If you’re hoping to deviate from the traditional Easter ham this year, a leg of lamb would be a perfect savory option. While there are lots of delicious ways to prepare this dish, Peter Merriman, chef and owner of Merriman’s Hawaii, and Chef Bogdan Danila of queensyard shared their favorites. After scoping out these sauce ideas and quick tips (plus some input from the Chowhound community), you’ll be ready to whip up the perfect leg of lamb for yourself.
Choose the right size leg of lamb.
When it comes to portion size, you should try to allot eight to 12 ounces per person, but if the leg still has the bone intact, account for that adding to the overall weight. Look for lamb that is soft pink and marbled with fat.
Debone for best results.
Both chefs recommended removing the bone from the leg of lamb before letting it sit to marinate; Chowhounds had mixed opinions. Because of its triangular shape, a whole bone-in leg does cook unevenly, so Diane in Bexley reported asking the butcher to cut apart the shank and sirloin sections so she could roast the sirloin and reserve the boned meat from the shank for kebabs. But to Billy33, “the unevenness is the beauty” of a whole leg because “[i]t’s a great way of pleasing a group” of diners that includes some who prefer their meat well-done and other who like theirs rare. We’re going with boneless for ease—and ask your butcher to debone it for you if you’re not sure about your knife skills.
Marinate the meat.
Bogdan Danila of New York City’s queensyard (at Hudson Yards), recommends marinating the lamb for two to four hours in the refrigerator in a mixture of equal parts rosemary, salt, and sugar. Peter Merriman, the chef and owner of Merriman’s Hawaii, recommends making a more in-depth marinade by adding Dijon, lemon, and mustard to the rosemary (find the recipe below). If you’re in a rush, Merriman specified that you can allow the lamb to marinate at room temperature, but only for 30 minutes as opposed to hours in the refrigerator. To really infuse the meat with flavor, cut small slits all over the lamb and tuck slivers of garlic into each slit.
Stuff the leg of lamb (optional).
Danila recommends stuffing with chopped mushrooms and olives, however you can also stuff with rosemary and other herbs, or even with jam if you’re hoping for a sweeter option.
Roast it well (or rare).
When roasting the lamb, place it fatty side up on a roasting dish that leaves the meat elevated. This will allow for even cooking. Set your oven to 450 degrees and then decrease to around 325 degrees after the lamb has been roasting for about 20 minutes. It’s best to let it roast, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes (or 20 if you have a super hot oven) before checking the temperature. The total roasting time will probably be around one hour and 15 minutes.
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If you’re wanting it to be medium-rare, look for an internal temperature around 130 degrees. This will continue to heat up slightly once it’s out of the oven. (For a perfect medium rare, the ideal temperature is 135 degrees once rested.)
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According to Chowhounds, a delicious accompaniment can be cooked right along with the lamb. “[P]arboil some potatoes, and lay them directly under the roast,” Diane in Bexley suggests. “The drippings will perfume the potatoes and give you the best roasted potatoes.” Terrie H. tosses in quartered artichoke hearts as well, and squeezes lemon juice over the vegetables before serving.
Let it rest.
Once you’ve removed the lamb from the oven, tent it with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes. Flip it to the side that it didn’t roast on so that the juices will be distributed more evenly.
Leg of Lamb Recipes
Because now you’re ready to get cooking.
Incorporate the steps above to get the moist and tender lamb of your dreams. We also tie ours up with kitchen twine to help it roast more evenly. Get our Basic Boneless Leg of Lamb recipe.
Dijon Marinade and Cabernet Sauce for Leg of Lamb
From Peter Merriman, the chef and owner of Merriman’s Hawaii; the marinade and sauce also work well for lamb rib chops.
Dijon Leg of Lamb Marinade
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, leaves only
- 1 teaspoon rock salt or ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Combine all ingredients and pour over lamb in a large plastic bag.
- Allow to sit for either 30 minutes at room temperature or four hours in the refrigerator.
Cabernet Sauce for Leg of Lamb
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- 1 cup cabernet sauvignon wine
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Place the shallots, wine, and vinegar in a small saucepan and mix well.
- Reduce the liquid down to two tablespoons.
- Mix in the butter one piece at a time.
- Once the butter is mixed in, cook for 30 seconds more.
- Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and parsley.
- Cover and keep warm until ready to sauce the lamb.
Mint Sauce for Leg of Lamb
From Bogdan Danila, chef at New York City’s queensyard, this is a fresh version of the classic mint sauce that goes so well with lamb.
Fresh Mint Sauce
- 500 grams picked mint leaves
- 50 milliliters chardonnay vinegar
- 5 grams salt
- 2 grams sugar
- 5 milliliters lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 gram English mustard
- Blend all of the ingredients together until smooth.
Get more great leg of lamb recipes (plus suggested sides, desserts, and drinks to go along with each)!
Slicing a boneless leg of lamb is easy, but if you opted for a bone-in leg, you might be a bit less certain how to tackle it. It’s actually easy to carve a leg of lamb, as the video below shows:
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An earlier version of this article was published on September 11, 2008.