How to cook boneless leg of lamb to fork tender perfection – slice it or effortlessly pull it apart and enjoy it in wraps or served family style on a platter with an assortment of sides.
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- Read on for step-by-step pictures, video demo and relevant tips (2 mins)
Braising is an easy, low key way to cook a boneless leg of lamb in the oven. The slow, low temperature cooking with moist heat does wonders for the meat – it finishes literally falling apart and permeated by flavor.
Choose the braising cooking method when you are after a Levantine style succulent lamb platter or delicious lamb wraps. We also enjoy braised lamb as stuffing for meat pies – see tips on how to make a phyllo (filo) lamb pie at the end of this post. (If you are looking for a more traditional slow roast lamb leg, try this recipe, it is also suitable for a bone-in leg.)
We favor the spices used in contemporary Middle Eastern street food and slather the meat with a fragrant paste prepared with shawarma seasoning (it was created for lamb after all). To capture every single bit of flavor we convert the pan drippings and residual braising liquid into a intensely flavored sauce to pour over the tender meat which eagerly absorbs it and stays moist.
- Lamb. Ideally a boneless leg of lamb with a generous fat cap (it will render and flavor the meat) or a boneless lamb shoulder (not too fatty, take care to remove excess fat).
- Spice mix + salt & pepper. Use either store bought shawarma seasoning and add salt and pepper or prepare it yourself (see below and the Recipe Card). You can also mix a seasoning that you enjoy and use that instead.
- Olive oil. Opt for the stronger flavor of extra virgin. You will use it both to make the shawarma paste and to coat the braising pan.
- Lemon juice + garlic. For acidity and savory aroma in the shawarma paste.
- White wine + stock. The white wine is to delgaze the pan and lay the flavor foundation of the braising liquid, the stock (chicken, lamb or vegetable) comprises the bulk of the liquid. You will also need a little bit to thin out the pan drippings post braise and create the delicious sauce.
What is in Shawarma Spice?
Shawarma seasoning is a Middle Eastern blend of spices used to season meats – originally lamb, which was prepared on a spit and called cheverme (Turkish çevirme or ‘turning’) and later on a mechanized vertical rotisserie.
The principal ingredients in shawarma are paprika, turmeric, cumin, allspice, coriander and garlic. You can buy it premixed (affiliate link) or make your own with spices you most likely already have on hand (see the Recipe Card for suggested ratios). Note that there are hundreds of variations of shawarma seasoning and feel free to cutomize your blend per your taste preferences.
Workflow & Cooking Tips
Make the paste. Mix the shawarma seasoning with the lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.
Prep the boneless leg of lamb. Make sure it is properly thawed and if you can, let it come to room temperature first. Remove the netting (if any) and using a sharp knife make deep slits on top and all around the meat. Do not simply score the fat on top, cut deeper into it to create crevices.
Slather & brown. Slather the meat with the shawarma paste and be sure to work it into the slits you made so the flavors can penetrate deeper into the meat. Place the lamb in a braiser or roasting pan and let it brown in a 400-425 F oven for about 15 minutes. Remove and lower the temperature to 275-300 F.
Braise. Deglaze with wine, then add the chicken stock and either place the lid of the braiser or if using a pan, tightly cover with two layers of foil. Braise for about 2 hours and take it out to check on it. Test the tenderness level to get a feel of how much longer it might need to become very tender, add a bit of water if needed and baste the with the braising juices if the top looks a bit dry. Cover and braise for another hour or so, as needed, until the meat is fork tender.
TIP: Browning (searing) is the first step towards a delicious lamb braise. The exterior of the meat, in contact with moderately high temperature caramelizes and creates an array of flavors (through the Maillard reaction), which account for much of the character of the dish. It is a lot easier to brown a five or six pound boneless leg of lamb in a hot oven (or under the broiler) than to try to maneuver it around a skillet.
How Long to Cook Boneless Leg of Lamb?
When braising a boneless leg of lamb you don’t need to worry about exact time and temperature – you are the judge of doneness with this glamorous yet low key method. You are after fork tender meat which can be easily pulled apart. After the inititial two hours of braising allow as much extra braising time as needed, but do check frequently, about every 20 minutes or so. Make sure there is sufficient liquid remaining in the pan.
How to Make Sauce from the Braising Liquid – The Finish
Once you are satisfied with the tenderness of the lamb leg, carefully transfer it to a platter, loosely tent it with foil to keep warm and turn your attention to converting the pan drippings and braising liquid into a delicious sauce.
- Skim the excess fat from the braising pan with a spoon, but be sure to leave a bit of fat for flavor.
- Add some chicken stock (about 1/2 cup to 1 cup) and bring to simmer over a medium heat stove ring. If any more fat coalesces on top, skim it carefully, otherwise simply allow the sauce to thicken. Taste a bit to decide if it needs extra seasoning. Strain through a sieve.
