How to Prepare a Whole Roasted Lamb

While some may view lambs as cute little farm creatures or symbols of innocence, I see them as a great meal. Roasting a whole lamb is surprisingly once you acquire the basic tools and understand the procedure, and after attending a party in which this was done, I realized there really is no better way to enjoy this type of meat.

Roasting a whole lamb is a fun, social process. Get a bunch of friends together and make it an all-day activity. While something like a group outing or a hike is fun, this sort of all day venture is far superior in my mind- what other social gathering yields such tasty results?

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Selecting a Lamb

Seeing as lambs are not typical fare enjoyed daily by most Americans, they're not exactly something you can buy off the shelf. Call up your local butcher (if you know what you're doing, you have already established a good relationship with this professional), and order a lamb for pickup on the day you plan to prepare it. I recommend getting one about 45 pounds (wool and innards not included).

Make sure the lamb has had all the "extras" removed for you (e.g. wool, innards, etc.). This will save you a lot of time on the actual day of preparation, and you'll also have to lug around something that will weigh about 20 pounds less than it would otherwise.

If you have the luxury of possessing a fridge large enough to store your lamb before roasting it, feel free to pick up your lamb the night before. Otherwise, you might want to see if your butcher opens up rather early, as you'll want to get started around 6:00 or 7:00am to make sure any afternoon lamb roast party friends don't go hungry.

Once you have picked up your Lamb, perhaps you might like to give it a name. Ex girlfriends/boyfriends make for excellent inspiration in this sector.

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Gathering Supplies

To roast a whole lamb, you will need:

  • A spit (there are places from which you can rent full-sized, motorized spits)
  • A large basting brush
  • Charcoal (3-4 bags - this is a large endeavor)
  • Heat / fire-resistant gloves
  • Materials for starting and maintaining fire
  • A shovel for the coals
  • A large carving board (or table)
  • A large carving knife and carving fork
  • Food-safe scissors
  • A bucket for trash, another for viscera, and another for dirty utensils
  • Needle and heavy cooking thread for stitching up the lamb
  • ... and lots of paper towels

And though recipes vary, these are some common ingredients:

  • Lemons (for the body cavity and basting liquid)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic
  • Herbs (especially rosemary)
  • Cayenne pepper


Preparing and Roasting the Lamb

The process of roasting a whole lamb is fairly straightforward:

  1. Remove your butcher's wrapping
  2. Remove the liver and kidneys (prepare separately if desired)
  3. Truss the lamb to your rotisserie spit
  4. Season the inside of the lamb with salt, peper, and garlic
  5. Squeeze a couple of lemons into the lamb and toss the lemons in for good measure, along with a couple of bundles of whole herbs (not chopped)
  6. Finish trussing the lamb and sew up the stomach
  7. Place the lamb on the spit once the coals in your pit have burned down and are glowing embers (stir them occasionally to keep them going) and get the spit turning (by either turning on the motor or recruiting some kids to do the work
  8. Baste the lamb with a mixture of salt, pepper, lemon juice, and (optionally) a dash of cayenne pepper
  9. Continue roasting and basting for about two hours or until the outside has developed a rich, dark glaze but is still a bit pink in the middle

You may want to check temperatures and cooking times of various parts of the lamb to make sure that you are preparing the meat safely. A 5-7 pound leg of lamb, for example, should be roasted at 325 degrees F for 20-25 minutes and reach a medium temperature of 160 minutes. I've linked to a site to the right that lists safe internal temperatures for vairous parts of the lamb.

Because you're roasting the lamb all in one piece, you might want to get it started with some parts wrapped in foil to keep them from being burned.

As a side note, I recommend breaking your group into teams- one team should be responsible for preparing the lamb, the other team should be responsible for setting up the rotisserie and getting the coals going. Other people should be on point to clean up as you go along- and of course take photos (which I have always forgotten to do).

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