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THE best lamb shoulder roast we've ever eaten - BAR NONE!

c oliver Sep 2, 2009 11:44 AM

I had a 5-1/2# bone-in lamb shoulder roast and looking for something to do with it. I regularly make Will Owens' (adapted from the LA TImes) pork shoulder roast. It was actually my husband who said "what about Will Owen's recipe but use the lamb?") I left out the chili peppers and used lime juice instead of lemon cause that's what I had. It took about six hours to get past 190 degrees and falling off the bone. This roast had a good-sized cap of fat and plenty inside it also. I poured off the "jus" into a small saucepan, put in the fridge and added some ice cubes to cool it down quickly (we were wanting to eat in about an hour). It was really shocking how much congealed fat I lifted off - probably 3/4". Then put it back on the stove and boiled to reduce a bit. This lamb was incredible - perhaps the best lamb we've ever had and we LOVE lamb. I can't recommend this highly enough. Here's the recipe (in its pork version) in case you want to try it:

"I think I've posted this here before - it calls for a bigger roast than you have, but I've made it with a four-pounder and it came out well. Delicious.

SLOW-ROASTED PORK SHOULDER (adapted from the LA Times)

10 peeled cloves garlic

1/2 cup fennel seeds

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 to 6 crumbled small dried red chiles, incl. seeds

1 pork shoulder butt, bone-in or boneless (about 6 to 7 pounds)

1/2 cup hot water

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup chicken broth

olive oil

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and fennel seeds and mix them together. Add the salt, pepper and chiles and combine.

2. Cut 1-inch wide slits all over the surface including top and bottom of meat. Rub the garlic-seed mixture into the slits.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven. Sear the meat on all sides over medium-low heat for about 10 to 12 minutes. Don't burn the garlic!.

4. Remove the roast from the pot, add the hot water, scraping the bottom to deglaze the pan. Place a rack in the bottom of the pan, add the meat, fat side up, and roast uncovered for 30 minutes.

5. Pour the lemon juice and the chicken broth over the meat. Brush with more olive oil.

6. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees, cover the pan and roast the meat 8 to 10 hours, occasionally basting with pan juices. The roast will be done when the meat falls apart when poked with a fork.

7. Remove the roast from the pot and place it on a serving platter. Skim the fat from the pan drippings and serve these on the side or drizzled over the meat.

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Will Owen Dec 24, 2008 10:51AM

EDIT: When I do smaller roasts than the original recipe, I reduce the dry seasoning but use the original amounts of the wet.

  1. m
    MrsCris Sep 2, 2009 12:22 PM

    Oooohh I can't wait to try it with the lamb, when the weather cools enough to have the oven on all day. Thanks so much for reporting!

    1. d
      donah Sep 8, 2009 04:07 AM

      Sounds awesome..I just received a 5# shoulder roast of lamb from my mom. I actually have ALL the ingredients listed here and can't wait to give it a try TODAY :) Thank you; I will respond on the outcome!

      10 Replies
      1. re: donah
        c oliver Sep 8, 2009 07:30 AM

        Oh goody! I hope yours is fabulous too. I'm 62. Is that too old for your mom to adopt me? What a great gift :)

        1. re: c oliver
          donah Sep 9, 2009 02:50 AM

          LOL...not too old at all! Anyway, all can say is: WOW!! It was absolutey succulent. My only complaint was with the cut...it was VERY fatty and bony. The meat that we could salvage was soooo delicious though, even our 4 year old loved it. We wanted MORE! The next time I prepare this, I may look for a boneless roast. I cooked it from about 9 a.m. until 5:30; basting about every hour or so. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you for the wonderful recipe idea!!!

          1. re: donah
            c oliver Sep 9, 2009 01:37 PM

            Boo hoo that it was so bony. Mine had vertebra (can't imagine anything else looking like that) on the "bottom" and then just one large shoulder bone. There were parts that were VERY fatty. Some I described as the lamb equivalent of pork belly. But, yes, succulent is a great word. I wonder if you could get a boneless shoulder? I wouldn't want anything lean at all for that technique, would you? You've gotten me hungry and I just had lunch - but it wasn't lamb, darn it!

            1. re: c oliver
              Will Owen Sep 9, 2009 05:28 PM

              Dang, I'm glad it worked for you. I've been hoping you'd post your results, since you'd said you were going to do this!