How to Serve Braised Boneless Leg of Lamb
- Once you have the delicious sauce prepared do not waste time to apply some of it to the lamb. Use two forks to pull apart the tender meat or if you prefer slice it – the knife will meet no resistance. We usually break it up into larger pieces, rustic style.
- Generously drizzle about half of the sauce over the meat – it will absorb all the tasty juices. Serve the rest of the sauce near the braised lamb for everyone who wants a bit extra.
- Present the lamb on a platter family style along with a variety of sides or serve it over basmati rice, orzo, lentils, cous cous etc. We like to have olives, fresh herbs, a fresh veggie or a salad and a roasted veggie (peppers or eggplant) to go along with the braised lamb. It is so versatile you can enjoy it with a number of options. In keeping with the Levantine origins of shawarma consider chickpea salads, hummus or tabouleh.
- Alternatively, one of our favorite ways to enjoy braised lamb leg is to fold pieces of the tender meat into flatbreads with veggies for a Middle Eastern shawarma style wrap. We typically make flatbread with yogurt because it is so easy, tastes great and the dough requires no time to proof. All manner of veggies work in a wrap like this – from the classic combo of fresh tomatoes, onions and lettuce to steam fried broccolini and asparagus. If you’d like to spoon over some yogurt sauce – try this recipe.
- Use the braised lamb as stuffing for lamb pie(s). Our favorite is phyllo (filo) lamb pie, drizzled with (hot) honey and served with a side of yogurt.
HOW TO MAKE BRAISED LAMB PHYLLO PIE: Thaw half a packet of phyllo sheets and melt 1 stick of butter. Spread 4 or 5 phyllo sheets and brush with butter, then place another 4 or 5 on top and brush again. Scatter warm braised lamb along one of the longer side of the sheets, dust with shawarma seasoning and add goat cheese or feta cheese crumbles (optional). Roll forward towards the other side to create a strudel like shape. Tuck the edges and place in a buttered baking dish. Repeat the process until you have used up the phyllo sheets. Brush the rolls with butter one last time and bake at 325 F until phyllo is golden brown.
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Leg of Lamb
- 5 lbs boneless leg of lamb
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (plus a bit extra for making the sauce)
- 5 tbsp shawarma seasoning*
- 2 tsp coarse salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 lemons, medium, juice of
TO BRAISE THE BONELESS LEG OF LAMB
Preheat the oven to 400-425F.
Combine all the shawarma paste ingredients in a small bowl and mix until a paste forms.
Remove the netting (if any) from the leg of lamb, pat dry and using a sharp knife make deep cuts over the skin side and all around the meat. Generously apply the paste, working it into the crevices.
Add the 1 tbsp olive oil to a braising pan or roasting pan, place the boneless leg of lamb fat side up in it, then place in the hot oven to brown for 15 minutes.
Remove the pan with the lamb and lower the temperature to 275-300 F, depending on how strong your oven is. Add the wine to the pan and stir around, it will be sufficiently hot for deglazing. Add the chicken stock, cover with the braiser lid or if using a pan with two layers of aluminium foil (tightly so no moisture escapes).
Place in the oven and braise for 2 hours. After this time check on the lamb - if you need to replenish the braising liquid add a bit of water, if the top is a bit dry, baste with pan juices. Test the meat with a fork to see how tender it has gotten - it will still be a bit tough at this point, but you will get an idea of how much longer you need to let it braise.
Cover and place back in the oven to finish braising to your desired tenderness. Check every 20 minutes or so to make sure you do not overcook it. Once you can easily break up/pull apart the meat with a fork, it is done.
TO MAKE THE SAUCE
Carefull transfer the leg of lamb from the brasing pan to a platter and loosely tent it with foil to keep it warm.
Using a spoon skim the fat on top of the braising liquid and pan drippings. Leave just a bit of fat for flavor. Add about 1/2 to 1 cup extra stock, depending on how much liquid there is in the pan.
Place on a stove over medium heat and bring to simmer. If any more fat coalesces on the surface skim that too. Once the sauce thickens a bit taste it to decide if it needs seasoning and adjust. Strain through a sieve.
For family style presentation: break up the leg of lamb with two forks or slice it with a knife (it will be falling apart quite a bit), drizzle about half of the sauce and garnish with herbs and/or olives. Serve the remaining sauce next to the lamb platter.
For wraps: pull the meat with two forks, drizzle with sauce and place small amounts in flatbreads such as roti or pita, along with vegetables of your choice.
Leftovers reheat well in a pan over medium heat, you might want to add a bit of water to replenish moisture. Also consider using leftovers as stuffing for lamb pie (see just above this recipe card for instructions).
*Use your favorite blend or make it yourself by combining: 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp turmeric, 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp allspice, 2 tsp coriander.
The nutritional information below assumes all the fat is consumed, whereas this is not true as most of it gets rendered and removed (skimmed). In reality this a much healthier dish than the recipe card calculator reports!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 servings Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 702Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 240mgSodium: 765mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 66g