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With a fifth of the UK’s population choosing lamb above all other meats for their roast dinner, lamb is one of the most popular types of meat. This is how to cook a leg of lamb perfectly every time, according to our experts...
Lamb might be loved by over a hundred thousand people across the UK, but it's not the easiest meat to cook and many people don’t know how to cook a leg of lamb in particular.
With the bank holiday just a few days away, most of us will using the extra time to explore some great Easter recipes (opens in new tab) and get cooking in the kitchen. Learning how to cook a leg of roast lamb will be an essential part of that, if you don't already know how or want to hone your cooking skills.
So you can get the most out of your joint, we’ve asked the food experts to explain how to cook a leg of lamb. And everything else you need to know before you cook your lamb, while it’s in the oven and what to do with it after it’s cooked!
This is how to cook a leg of lamb…
How should you prepare a leg of lamb before cooking?
Elisa Roche is the TI Media food director working across GoodtoKnow, Woman and Home, Woman's Weekly and many other titles. She says, “Fat is what makes lamb taste delicious, so don’t be too over zealous about trimming it. Just get rid of any very fatty or tough sinuous strands.”
“It’s also looks nice to neaten up any fat or sinews around the joint bones using a sharp knife. Just carefully scrape it away until you reach the bone, a bit like stripping paint with a metal wall scraper.”
While our senior food writer, Jessica Ransom says, “Before cooking your leg of lamb it's important to bring it to room temperature so that the meat is nice and relaxed (especially if you've been marinading the meat over-night). This is another important part of the prep that shouldn't be rushed.
“Depending on the size of the meat your cooking, you might get away with a 20 minute marinade but for big joints like a leg I'd recommend leaving it to infuse overnight. Scoring the meat with a sharp knife is also a good way to increase the surface area the marinade can reach.”
These steps before you cook your lamb are really important, especially if you want to make delicious traditional dishes like this fantastic glazed leg of lamb (opens in new tab).
What is the best temperature to cook a leg of lamb?
Lamb can be cooked in many ways, Elisa says, but it depends on how much time you have. “If you are after a faster option, remove the bone altogether and ‘butterfly’ the leg so that it becomes almost flat. Save that bone for stock though, or a lucky pet dog.”
When cooking a leg of lamb, Elisa adds,“A leg of lamb with the bone on can be low and slow cooked for 6-8 hours or roasted in a conventional oven for 45 minutes- 1 hour. Check the weight of your lamb for cooking guides.
“Start with the oven on its highest setting for 15 minutes, then turn things down to around 190C/Gas 5 for the rest of cooking. If you have a meat thermometer, you’re looking at trying to get the centre of the meat to 130°F or 55 Celsius.”
Looking for a slow cooking lamb leg recipe? Try out our recipe for a seven-hour leg of lamb (opens in new tab). Just don't forget it's still in the oven!
How to stop lamb from drying out
“Cooking on the bone will ensure it’s juicy and tender. But most importantly, rest the meat after cooking it so all of the tasty juices don’t run out.”
Rose Fooks, our deputy food editor, advises. “When you remove the joint from the oven transfer it to the board or plate you are going to cut it on, cover it with foil and a tea towel and rest for 15 - 30 mins before carving. This will give you plenty of time to make a gravy using the gibbons from the bottom of the roasting tray.”
Rose adds, “Lamb may also become dry if it is overcooked. Follow a recipe to avoid overcooking you lamb, or even better if you have a meat thermometer you can probe it to check. Lamb is cooked to medium when it reaches 63C.
“Beware while your meat is resting the temperature will continue to climb as the residual heat is still cooking it. Therefor we would recommend you remove your leg of lamb from the oven then the internal temperature is 55C and after 15 mins if will of reached 63C.”
If you do that correctly, you'll also be able to make something equally phenomenal with your lamb leftovers (opens in new tab) the next day. We especially love these minty lamb and feta pasties (opens in new tab) as a special treat for lunch.
How to stop lamb from shrinking
The simple answer to ensuring that a leg of lamb doesn’t shrink, according to our experts, is to cook it “slower and for longer if you can”.
Do you cover a leg of lamb when roasting?
Elisa says, “Once the lamb has been blasted at high heat for the first 15-20 minutes of cooking, you should keep an eye on it.
“Later in cooking, one the temperature has been lowered, you may want to stop it from browning too much on top. At this stage, it is okay to loosely cover the lamb with a tent made of foil, but don’t wrap it.”
How to cook a leg of lamb from frozen
If you’ve stocked up on roast essentials and you’re wondering how to cook a leg of lamb from frozen, Elisa has the answer. She says simply, “Cook it for 50 per cent longer than you would if you had defrosted it overnight or were cooking from fresh.”
Thinking you're going to be eating a lot of lamb in the coming weeks? Check out our great range of lamb recipes (opens in new tab) for ideas on how to keep things fresh in the kitchen. Dishes like this lamb and beer curry and Mary Berry's shepherd's pie dauphinois (opens in new tab) are great ones to add to your recipe collections, when you're looking to try something new.
How to cook a leg of lamb in a slow cooker
Who doesn’t love slow cooked lamb? Our favourite recipe has got to be this Persian-style lamb stew (opens in new tab). It's a great alternative to a traditional Sunday lunch - just as tasty and packed with spices.
Food Director, Elisa Roche has the perfect method on how to cook a leg of lamb in a slow cooker.
She suggests, “For slow cooker lamb (opens in new tab), you would want to sear and brown it on all sides in a hot pan to seal in the fats and flavours. Then you'd pop it in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low with mixed veggies and 250ml stock. A boneless leg might work best so that it can be squeezed in to fit.”
How do you cut a leg of lamb?
So you've cooked your lamb, it's almost ready to serve and all you need to do is plate up with some tasty roast potatoes (opens in new tab). How do you cut a leg of lamb?
“Always allow your meat to rest before carving. Don't cut it from straight out the oven.” Elisa says, “Place the lamb on it's side with the shank bone facing away from you. Cut a couple of lengthways slices from the section of meat facing you, creating a flat base to allow the meat to sit flat on a chopping board.
“Turn the roast upright now so that it sits on the cut area. Hold the meat steady in one hand using a meat fork inserted into the meat opposite the shank bone, then cut with the other.
“Cut against the grain of the meat ( against the direction the tendons and sinews of the meat naturally lie).”
Grace Walsh is a Features Writer for Goodto.com, covering breaking news health stories during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as lifestyle and entertainment topics. She has worked in media since graduating from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in Classical Civilisation and a year spent abroad in Italy. It was here that Grace caught the bug for journalism, after becoming involved in the university’s student newspaper and radio station.
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