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Mar 22, 2013 06:53 AM

Leg of Lamb

I am planning on making a large, bone-in, roast leg of lamb for Easter this year. I am serving 10-11 guests, so I told my butcher for an 8-10lb leg (I don't mind some leftovers). I plan on marinating the lamb overnight in a rub consisting of a Moroccan-style spice blend, garlic and olive oil. This is my first time roasting a whole leg and had a few questions (I have searched the web and this site but there is varying information out there).

I would like to utilize a slow-roast method, perhaps blasting the leg at 450 for the first 15 minutes then reducing the oven temperature to 250 and roasting until medium-rare/medium. My preference is to have some medium slices for those who prefer their lamb a little more done and some medium-rare pieces for the others (and me). I am thinking of pulling the leg out when it hits 130, and with 5-10 degrees of carryover I should get to a nice medium-rare to medium. I would let the lamb rest for 15-20 minutes and then carve.

My biggest question is timing. I understand timing can vary depending on the oven, the piece of meat,etc., but for planning purposes I would like some rough estimate of when it might be done. I would probably check the meat's temp 3/4 of the way into the estimated cooking time to make sure everything is on track.

Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.

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  1. For a leg that big (4kg), I'd give it a 40 minute sizzle at 220 (as recommended in the River Cottage Meat Book). And then turn the temperature down to 160 and continue to cook for around 15 minutes per 500g. That should get you meat that's nicely pink in the middle and a bit more done on the outside.

    As with most folk here, we don't generally cook to an internal temperature, preferring the method as above. The Meat Book does, however, give 55 - 60 as being the temperature for the similar result.

    Enjoy dinner. Lamb is our most often eaten meat and there's almost nothing better than a roast leg. Almost - but a roast shoulder has more fat/taste.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Harters


      Anyone else use an even lower roasting temperature (the above would roast at 320) - maybe at 225 or 250?

      1. re: Harters

        Nothing "sizzles" at 220 F. Be very overt about using celcius temps. I made the assumption based on the metric weights you use, but us Yankees can easily overlook that and end up with warm raw meat.

      2. Especially if you're shelling out for a whole leg of lamb, I encourage you to procure a probe thermometer with alarm and timer such as:


        Will give you an invaluable ability to monitor the temperature status and pace of increase for all kinds of meat roasts, turkeys, etc.

        I've also used it through kettle grill vents to warn me if the air temp is getting too high for a low-and-slow smoked brisket or the like, when I don't want the temp above 270 or so. Also means I don't have to open the grill at all and lose heat. Same applies with ovens.

        1. I would like to utilize a slow-roast method, perhaps blasting the leg at 450 for the first 15 minutes then reducing the oven temperature to 250 and roasting until medium-rare/medium. My preference is to have some medium slices for those who prefer their lamb a little more done and some medium-rare pieces for the others (and me). I am thinking of pulling the leg out when it hits 130, and with 5-10 degrees of carryover I should get to a nice medium-rare to medium. I would let the lamb rest for 15-20 minutes and then carve.

          Your plan is fine.....but my process is slightly different:

          * Roast @ 225*
          * Rest and Hold in the oven @ 140* for one hour minimum, but I prefer 2 hours.
          * 30 minutes before serving, raise the thermostat to 250* for 20 minutes, then raise the thermostat to 450* to give it some char or a crust.
          * No need for a second rest and you can slice immediately.

          My process is to remove the roast from the fridges a couple of hours in advance. Approximately 4-6 hours in the oven and then 2 to rest.

          Have a look at the following thread and you can see and read fldhkybnva's recent experience and results. I believe she provides some pictures if I can recall correctly.


          32 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            Thanks Fourunder. A couple of questions. For such a large roast (8-10lbs) would you expect this to take closer to 4 hours at 225?
            Also, you suggest letting the leg rest in the oven at 140 for 2hrs - therefore 140 is your target temperature? Also, I'm not sure I trust my oven to maintain such a low temperature and not be going +/- 20degrees - is there a risk that the lamb overcooks during the 1-2 hour resting period?

            1. re: winegod

              My experience is that a longer rest of any roast only improves the tenderness and texture of any type of meat, other than chickens. If you read any of my past suggestions followed by others, you would notice that all have appreciated the results. With that said, when a roast comes to temperature, whether your oven can maintain the low warm setting of 140 or not, instead of removing from the oven and placing on the counter, or transferring to a insulated cooler....I just find it is much easier to hold in the oven. There is not increased mess to worry about and you do not need to cover with foil. If you do not need your oven right away to cook other items, simply turn your oven off and hold in the oven until you need to proceed to the warm-up phase and blast. If you need the oven for other items, then remove the roast when needed and cover if the roast will be out of the oven for up to an hour.