              Our bone-in shoulders were frequently quite bony, and aside from the obvious cost penalty I never minded a bit, since I love gnawing bones, especially ribs! Now I'm torn between trying this with a bone-in or a boned shoulder... maybe both? AT ONCE?? Ooooh, radical...

              1. re: Will Owen
                c oliver Sep 9, 2009 06:25 PM

                Oooh, both at once definitely. A side-by-side (or upper/lower shelf) test. If you wait til mid-October when we're back from Rio, we could pick up Alan Barnes and make a road trip to Pasadena :)

                Seriously, Will, this was truly one of the best meats we've ever eaten. Now I'm trying to figure out if I could do a large BEEF chuck roast or something the same way. You've changed our cooking/eating life. Thanks a mil.

                1. re: c oliver
                  Will Owen Sep 10, 2009 10:28 AM

                  Wow, that's a heavy compliment for something I just picked up and passed along. Thank YOU!!

                  I'm gonna stick with bone-in on this, no matter what the meat. I'm utterly convinced the flavor is always better, assuming the same quality. Yes, I think this would work with any hardworking-muscle roast (with sufficient fat) from any animal, and for non-upright quadrupeds that is invariably the shoulder. I think a big chuck roast would be wonderful, too.

                  1. re: Will Owen
                    worktime Sep 10, 2009 12:19 PM

                    I made this recipe with the lamb shoulder on Monday. It was delicious, my husband really loved it. This is the first time I've cooked a lamb shoulder (I've cooked lamb shoulder chops), it is very fatty. A lot of it melted away but there was still quit a bit left. I would suggest using lamb shanks. I have cooked them many times and the meat taste is about the same and there's more meat on the shanks. Just a suggestion.
                    Next time I will try the recipe with a pork shoulder/butt.

                    Tonight's dinner will be leftover lamb shoulder!

                    1. re: worktime
                      Will Owen Sep 10, 2009 02:05 PM

                      Although they tend to be smaller, I would suggest you use fore-shanks, which are more flavorful.

                      Yes, lamb shoulder is fatty; the forequarters of most ruminants seems to be where their biggest fat deposits are. I'm sure there's some useful explanation for that, but we carnivores can say it's to make the meat taste better!

                      1. re: Will Owen
                        worktime Sep 11, 2009 05:58 AM

                        Not sure if I've ever seen fore-shanks, actually not sure what you mean. I thought the top part of the leg was the traditional leg o' lamb, that would be cooked medium rare and the bottom part is just called lamb shanks, which needs to be cooked low and slow like the shoulder.

                        I did want to mention, after eating the leftovers last night, that 2 tbsp. of salt was too much. The meat was not too salty but the delicious au jus was way too salty. I defatted the broth and added water but still to much salt. I used kosher salt because I didn't have course sea salt and was running low on the fine sea salt so may be that was the problem.
                        Just wanted to make a note so others will be cautious.

                        1. re: worktime
                          Will Owen Sep 11, 2009 06:29 PM

                          Hind shanks are the bulgy-topped ones, like a sort of lamb drumstick. Foreshanks are from the front legs, and have a more even taper from end to end. They are also typically smaller. The clumps of muscle taper more gradually into the ligaments, because while the back-leg muscles are designed for leaping the front ones only walk.

      2. o
        overseastar Mar 29, 2010 09:54 AM

        This was a delicious recipe! I don't really have time to spend 8-10 hours to cook, so I used de-boned lamb shoulder instead and its size was suitable for 4 only. I used the same ingredients and covered the lamb shoulder with the spices overnight (almost 24 hrs), it took about 1.5 hrs to cook. The flavour was a bit too strong since I might have a bit too generous with the garlic-seed mixture, haha. Nevertheless, it's the best recipe that I've tried so far, and will definitely try it again.

        2 Replies
        1. re: overseastar
          c oliver Mar 29, 2010 12:43 PM

          It IS a great recipe, isn't it? Is boned shoulder one piece or chunks/cubes? Maybe it was the amount of time the seasonings were on the meat rather than the amount of them? Just a thought.

          1. re: c oliver
            overseastar Mar 29, 2010 03:01 PM

            Ya I think so too, most likely a bit of both. It's one piece lamb shoulder.

        2. j
          jeremyn Mar 29, 2010 02:08 PM

          Based on the title, I thought this was a sequel to Joe H's risotto thread. That said, I have a few questions about your recipe:

          Do I need to use a ruler to measure the 1" slits? Or is eyeballing it close enough?

          What brand of dutch oven do you use? What kind of spoon do you stir with?

