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Jun 24, 2010 01:22 PM

Lamb for a newbie: What's the best way to cook a lamb shoulder roast?

I am an inexperienced cook and am trying to diversify my repertoire of recipes and the types of foods that I eat. I bought a lamb shoulder roast (organic, grass fed) for the first time and am trying to figure out what to do with it. I haven't cooked lamb before (other than just ground lamb). It is a little over 2 pounds and only has one bone in it that I can see. In my searches, I have mostly found suggestions for roasting it in the oven. However, it is hot here, and I don't want to heat up the house by using my oven. Can anyone recommend a good way to cook a lamb shoulder roast either on the BBQ or in a crockpot? We have a pretty basic propane grill. I'm looking for a simple recipe for this first endeavor, so something without any super fancy ingredients would be nice. But, the meat was kinda expensive so I want to make sure that I don't screw it up--so if it requires fancy ingredients, so be it! Thanks for your help!!

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  1. I wouldn't recommend the grill in light of the fact that you are inexperienced and the meat was pricey. Although I share your reluctance to use the oven, because lamb needs to be on the rare side I would use this method from Cook's Illsutrated:
    It yields a nicely seared crust while almost the entire interior is an even pink. You slice the meat very thinly. Overcooked lamb is too gamey to risk the grill unless you have good skills. Because you first sear the meat on the stove, and use low oven temp, it's not going to be TOO awful, heat-wise. And you can mitigate the kitchen temp by putting pans of cold water on both the burner and inside the oven once you are finished cooking. The heat will go into the water, which you can then dump, or use in the dishpan.

    I would not use a crockpot unless I wanted a stew, in which case the lamb will be cooked through and for long enough to become tender. This is like the difference between roast beef and pot roast. You still need to sear it on the stove first, unless you like muttony taste.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious

      Thanks! That recipe looks great--and not too difficult. I'll definitely try it out. And thanks for the tips re: the pans of water; I had never heard of that trick before.

    2. Here's a recipe I adore:

      But I used a 5+# roast and yours is so small I wonder if it's appropriate. But it's a killer dish.

      1. Lamb shoulder actually makes a lovely braise/stew, which you can make in the crockpot. Here's a recipe I made on the stovetop in the dutch over. If you go this route using a crockpot, I'd add a bit more acid at the end (e.g. lbalsamic or emon juice) to wake up the flavor. Maybe chop up a nice gremolata of lemon zest, parsley and a smidge of fresh garlic to sprinkle on as well. Here's a recipe/set of guidelines I wrote out for friends after making dinner for them:

        We used lamb shoulder cut into cubes, about 1.5 pounds.

        Season meat with salt, herbs de provence (plus a tiny bit of cinnamon and nutmeg)
        Add 1 tbsp olive oil (can cut down to 1 tsp- lots of the fat was fat that rendered out from the lamb itself).
        Brown meat, remove from pan
        Saute onions with a pinch of salt until translucent
        Deglaze pan with some pear juice (or apple juice/cider) and let caramelize
        Add meat back into pan plus some sliced cremini mushrooms and 2 bay leaves. Add 1-2 Tbsp flour and minced garlic. Stir, then add in 2 cans of rinsed chickpeas.
        Add wine (we used a red, pinot noir), cut with about equal volume of water to just cover, and salt and pepper to taste
        Simmer over low heat for 1.5-2 hours
        Towards the end of cooking add in root vegetables (we used orange and yellow carrots, turnips).
        Thicken stew if necessary with a bit more flour/water slurry (occasionally, stir gently as root vegetables become tender in order to avoid scorching on bottom while keeping vegetables intact).
        Add a hint of acid (e.g. 1 tsp balsamic vinegar)
        Add some heat (e.g. 2 tbsp harissa)
        Adjust salt and pepper, and stir in a little herbes de provence at the end.
        Sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving.

        2 Replies
        1. re: 4Snisl

          Lamb shoulder is glorious stewed or braised. If you're set on dry-heat, I'd do a long, slow roast like c_oliver's recipe. Of all the cuts of lamb, this is probably the only one I can think of that I'd want to be cooked past med-rare... cook it nice and slow until it melts in your mouth and you'll be in heaven.

          1. re: 4Snisl

            Thanks, 4Snisl--this looks great, but a little complicated for my first attempt, I'm afraid! I'll have to take a trip to the store for several of the ingredients. I'm bookmarking this one and will try it out when I have a little more experience :)

          2. Shoulder makes a great roast - whether fast or long & slow. Much tastier than a leg, IMO.

            However, as the OP doesnt want to turn the oven on, then a slow braise will be excellent. By co-incidence, it was what I had for lunch yesterday, at a restaurant. Meat falling off the bone, Puy lentils, cauliflower and carrots as accompaniements.

            1. Thanks for your responses, everyone! I'm saving all of your recipes so that I can try them all out in the future :)