A bone-in leg of lamb is a cut of meat that’s the perfect choice for a formal holiday table or a casual backyard dinner. Slather a marinade on the outside, roast the leg slowly for a few hours then crank up the heat to crisp up the outside. It doesn’t matter what you serve on the side, because the leg of lamb will get all the attention.
Of course there are health benefits that make lamb a good choice—all 8 essential amino acids, B vitamins, niacin, zinc, iron and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) to name a few – but that’s not what most people are thinking when they look at a bone-in leg of lamb. What they’re thinking is, “Now that is an impressive cut of meat!”
The variation in shape—thick on one end, thin on the other with a bone sticking out—is what makes a leg of lamb such an eye-catching centerpiece. The shape also results in meat that cooks differently, ranging from rare to medium well. Luckily, such a large cut of meat requires a large group of people to eat it, and everyone will have at least one part of the leg that’s cooked exactly to their liking.
Time in the Kitchen: 25 minutes of hands-on cooking, plus approximately 9 hours to marinate and bring back up to room temperature, and 2 hours to cook.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt (15 ml + 5 ml)
First, prepare the lamb:
A thin to medium layer of fat around the meat is desirable because fat, as we all know, gives meat flavor. But go ahead and trim down any really thick areas of fat, since too much lamb fat can make the meat overly gamey and greasy.
If there is flesh covering the end of the long shank bone, scrape it off with a knife to reveal the bone.
Use the tip of a knife to make a dozen or so slashes in the meat, about 1 inch long and 1/2-inch deep, so the marinade can penetrate better.
Pulse the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, paprika, coriander, cumin and salt in a food processor until the garlic is very finely chopped. Drape two long pieces of plastic wrap over a large container that will fit the leg of lamb. Set the lamb on the plastic wrap. Rub the marinade all over the meat, letting the plastic wrap catch any drips, then wrap the meat tightly and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Remove the lamb from the refrigerator. Blot the meat dry. Let the meat come up to room temperature (45 minutes to 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 325 °F/163 °C.
Place the lamb, fatty side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour 2 cups of water in the bottom of the pan. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of flesh reads 130 °F/54 °C, about 2 1/2 hours, although the cooking time can vary so start checking the temperature after 1 1/2 hours.
Turn the broiler on; broil until that fatty surface is sizzling and crisp, about 5 minutes. If the meat begins to burn, it’s too close to the broiler.
Remove the leg of lamb from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.