              I would agree with others that Medium is probably the safest target temperature zone to expect a great result. With even smaller sized lamb roast with bone-in, I find the higher end of Medium-Rare, rather than the lower, is more preferable by most, i.e., 135 as opposed to 125. You could expect the roast to raise 5-7* during the resting period, based on that, I would plan for the roast to take 5 hours to hit 135-140*+... plus the 2 hour rest for preparation. If the roast hits the temperature sooner, no worries, as the longer rest is preferable. In most commercial kitchens, it is both common and practical to finish and hold meats to up to, and past four hours for service. The benefit of the longer rest allows for the meat to mimic the dry aging process to allow the enzymes to break down the meat naturally to make it tender and concentrate the meat flavor. A long slow roast is necessary to do this and it cannot be achieved by roasting with a temperature above 250*. The longer slower roast will also allow the meat to cook closer to the bone to avoid and unsightly blood for others. The longer rest will also ensure minimal if not zero bleeding of any juices.

              With regards to over cooking...for any roasting, once the roast hits it's target temperature and you reduce the oven below your roasting setting, e.g. from 225 to 140, the cooking process stops for the meat, but the meat temperature will increase in what is known as the holdover or carryover effect. As indicated earlier, with 225 you can expect 5-7* at most. When you begin the warm-up phase at 250, you are not cooking up the meat in any way. You are just bringing the meat up to a more pleasant serving temperature. The blast is only necessary if you like some char, texture, or extra color..

              As for the target temperature....I would do at least 135, but not 142.

              1. re: fourunder

                Thanks, this is very helpful. I will be trying this technique out!

                1. re: fourunder

                  Yesterday I wanted to test my oven's ability to maintain such a low temp like 140. I set it to 140 and after 15 or 20 minutes opened the oven door quickly and stuck my thermapen in there (I don't have an oven thermometer). It was reading 88-89. Not sure why there is this difference. I assume I can find the right setting (maybe 180-200) that would actually get it to 140, however I would be nervous about the oven getting too hot while the leg rested. So, if I let the leg rest at the 140 setting or maybe slightly higher ( which would really be an oven temp of under 100) for 1-2 hours, does this have any impact? Would I have a longer warm up period? Also, when does food safety become an issue? Ie could you theoretically let a roast rest at under 140 (in the "danger zone" of bacteria growth) for more than 3 hours?

                  1. re: winegod

                    A thermapen will not read the temperature in your oven accurately.

                    1. re: winegod

                      For a temp that low (below boiling) you could heat a vessel of water and use your thermapen on that.

                    2. re: fourunder

                      Have roasted many a leg, but temps and time have varried from what you describe above..abiet have reached the same level of doness

                      I love new techniques, and am going to give this a whirl...sounds simple enough...

                      With respect to measuring temps....go out and buy an oven thermometer and an instant read for internal temps...It might cost about $20 but a great investment....they are portable and should be part of your basic equipment.

                      I have never met a cook that can tell exactly the internal temp of a thick piece of meat....

                  2. re: fourunder

                    I used this method a few weeks ago and it's great to echo fourunder's link above.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      I'm planning to do a very small grass fed boned/rolled leg roast. I assume this will work, I just have to figure out the timing.

                      My oven won't go down to 140*. I think 175* is the lowest setting. So, how do I hold it for the 1-2 hours?

                      1. re: onrushpam

                        Without know more specifics about your roast....some say, generally a rolled roast will take longer to hit temperature, but the shape will be the main concern, e.g, a 6 inch across rolled round shape roast would take longer to heat the center than a 3 inch wide flatter shape and longer in length. The weight could be the same, but the variables are different...If your roast is smaller than 3 pounds, you may not have to wait the full two hours, as the thickness of the meat does not need as much time to recover since it will probable thin. I would suggest a good pounding before you roll the meat.

                        As for the oven issue, you could crack the oven door open which would bring the temperature down from 170....or you could shut the oven off and cover with a pot or bowl inside the oven.

                        Have a look at the following thread and you can see how I hold roast with a stainless steel bowl and large towels outside of the oven.....although the towels are not shown, just cover the bowl and keep it out of any drafts.


                        1. re: fourunder

                          Do you have a preferred way to season lamb? I usually do the common rosemary, thyme, dijon, garlic, pepper and olive oil but I was looking for something perhaps different but that still lets the lamb flavor shine through. I'm pondering another leg for Easter but given the minimal lambiness of the last leg I might forego but if anyone has good ideas I might give that a shot.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            Most lamb today lacks any gameyness. Either buy mutton or only season lamb with salt and pepper. Never marinade, unless you don't like the taste of lamb.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              I'm with MGZ. I'd never marinate lamb and only usually use just salt & pepper - occasionally I stud it with rosemary & garlic. The secret is finding a good supplier - I buy direct from the farm. I know that it's not killed too young and I know they hang it for 10 days after slaughter.

