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Whole lamb: spit roast or roast on grill (or cut up and grill?)

Hi, all. Planning an outdoor festive summer wedding, and the menu is smoked brisket and lamb. I've long wanted to spit roast a lamb, or roast it whole in the ground, but I've also been hearing from experienced hands that this is not great for lamb (although it is traditional), because different parts of the lamb are best cooked to different temperatures--they suggest getting a whole lamb butchered, and roasting the cuts individually.

Does anyone have any experience, or suggestions, they can share? Thanks!

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  1. ..... because different parts of the lamb are best cooked to different temperatures-
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    That's probably true for the Chop/Loin/ Sirloinn area, but the rest of the lamb is better suited for a long and slow roast. whenever I see segment on television where they spit roast a whole lamb or pig, it makes me jealous. If the hand you select knows what he is doing, I would vote for Whole Spit Roasted first, then grilled in sections. The Whole spit Roast definitely will turn some heads.

    I've been to many Italian Weddings where a Whole Pig or Suckling Pig are offered at Reception.....I make a dash for the belly and the cheek if possible.

    2 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      I guess that since I enjoy many cuts of lamb medium rare (chops, leg), I was wondering if they would be as tasty cooked through on the spit.

      1. re: oneironaut

        Yes....you can also do two and grill the second one...they are not that big.

    2. My vote is for spit roast, Greek style. Remove the tender parts first.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Joebob

        So, butcher out the ribs and the tenderloin, and then spit roast the legs and the shoulders?

      2. I would consider these details;

        The number of people you are cooking for. Beyond that the number that will actually eat lamb. A whole animal, or even a half for that matter might be overkill.

        Of the 4 quarters of a split lamb the leg and the shoulder are best suited to a long slow roast on a spit. The rib and the loin are better suited to brief high heat cooking such as pan frying, broiling, or a quick trip across the grill. They are also more expensive cuts.

        Knowing those details should help you plan out the cooking of the lamb at your event.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Brandon Nelson

          I'll ask you the same question I did Joebob...butcher out the ribs and the tenderloin, and then spit roast the legs and the shoulders?

          1. re: oneironaut

            Having roasted numerous whole animals, start wih two fires at the ends, and work your way towards the middle. I would recommend removing the head before presentation. Just like a whole fish, many people are grossed out when they can easly recognise what they are eating.

            1. re: oneironaut

              That suggestion is entirely feasible, however it does require some knowledge and proper tools; a butchers saw, splitting the carcass, the ability to find the 7th lumbar vertabrae, and the skill to make a transverse cut thru 12 ribs and remove the breast, as well as splitting the saddle into a loin and rib portion.

              Buying a square cut shoulder or a whole leg is easier, the cuts are cheaper, and the process doesn't require a novice to table break a whole carcass, and these quarters will yield the best results when spit roasted.

              It all comes down to your sense of adventure, and resources. If you have enough mouths to eat a whole animal great, otherwise it might be a waste.

              If you are going to pay to have the animal butchered it makes more economic sense to simply buy the cuts that suit the occasion.

              I hope that helps some.

          2. The spit would be very nice and rustic looking. I had some great spit roast lamb this past summer that was fantastic. I know the tenderloin and some other parts would be especially good cooked medium rare on the grill, but for a larger crowd, I'd probably borrow a Caja China and do the lamb in there.