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Cleaning a Leg of Lamb-- help please!!

I have a whole leg of lamb that I bought frozen from a local farm. I have been "cleaning" it for probably an hour now, trying to remove the fat and silverskin, but I feel like I'm hardly getting anywhere! Every time I remove a big patch of silverskin, I feel like there's another below it! Where do I stop? Should I just cut straight to the meat instead of trimming it delicately, trying to keep most of the meat intact?

I should mention it is still partially frozen. Would letting it thaw completely have made this task easier?

I've never really cleaned a piece of meat like this. It looks like the fat and silverskin go in sheets toward the center of the meat. I don't want to hack it up and have this ugly, dried out roast! Am I just babying it too much? I'm frustrated enough to start cutting off chunks-- should I?

Prompt answers appreciated!

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  1. I've never "cleaned" a leg of lamb in my life. Pat it with paper towels, with a small knife make a bunch of slits all over, insert garlic slivers, minced parsley and sometimes freshly grated Reggiano (all in the same hole) then bung it in the oven to roast....

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gio

      I cooked my first whole leg of lamb this fall and that is basically what I did too. I made slits all over, filled them slivered garlic and then rubbed the whole thing with lots af salt and pepper and a mixture of chopped herbs in olive oil. I think I probably sprinkled on a little dried chile as well, like ground Arbol or espelette.
      I have to say, it was daunting when I first pulled the leg out of the fridge...it was a last minute menu change from chicken, which I was much more familiar with. I was tempted to trim, trim, trim, but then I caught myself and thougt all that fat was only going to help things, and it's a big enough cut that the meat will get tender.
      Season it well, you'll get more delicious results from doing that well rather than focusing on the butchering/trimming.

    2. At the risk of frustrating you more, how will you cook the meat after you have defatted, etc.? That makes a difference.

      3 Replies
      1. re: smtucker

        I hope to "dry-brine" it like I did my Thanksgiving turkey and leave it in the fridge. Then I hope to roast it coated in "Moroccan spices" (Ras el hanout, cinnamon, and whatnot.)

        Basically, oven roast, bone-in.

        1. re: globalgourmand

          Then stop removing the fat. That is what makes lamb so wonderful... its ability to self-baste. The only time I diligently remove all the fat is when making an Indian dish. If you have removed too much of the silverskin already, you might need to tie the leg so that it has a fairly regular shape so it cooks evenly.

          Sounds lovely.... enjoy!

          1. re: smtucker

            Okay, no more fat removal. Its still pretty in tact, so no need to tie, I think. I wonder if I could lay some of my already cut pieces of fat back on top of the leg during roasting to regain some of that self-basting...? I may try that.

            I hope to make a smoky tomato gastrique to go with it. I can hardly wait for this meal! Thank you ALL so much.

            Feel free to leave further tips and advice for me or others seeking similar guidance in the future, but for now, I'm back to the kitchen!

      2. I would wait until a frozen joint is thawed before trimming, if only to keep my fingertips from getting frostbite.

        Because a leg of lamb contains lots of sinewous (sp?) muscle, the silver skin you describe is best left on most of it. There's just one or two large areas of fat to trim on most lamb legs.

        Indeed, if you're too fussy you're going to end up with a dried-out leg of lamb. A good leg needs a little fat, and a little gristle.

        2 Replies
        1. re: shaogo

          Okay, this is encouraging, shaogo. Perhaps I'll just neaten it up a little and stop there. I'm the kind of girl that's happy enough chewing on fat and gristle, but I have some dinner guests that I speculate might prefer a leaner, cleaner roast.

          1. re: globalgourmand

            Good luck. After you've made 2-3 lamb legs, you'll get the hang of it.

            And like smtucker says, above, tie that sucker up or it's going to come out over-cooked in spots.

            Seeing that you've trimmed rather drastically, perhaps you want to tie one or two of the flaps of fat you've removed *back on* to the roast before you pop it into the oven. Remove before serving and your "leaner, cleaner" folks will never be the wiser, and your roast will be moist and delicious.

        2. Defatting a leg of lamb is a matter of choice. Some people prefer the stronger flavor that is achieved by leaving much of the fat undisturbed, others prefer to remove most of (or all of) that fat and rely on herbs and spices for the bulk of the flavor.
          Either will work just fine.
          Here are a couple of videos that may help you:

          http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to/vid...

          http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to/vid...

          You'll note in the Julia Child video that the leg of lamb has been thoroughly "cleaned" of fat. The English woman providing the other demonstration does not remove the fat at all.