                              I'm talking here about a simple roast of leg or shoulder, of course. Cooking lamb in the style of different cuisines calls for different preparations - for example, if we're having a Cypriot kleftiko, then it's going to need a bit of a rub with cinnamon and coriander or, travelling a bit further east, it might want a short marinade in yoghurt & garlic.

                              1. re: Harters

                                I'm going with you this weekend Harters, no marinade! I enjoy the taste of lamb so hopefully I'll like this way as much as my usual marinade method.

                              2. re: MGZ

                                It tasted like lamb just not the strong flavor of NZ lamb that I remember. Perhaps I'll look for mutton although I'm sure that will be harder to find.

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  Interesting. I always think of NZ lamb being very bland in its taste - so bland that I never buy it. Different tastes, eh?

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Sadly, Harter, NZ lamb can be slightly more full flavored than most commercially produced US lamb. Each, however, pales in comparison to the flavor* available from animals raised in the UK. The American palate for lamb, as well as pork, for the past near half century, is rather timid.

                                    * The "u" was consciously omitted.

                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      That was my impression as well. It seems here we get Australian, NZ and local but I've never come across UK but maybe I'll browse around. I love lamb and wish I could get a lovely leg which tasted like lamb.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        MGZ - yep, I've read enough Chowhound posts to understand many American palates on the subject - either not liking well flavoured meat or simply not liking lamb at all. It's a meat I've always avoided when visiting America, but did try some from Colorado on a trip last year and thought it was pretty decent - certainly nicer than NZ.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          The more "gameyness" the better for me, IMO the description of game-y often is what I associated with the wonderful natural flavor of lamb.

                                    2. re: fldhkybnva

                                      If you've got a Whole Foods nearby, they sometimes carry NZ lamb.

                                      1. re: Isolda

                                        Yea, that's where I got it. If I do lamb this weekend I was pondering the local instead of NZ.

                                      2. re: fldhkybnva

                                        Mutton will certainly be harder to find. In NJ/NY, you can find Halal lamb which is closer in taste to what I think of as lamb. Nonetheless, if all you can get is all you can get, and you want to taste lamb, don't overseason and certainly don't marinade.

                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          I always buy on sale, and therefore alway end up with Australian or NZ; they are delicious when marinaded Greek style. I just ate a hunk leftover from the other day and was thinking how no other meat tastes quite like this.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            When I have grilled lamb with a Greek style marinade, it has been delicious. When I barbecue lamb on the offset, it is delicious. Nonetheless, either approach loses the true "lambiness" of the meat. In fact, each approach is designed to cover up the gaminess of the taste of lamb as it used to be. If you want to truly taste lamb, buy mutton or Halal, season with only salt and pepper, and roast slowly as discussed above.

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              You know what, the lamb I'm talking about munching on earlier, while not mutton, was marinaded but not intense Greek style. Greek style IS excellent for people who don't like lamb. But this was yummy. My cats agree!

                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                  but, mutton is a grownup sheep while lamb is a baby sheep.
                                                  the beauty of lamb is that it is milder than the strong mutton taste by virtue of it being baby....not quite but similar to the concept of veal vs. beef.
                                                  mind you, i like both mutton and lamb. i do lamb for the kinder gentler flavor.

                                                  1. re: ritabwh

                                                    I like a hearty lamb flavor so maybe I should give mutton a shot.

                                          2. re: MGZ

                                            I've enjoyed lamb from a few different parts of the globe.....my favorite is when it's from Colorado....

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              I think around here it's all local from Maryland which I guess might be worth a shot.

                                          3. re: fldhkybnva

                                            I'm a Kosher Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper guy......garlic and olive oil. If I wanted to get fancy or if I had leftover herbs....Marjoram, Rosemary or Thyme. Greek Kabobs would get lemon and oregano.

                                    3. It's not about timing but, internal temp. Use a probe thermometer and after blasting at 450, lower to 350 and cook till internal temo is 120, remove and let rest for 30min, it'll be perfect.

                                      1. Sounds like you've got it down. The only thing/s I'd add would be to poke a number of thin knife cuts over the lamb and push whole cloves of garlic and some bits of fresh rosemary in the cuts before marinading. Bring the meat to room temp first.
                                        What time is the meal and should I bring anything?