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Never Roasted a Leg of Lamb? Start Here.
When you’re “On the Lamb”, you’re definitely hiding from something.
If YOU’RE “on the lamb” (from learning how to properly roast a leg of lamb that is…) then, it’s time to turn yourself in…because I’ve got some simple lamb roasting tips for what could surely become one of your most memorable Easter dinners…ever.
There are many choices for your Easter dinner centerpiece, among them are ham, turkey and beef. But of all those choices, perhaps lamb has the most tradition, dating back even before Christianity as the traditional meal of the Jewish Passover.
As lamb goes, the most popular cut is the leg, either bone-in or boneless, with boneless easiest being the favorite among Nino’s shoppers. Our butchers here are on “double duty” for days leading up to the Easter holiday trimming, boning and then carefully “netting” each leg before sealing each one in an air-tight wrap.
From there, it’s all up to you, so let me give you the most important tips you need to know so that you’re lamb will be a spectacular centerpiece on your dinner table.
These tips apply to both bone-in and boneless legs of lamb but let me start with the BONE-IN leg of lamb first.
First, you might ask yourself, why in the heck would you buy a bone-in leg of lamb?
Well, I must admit that a bone-in leg of lamb comes with its own particular (albeit them small) challenges. Not the least of which is making sure you choose one that’s “right sized” for your oven (most are). Secondly, I recommend searing the outside of the meat in hot oil before roasting and that too can become a bit more problematic when you have the extra length of the leg bone to contend with in a bone-in leg of lamb.
Still, all of that isn’t much of an issue when you consider the “up-side”…which is (or can be) because of the bone, more flavorful and juicy. Not to mention the “way cool” factor of carving the meat off the bone at the dinner table rather than slicing from a loaf like thick “lunch meat”.
While I’m on this, if you do chose a bone in leg of lamb, lets talk about how you should carve it.
Now keep in mind that the leg of any roasted meat, whether lamb, beef or pork, is less-tender than the rib, loin or tenderloin. So to ensure your leg eats as tender as possible, follow these tips:
- Let the roast rest about 10 to 15 minutes after it comes out of the oven which will allow the meat to reabsorb some of the juices.
- Wrap a piece of foil and then a decorative napkin around the narrow, foot/shin area. That will be your handle while carving.
- Hold the leg vertically resting the meat end against a service platter.
- If possible, use a SHARP, non-serrated knife. Serrated knives tend to shred the meat and give you a less clean cut.
- Slice ¼” thick slices of meat off the bone at a right angle to the bone, slicing no more than ¼” thick. This 90 degree angle to the bone will ensure a more tender piece of meat.
Lastly, as it turns out, the leg is two different muscles running up and down on either side of the leg bone. One is the (inside muscle) or “top round” as it is called and it’s more tender that the (outside muscle) or “bottom round”. So, as you are carving slices off the bone, it will turn out that some slices will inevitably be more tender than others (I tell you this so that you don’t think it’s something you did wrong if you hear this comment).
Now, let’s talk about the boneless leg of lamb.
First, if it comes from Nino’s, it will be:
- Completely trimmed and boneless
- Netted with elastic netting, then…
- Sealed in an air-tight plastic pouch
It will also be unseasoned, which, is one of the very few things you have to do. Lucky you.
To roast your boneless leg of lamb, all you have to do is:
- Carefully remove the plastic pouch while leaving the netting on.
- Sear your roast on all sides in hot oil until it is nice and brown. (Olive oil or vegetable oil are both fine.
- Season your roast (I prefer to use: chopped fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, fresh oregano and lemon pepper). Be liberal.
- Place your roast on a roasting rack ABOVE the roasting pan.
- Place in a pre-heated 300 F to 350 F (no more).
- Roast to your preferred doneness. (See my Roasting Guide Tips)
Now, please, please, please do yourself a favor and have an insta-read thermometer handy. It’s the only way you’ll truly know the actually doneness of your roast. This how many pounds at whatever temperature for whatever time is for the birds….it doesn’t take into account what temperature the roast was when it went into the oven, that you actually know its correct weight or, that your oven is calibrated to actually be as hot as the dial says it is.
Having said that, if you are roasting a bone-in leg of lamb, DON’T insert the thermometer needle near the bone; it will give you a false (high) reading. Insert it instead into the thickest part of the meat only.
There you have it! You follow these simple tips and you’ll be surprised how easy a roasted leg of lamb is to prepare.
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