How to prepare a grilled lamb leg that is juicy, tender and flavorful – in part due to the workings of a Mediterranean inspired rosemary, garlic and Dijon mustard marinade.
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Read on for relevant tips and step-by-step pictures (1-2 mins)
About This Grilled Leg of Lamb Recipe
Weather permitting, grilling is our favorite way to treat a leg of lamb. Chris flavors the surface of the meat with a perfectly balanced, thick marinade which he also uses at Ginger & Baker for Easter, seasons it well and cooks it over indirect charcoal heat.
As the flavorful fat cap melts away and penetrates into the meat, some of it drips over the embers where it sizzles and turns into a lovely, fragrant smoke that perfumes the lamb on its way up.
If you ever want to do justice to a leg of lamb while enjoying a beer by the charcoal grill – heed the tips below.
Lamb leg. You can grill a bone-in or a boneless leg of lamb without changing the steps, the difference will be in the total time needed to grill and the ease of carving. Here we used the fillet section of a bone-in lamb leg (the tougher shank not attached).
Marinade ingredients. Fresh rosemary, garlic cloves, lemon zest only, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard (for umami and to bind everything else together) and kosher salt and pepper. You can add other herbs too, but rozemary should be the leading one.
Marinade for Leg of Lamb + How to Prep it for The Grill
Chris’ Mediterranean inspired thick marinade for grilling lamb leg is incredibly flavorful while simple to prepare. It is easy to rub into the meat and stays on it.
Make the marinade. Very, very finely chop fresh rosemary leaves and (picture #1 above) and mince the garlic. Zest the lemon, add extra virgin olive oil, Dijon, salt and pepper. Mix well together – the consistency should be pasty. No need to use a food processor.
Prep the lamb leg. Remove any excess fat, but leave enough of a fat cap to cover the leg – you need it for the meat to stay moist and take on extra flavor. To make sure that the marinade reaches the lamb underneath the fat cap, score it gently as shown above, in a diamond pattern. When you apply the marinade rub it well into the scored areas so it can penetrate the surface of the meat.
TIP: Alternatively, you can make a more Greek oriented pasty rub with oregano, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. Or for further inspiration take a look at these recipes for Lamb Chops Marinades. Just be sure to prepare a marinade with a thicker consistency.
How to Grill a Leg of Lamb
Marinate covered and refrigerated. After applying the marinade all over the lam leg, season it well with salt and pepper. The extra salt will help more of the flavors of the marinade diffuse into to meat. For best results cover with a large bowl instead of plastic wrap.
Bring to room temperature. Allow at least thirty minutes for the lamb to warm up before you begin grilling it – it will cook more uniformly.
Heat the grill. Use charcoal if possible, the flavor will be so much better. Be sure the coals are hot and white before you begin. If using a gas grill only light the burners on one side to create indirect heat zone next to it.
Place directly on grill rack/indirect heat. Whereas a lamb shoulder has a lot more fat and collagen that is rendered during grilling generally you don’t need to catch the drippings from a leg of lamb which is much leaner. Let the flavorful melted fat vaporize as it hits the embers and impart flavor on the meat. You also do not need to fear a grease fire since you are slowly grilling the lamb leg away from direct heat.
Grill. Maintain a temperature of about 300-325 F and occasionally (at about 20-25 minute intervals) reposition the lamb leg – onto the bottom part and also onto the fat covered side, after most of the fat has rendered.
TIP: We also like to throw a garlic head and a halved lemon or two on the grill to serve with the lamb. The garlic can go in at the beginning, let it roast slowly, away from the direct heat; the lemon halves do not need long – char them face down.
How Long to Grill a Lamb Leg?
