Grilled Leg Lightly Smoked
Customer Question: “A family reunion is coming up. Is possible to slow cook a leg of lamb on my grill?”
Absolutely! Slow cooking grass fed meat works well as it lessens moisture loss. Leg of lamb or goat is easily prepared this way. Maintaining the meat’s internal temperature below 122°F for as long as possible maintains the most moisture and allows the meat’s enzymes to act as natural tenderizers to produce the best texture and flavor. With high roasting temperatures the water inside the muscle is lost at a higher rate and proteins toughen.
High quality lamb and goat meats do not need strong seasonings that distract from their delicate, natural flavors. Trust simple seasoning and rubs or just use salt and pepper. In this recipe smoking chips or bay leaves are used to enhance and add interest to the natural flavors.
3 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons Olive oil or your favorite oil
1 Large lemon, juiced
1 Tablespoon rosemary leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix the marinade and rub over the lamb. Wrap the entire leg of lamb with plastic wrap or use a plastic bag or a large covered container. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to grill allow the lamb or goat leg to warm to approximately room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. During this time prepare the grill and smoke packets.
Smoke packets Wrap smoking chips with aluminum foil producing a tightly folded packet. Lay 1 or 2 directly onto the coals or if using a gas grill the flame deflector. Repeat every half hour. Don’t worry about making holes in the packet as the smoke will get out by itself.
Gas Grill Preheat the grill with all the burners on high. After 15 minutes, turn off the center burners and reduce the outer burners to medium.
Charcoal Grill When using lumped charcoal start the grill and build a medium hot fire. If using briquettes light about 50 briquettes and let them burn until they are fully gray. Push the hot coals or briquettes into 2 equal piles on either side of the grate. Place a drip pan in between the coals. Center a grate above the drip pan as this will allow for the addition of more fuel as required. When adding additional briquettes start them away from the grill and allow them to burn until they are fully gray to allow the volatiles to burn off before adding them to the grill. This is not necessary with lump charcoal. When they have turned fully gray they are ready for the cooking coals.
Grill the lamb or goat leg covered, slowly, for approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours. Raise the internal temperature of the leg of lamb or goat slowly to avoid having the outside of the meat overcooked and the inside undercooked. This will also maintain the most moisture. It is important to control the heat of the grill throughout the cooking process at 200°F to 275°F throughout the process.
Turn the leg of lamb or goat once after about an hour of cooking.
Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the muscle not fat. If using a bone-in leg do not touch the bone with the thermometer or the reading will not be accurate.
Remove the leg at an internal temperature of 120° F. This allows for the meat to continue cooking to approximately 135° F from residual heat. Lightly cover with foil for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature drops down to about 120° F before carving. This allows the juice to redistribute and for the temperature to equalize. Carve across the grain and serve.
Internal Temperature Guide
- Rare: 120-125° F center is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion
- Medium-rare: 130-135° F center is very pink, slightly brown toward the exterior portion
- Medium: 140-145° F center is light pink, outer portion is brown
- Medium-well: 150-155° F not pink at all.