5 Important Things to Know About Cooking a Leg of Lamb

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

If you’ve never cooked a leg of lamb, tackling it for the first time can seem downright intimidating. It’s a pretty large, not to mention expensive, cut of meat, and you only have one try to get it right.

Whether it’s your first time cooking lamb, or you’ve done it before, take these five little tips into the kitchen with you and that leg of lamb won’t seem nearly as daunting.

Before you get started, know this — leg of lamb is an easy, foolproof cut of meat to cook, and it rewards you with a tender, flavorful meal.

5 Important Things to Know About Leg of Lamb

1. Go bone-in for flavor. Boneless is easier to carve.

Choosing a bone-in or boneless cut of meat is entirely up to you and depends on personal preference. While it’s a little trickier to carve, I love bone-in because it has more flavor. Either way, though, you can season a leg of lamb with your favorite herbs and spices, inside and out.

2. There’s no need to marinate it.

One of the roles of a marinade is to help break down fibers in tougher cuts of meat. And since leg of lamb is a naturally tender cut of meat, it doesn’t need it. In fact, marinating this cut could actually make it more tough. Stick with a simple seasoning of herbs, garlic, and mustard, or your favorite spice rub.

3. Lamb is good rare to well-done. So know what you like.

Cooks have strong opinions about how well-done their lamb should be. Some prefer it very rare; others want it well-done throughout. Leg of lamb is tender and juicy and will be good along a wide spectrum of doneness. So know what you like and prefer and use this chart to achieve the results you want.

Cooking Times for Lamb

Roasting Temperature: 325°F

  • Rare: 125°F (about 15 minutes per pound)
  • Medium-Rare: 130°F to 135°F (about 20 minutes per pound)
  • Medium: 135°F to 140°F (about 25 minutes per pound)
  • Well-Done: 155°F to 165°F (about 30 minutes per pound)

4. Let the meat rest after cooking.

Like all other cuts of meat, it’s important to let the roasted leg of lamb rest for about 20 minutes after coming out of the oven. This lets the juices redistribute back into the meat instead of running all over the platter or cutting board.

5. Always slice the meat against the grain.

You’ve cooked a beautiful piece of meat, now it’s just as important that you slice it correctly. Lamb should always be sliced against the grain to get the most tender slices.

And when you’re all done — if you had a leg of lamb that was delicious and beautifully cooked, know that you can freeze leftovers! Cut any leftovers into slices, wrap them in foil, and freeze them for later. To reheat the meat without overcooking it, place the foil-wrapped lamb in a 350°F oven until it’s warm.