          Do I need to pick the fennel seeds myself -- to ensure freshness?

          What is the minimum amount I am allowed to spend on the chicken stock?

          3 Replies
          1. re: jeremyn
            c oliver Mar 29, 2010 02:56 PM


            Staub only
            Old growth redwood
            But, of course; can't believe you'd even ask
            An eternity

            Actually I made that risotto a few months ago and it was great. And I hardly "cheated" at all :)

            1. re: jeremyn
              Harters Mar 29, 2010 03:01 PM

              The normal rule about chicken stock is that the minimum spend is the equivalent of one hours average pay wherever you are. It's all part of the United Nations Chicken Stock Development Agency initiative for 2010.

              And, no, it's not necessary to pick fennel seeds yourself - perfectly acceptable to get a servant to do this for you.

              I'm disappointed that no-one has pointed out the typo in the thread header. Surely it should be "The best lamb shoulder.....BAAAAAA NONE.

              1. re: Harters
                c oliver Mar 29, 2010 03:05 PM

                Thanks for fine tuning, Harters. But the dang servants never seem to be around at the very moment of picking perfection. Baaaaad typing on my part.

            2. t
              twokiwi Sep 11, 2010 09:10 PM

              I've been a lurker for a while on this site, gleaning tidbits here and there while I attempt to learn how to cook.

              I felt compelled to join the site just so that I could post and tell you how truly AMAZING this recipe is, and that it was bar none - THE best tasting roast of ANY kind of meat we have had in a long time.

              It was a lamb shoulder, and I had no fennel, and could not find any at the store, so used anise instead. Just a small 2 lb. lamb shoulder, boneless. I anticipated cooking it for around 3 hours, given its smaller size. However, it ended up cooking at 6 hours (hubby had to work late so I just left it in there).

              Thank you so much for this. I learned a lot about the process of breaking down the collagen etc (never knew that, never ever heard anyone talk about it before)

              I think...after decades....it is possible that I won't be eating as much leather as I have in the past.


              3 Replies
              1. re: twokiwi
                Will Owen Sep 11, 2010 10:58 PM

                Well, even if it was because your choices were limited, I think you have added a lot to our understanding of how this procedure can work, bone or no bone, big roast or small. Thank you very much for persisting on this.

                I suspect that it matters not whether the meat comes from a lamb, a cow or a pig, if you can bring the internal temperature to the vital point - 190º F seems to be it - and hold it there without letting the meat dry out for several hours, just keep it moist and enclosed, then the tendons and sinews will in fact melt into soft gelatin and the meat become rich and succulent. At least that appears to be the lesson conveyed over the preceding collection of anecdotes and commentary.

                1. re: Will Owen
                  twokiwi Sep 12, 2010 06:17 AM

                  Thank you Will for posting. I am very much looking forward to applying this technique to other roasts. It makes so much sense - the 190F target - from a rational point of view - that in some ways it demystifies the whole thing, and yet the results are like magic compared to anything I had ever done before. I was always worried about the meat becoming overcooked, dry, etc. and so was reluctant to leave it in there longer.

                  As well, I personally believe - at least here in Canada - that much of the meat we can now buy is very , well, un-marbled compared to the roasts my mother cooked when I was a kid. Mom would just dump some roast in the oven for a few hours and it was always juicy and delicous and she never did anything fancy.

                  But my belief is that today, beef and esp. pork has been bred to be lean-lean-lean, and thus as an adult I have had poor success using my mother technique (often my roasts are dry) But that is another story.

                  Anyway, my thanks to you for posting the original recipe and to everyone else who posted their experience as it helped shape my success.

                  Cheers !

                  1. re: Will Owen
                    c oliver Sep 12, 2010 01:21 PM

                    We're down in Rio for a couple of weeks and I think I need to do this here. There are many cuts of meat that mystify me but I don't know how I could go wrong here. WO, you HAVE become rather famous or infamous for this, haven't you?

                2. s
                  smkit Feb 5, 2011 11:05 AM

                  I do love this recipe, but I must admit that I adjust the cooking process to shorten the time. I use the lamb roast technique from this Jamie Oliver recipe.


                  I keep most of the recipe the same, but wrap the roasting pan tightly with tin foil and cook at 325 for 4 hours.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: smkit
                    c oliver Feb 5, 2011 11:41 AM

                    I use a DO with the lid on and frequently even a 7-8# pork shoulder is done faster than the recipe says. But my meat thermometer is my always faithful friend.

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