The short answer is about 1.5 to 2 hours at 300 – 325 F, over indirect heat for medium rare center and medium surrounding meat. That being said, several factors will influence the total time, so it is better to use Chris’ universal reply of “grill it until it is done”:)
The cook time for grilled leg of lamb for depends on:
- Its exact size and weight (big difference between a 2.2 lb lamb leg and a 4 lb one)
- If it is boneless or bone-in (boneless grills faster)
- Its starting temperature (grills faster when brought to room temperature)
- Maintaining a stable temperature on the grill
- Desired doneness
A grilled leg of lamb is cooked medium-rare when the internal temperature registers 135 F. We recommend up to 140-145 F for medium bone-in lamb leg. Past that temperature the meat will slowly begin to dry out.
- Make use of your meat thermometer – insert it near the center of the leg, not touching the bone for an accurate reading;
- If you want one side to be a bit more done, say medium – leave the leg part with the most meat closer to the direct heat a bit longer, until you measure 140 F there;
- Keep in mind that once you pull the lamb leg off the grill the meat will continue to cook before it eventually begins to cool down;
- Let the lamb rest for 10 minutes before you attempt carving it – if needed loosely tent it with foil to keep it warm.
How to Carve a Bone-in Leg of Lamb
- Position the rested leg of lamb with the rendered fat cap facing up (picture 1 above). Starting with the meatier side begin carving slices parallel to the bone (# 2 above).
- Once you have reached the bone, flip the leg onto the newly formed flat surface and begin to slice the other side at a slight diagonal to the bone (# 3 above)
- Transfer the slices to a platter, garnish with rosemary, grilled lemons and garlic and serve.
TIP: All the flavorful meat around the bone makes for great gyros once you pick it off with a small knife or a fork. Simply reheat those bits of lamb in a pan over medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil and some extra seasonings. Once the lamb begins to crispen up, add a couple of tablespoons of water and stir around the pan. The steam from the water making contact with the hot pan will make the reheated bits of meat extra tender and juicy.
Other Recipes You Might Enjoy
Where to Buy Lamb Leg
For a good cut that does not have excess fat (our main pet peeve with the leg of lamb sold in the meat departments of local grocery stores) check with your butcher or you can buy it online directly from a farmer’s collective of meat purveyor. To that end (Affiliate Offer) we recommend the Grass-Fed Lamb Leg and other lamb cuts from D’Artagnan.
- 3.5 to 4 lbs lamb leg, bone-in (about 3/4 lb less if boneless)
- 5-6 sprigs rosemary, more for garnish
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 tsp pepper, plus more for seasoning
- Make the marinade for the lamb leg - very finely chop the rosemary leaves, mince the garlic and press onto it with the flat side of the knife, zest the lemon. Combine all three with the olive oil, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Trim any excess fat from the leg of lamb, leaving a good fat cap on top. Score the fat cap in a diamond pattern until you just reach the meat. Apply the marinade paste all over the lamb, rub it in the scored parts. Place onto a plate, season with salt and pepper and cover*. Marinate refrigerated from 4 hours to overnight.
- Bring the leg of lamb to room temperature (about 30-40 minutes of the counter) and preheat a charcoal** grill to 325F. No need to scrape off the marinade paste - it will help form a flavorful crust.
- Place the leg of lamb directly onto the grill rack, over indirect heat, fat cap facing up. Turn it over/reposition it every 20 minutes or so to expose all surfaces to the indirect heat and the grill rack. Do so last for the side with the fat. Maintain a constant grill temperature and grill until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 135 F for medium-rare. If you'd like a section of the lamb leg to be cooked medium (as seen in the pictures) grill the meatiest side of the leg until the temperature there is 140-145F. *** Allow the lamb to rest onto a board for 10-15 minutes before you carve it. You may loosely tent it with foil to keep it warm.
*Cover with a large bowl instead of plastic so as to not disturb the pasty marinade.
**While you can grill on a gas grill, the flavor will be far superior if using charcoal.
***Keep in mind that once you take the leg of lamb off the grill it will continue to cook for a while before it begins to cool down.
Be sure to read the post for this recipe for helpful tips and suggestions, including how to carve a bone-in lamb leg.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 639Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 211mgSodium: 928mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 58g