Have you ever wanted to impress a hungry crowd with succulent rich flavors? That is exactly what a Smoked Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Fig Barbecue Sauce will bring to your table. However, often times people turn their nose at lamb due to the gamey notes that are associated with this cut of meat. Most folks have tried lamb that wasn't cooked or prepared properly. We are going to break it down, so you can deliver some high quality flavors to your hungry guests.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT LEG OF LAMB
Grass-fed versus Grain-fed lamb?
I’m a grain-fed kind of guy, but grass-fed seems to be the hot word right now. You’ve gotta remember, what they’re eating is how they’re going to taste. So grain-fed has a more subtle, meaty flavor as opposed to grass-fed, which will have a more wild, musty flavor.
What’s with that blue ink stain on the meat?
That’s the USDA choice or prime grade stamp. Don't freak out, it is edible. Originally, we have read that it used to be concentrated grape juice. We aren't sure what the dye is today, but it is edible.
Anything else to look for when buying lamb?
Color & Grade are the two most important factors when buying a leg of lamb. You want it not too dark, lighter in color. And the key is, don’t be scared of cooking lamb. It’s one of those things where it’s not the common dinner table meat, but it’s a wonderful piece of meat. It’s no different than beef, really, how you treat it. It just has a different flavor.
How much should I buy?
Plan on buying 1/3 of a pound of boneless lamb per person, or 1/2 to 2/3rds of a pound of bone-in lamb.
How can I make its flavor a little milder or less gamey?
But here's the thing: most of the compounds that provide the lamb --or any meat for that matter-- its distinct flavor tends to be concentrated in its fat. Other meats have a high concentration of both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, but in lamb, there are additional branched-chain fatty acids (BCFAs). These fatty acids are produced when rumen bacteria start to break down their food. The BCFAs are quite volatile, which is why the human nose picks them up rather quickly.
When the lamb is exposed to oxygen for any period of time (as in the case of low and slow smoked leg of lamb), the BCFAs start to oxidize, and the gaminess will become even more pronounced.
Simple concept, if you are sensitive or just hate the gaminess, minimize the fat and you begin to minimize the gaminess. If the gaminess is your biggest turn off to this cut of meat, then ensure you remove the bone, and butterfly the meat to remove large pockets of fat.
Lamb Cooking Temperatures:
Doneness levels for lamb are pretty much the same as for beef:
120°F (rare): Bright red and slippery on the interior. Abundant intramuscular fat has yet to soften and render.
130°F (medium-rare): The meat has begun to turn pink, and is significantly firmer, juicier, moister, more tender, and beefier than either rare or medium meat.
140°F (medium): Solid rosy pink, and quite firm to the touch. Still moist, but verging on dry. Fat is fully rendered at this stage, delivering plenty of beefy flavor.
150°F (medium-well): Pink, but verging on gray. Moisture level drops precipitously, Chewy, fibrous texture. Fat has fully rendered, and has begun to collect outside the steak, carrying away flavor with it.
160°F (well done): Dry, gray, and lifeless. Moisture loss is up to 18%, and fat is completely rendered. What once was lamb, now is dust.
Common Mistakes to Avoid with Lamb:
Not trimming hard or excessive fat.
We just discussed this topic above.
Not bringing the lamb to room temperature before cooking.
When cooking any large cut of meat, it should never go straight from a cool refrigerator into the smoke or heat. It will lengthen the cook time and can lead to an unevenly cooked piece of meat.
Letting the meat marinate for too long.
Since leg of lamb is such a tender cut, it doesn't really need much marinating. If you aren't careful this delicate cut of meat can start to fall apart if you over marinate it.
Eyeballing the doneness of the meat.
A deeply browned crust won’t cut it for figuring out whether your lamb is finished. Use the temperatures above as a solid guide.
Not resting the meat before slicing.
We all know your hungry and have been slaving over this meat for several hours... be patient and let it rest for 15-20 minutes to reabsorb some of its natural juices.
Smoked Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Fig Barbecue Sauce:
PREP TIME: 20 Minutes
COOK TIME: 3 Hours
TOTAL TIME: 3 Hours, 20 Minutes
SERVINGS: Approximately 8
1 x 5-7 lbs leg of lamb, bone-in
Smoked Bros Cherry Blast (Cherry Rub)
Smoked Bros White Knight (Italian Seasoning)
Cherry Wood, Chips or Pellets
For the Rosemary and Fig Barbecue Sauce:
1-1/2 cups port wine
3/4 cup black cherry juice
4 Black Mission figs
1 rosemary sprig
1 cup distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup & 2 Tbs. ketchup
1 tsp. honey
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbs. Smoked Bros Cherry Blast (Cherry Rub)
1-3/4 tsp. Hickory Smoked Sea Salt
1-1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat your smoker to 250°F and toss a few wood chunks onto hot coals for smoking.
2. Rub the leg of lamb with your with a 50/50 Cherry Blast and White Knight. Allow the lamb to rest for approximately 20 minutes, and repeat the process ensuring a nice coating 360 degrees on the meat.
Rub all sides liberally, including some extra on the fat cap if you chose to keep it.
3. Place the lamb in your smoker. During the last 90 minutes of cooking, brush the Rosemary and Fig Barbecue Sauce onto the leg of lamb to cover completely. Cook until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 145°F on an instant read thermometer, Total Smoke time depending on size of meat and heat is 2 to 3 hours.
*Technical Note: If you choose to smoke a boneless leg of lamb, unlike most meats, it will take longer to cook than a bone-in leg.
4. Remove the leg of lamb from smoker and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Rest the meat for minimum 15-20 minutes before slicing.