
    Mar. 28, 2010 4:41 pm
    This article was excellent and I learned new methods to improve my lamb dishes. However, I feel and this is for all nutrition/serving size info that is provided with recipes that this ara needs clarification. One recipe for lamb said 4 lamp chops were made for 2 people. Yet the nutrition information indicated 225 calories per serving. Since lamb is higher in fat, I can't believe this was for a serving size of 2 lamb chops. Since I am following a defined program with a calorie count of 1500 per day, more complete info indicating either weight by ounces or thickness of a cut of meat would be so appreciated. I love this website. What wonderful cooks!
    Apr. 4, 2010 4:45 pm
    OK, I am in the middle of cooking two roasts at the same time. How would I figure the cooking time? I did two same sized roasts, and at the time and temp for one, they were 20 degrees below temp. BAH! Help so I won't make this mistake next time. Thanks.
    Jul. 12, 2010 8:22 pm
    My husband wants to roast a leg of lamb. This is a very helpful article to me, since I've never cooked a whole leg of lamb before.
    Aug. 2, 2010 9:49 pm
    Frenched rack of lamb recipe that never fails... slather the room temperature rack with olive oil, fresh ground pepper and salt on both sides. Grind or chop fresh (or frozen)rosemary and fresh garlic and liberally spread over both sides of the rack. Place in roasting pan with fat side up and roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. Test with an instant thermometer ( a must) and remove from oven when the temperature is 130. Let the rack rest for 10-20 minutes on the stove top while you mic a potato and steam a veggie and you will have the most succulent, incredible rack of lamb dinner you ever tasted. Better than a 5 star restaurant because you don't even have to leave the house!! And it won't cost $40.! Instead, around $5. per serving plus veggie and potato. Serve with a nice Cab or Pinot and there you go... heaven.
    Oct. 26, 2010 9:11 am
    Very informative. I would also like to know if I can save this to my recipe box for future reference. Does anybody know the answer?
    Nov. 5, 2010 8:27 pm
    Could I slow-cook a shoulder cut of lamb? Any recipes other than those for shanks or could I adopt one of those?
    Nov. 27, 2010 11:44 am
    Lainy, right click and choose "create shortcut" and it will be on your desktop or add this page to your "favorites"
    Dec. 18, 2010 3:50 pm
    i've tried many times: you should flavour the lamb, before roasting it, at least for 4 or 5 hour, besides seasoning with erbs you like, putting vinagre too in a bowl covered with plastic, in order to light its strong taste. Try...
    Sharon D 
    Jan. 17, 2011 3:00 pm
    Do you have to turn the heat up and then down? I have an oven that is stuck at 365 F. Am I going to be in trouble with roasting or should I give up and use a slowcooker?
    Mary Belle 
    Apr. 2, 2011 7:31 am
    What temp, should I cook 2 boneless lambroast? thank you.M.B.
    Mary Belle 
    Apr. 8, 2011 5:35 pm
    what temp. should I cook 2 4 1/2 lb boneless lamb roasts? thank you, Mary Belle
    Apr. 18, 2011 10:58 am
    According to Jewish Law roasted meat is forbidden at the Pesach sedar.
    Apr. 21, 2011 3:54 am
    Thank you for these tips. I have never made lamb although I have been cooking for fifty years. I will save these instructions and let you know when I have cooked my lamb this Easter. Kamal
    Apr. 29, 2011 1:31 pm
    Great help, I tried a different spin. 1l LB leg in a large turkey cooking bag marinated garlic, italian dressing. this and that. Pears and Pinapple rounds. Started at 2am at 150 til 10 am to 195 by noon it waS 145 internal. so so moist even people that dont care for lamb said it was like prime rib. So juicy and rich. The pears and pineapple made an interesting spin people loved it.
    Dec. 8, 2011 6:22 am
    I need alittle guidance, i bought a Lamb, and i have a recipe to go by on how to cook it.And it says to brown it first than cook slow for about 2 hours. Does anyone know if i can just put it in the crockpot and just let it cook slow through out the day? Thanks
    Jan. 3, 2012 9:23 am
    I will be movieing to my new home at the of this month and this sounds like a veary good dish to make and can not wait to make it for us as our frist diner in our new home thank you.
    Jan. 9, 2012 7:12 am
    I am going to have to try this lamb I love lamb. and this looks like a good one to try..
    Apr. 7, 2012 6:19 pm
    I followed your roasting directions for a 2-1/2 lamb roast I seasoned with Italian herbs and my special salt seasoning similar to some of the ingredients you listed. I did it in my smoker and it came out absolutely perfect. This was a passover lamb and everyone loved it. Thank you for your instructions. I will be doing so more often.
    Apr. 8, 2012 12:32 pm
    I had an 8.2 lb roast that was supposed to be done for a meal at around 4:00pm. I read this article to see how long it would take to cook, and saw that it said 30 min per pound. I put the roast in at 12:00pm and it was finished by 3:10 (cooked at 325). It was done way too early.
    Aug. 21, 2012 1:52 pm
    ready to cook a boneless leg of lamb, do I remove string that it was packed with?
    Mar. 22, 2013 7:40 pm
    If you Love the taste of garlic buy a cheap lamb leg from Australia or NZ and stuff it with slivers of garlic! OR Purchase a quality lamb leg that is grown in the US and not overly fat , roast it with your favorite rub and a nice oil, You will taste the delicate flavor and richness of the meat and not be disapointed
    Apr. 15, 2013 8:41 pm
    We used to look in small rural newspapers for people who raised sheep and contact them and ask them to raise two spring lambs for us. We'd have them properly butchered (Kosher) and hold them in a freezer. That was the best. For a leg of lamb, I always roasted them to where I could rest them on the counter until they were cool and then refrigerate them overnight. The inner meat was pink, which means you have to cook them medium rare or even more rare than that because they continue to cook as they rest. Then thin slice the meat and wrap it to preserve moisture. The meat makes great sandwiches with potato bread and your favorite seasoning. We liked cucumber, tomato, lettuce, salt and pepper and perhaps some mayonaise. I liked some mustard at times. The only seasoning we used in cooking was garlic.
    Tom R. 
    Feb. 28, 2014 10:13 am
    We plan to celebrate the 2014 Vernal Equinox with a special roasted lamb feast. Fresh spring vegetables will be paired with a frenched rack of domestic lamb from Viva Gourmet. FRESH not FROZEN. Can not wait for spring.
    Apr. 20, 2014 9:41 am
    It's easy! First, copy the article's web address (Url). Then click My Recipe Box at the top right corner of this page. Click Weblink at the top of your Recipe List and paste the Url in the space provided. (Note: If you get a "Sorry...broken link" message, ignore it! Enter a Weblink Title, click Preview, then Save Weblink. Done!)
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