This smoked lamb shoulder dish is a delicious way to spice up your normal BBQ.
For whatever reason, lamb doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as brisket or ribs. That’s a great pity, since this fatty, somewhat gamey flesh is ideal for smoking.
While I believe lamb shoulder works best in this recipe, bone-in lamb leg works nearly as well.
Because of the heavy layer of fat on lamb shoulder, you’ll want to cook it at a higher temperature than usual to let the fat render and the skin caramelize. As a result, lamb is a very forgiving meat to smoke. Perfect for novices or if you want to concentrate on the game rather than your temperature.
I decided to give the lamb a Mediterranean touch by serving it with hummus on warmed pita bread. If you can’t get your hands on it, serve it over white bread with your favorite barbecue sauce.
- Preparing the lamb shoulder and rub
- Setting up your smoker
- Monitoring your lamb during the cook
- Resting and serving your lamb shoulder
- What temperature is lamb shoulder done smoking?
- Do you smoke lamb shoulder fat side up or down?
- What is the best temp to smoke lamb?
- What is the best smoke flavor for lamb?
- How do you keep lamb moist in a smoker?
- What is the best temp for smoking shoulder?
- Does lamb stall when smoking?
- Should you trim fat off lamb shoulder?
- How do you know when lamb shoulders are done?
- Should I sear lamb after smoking?
Preparing the lamb shoulder and rub
There isn’t much you need to do to make it ready if you bought a decent quality lamb shoulder (search for New Zealand or Australian lamb if you can get it). I prefer to put the meat in the smoker when it is still cool, so the first thing you need do is prepare your rub.
I had some leftover herb rub from my Christmas turkey that I thought would complement the lamb well. The inspiration for this rub comes from AmazingRibs.com’s Simon & Garfunkel Spice Blend. It was delicious on my turkey, and it also works wonderfully on lamb.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the rub ingredients and stir thoroughly. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single herb listed; as long as you have a variety of dry herbs, it will taste delicious.
- A binding agent must be used before the rub is applied. I used olive oil in this example, but any oil or even a few drops of water or Worchestershire sauce would suffice. Its purpose is to assist the rub adhere to the meat rather than to provide taste.
- When the lamb is nice and moist from the oil, evenly apply the rub, being care to cover the ends as well. A rub shaker works nicely here, or you may sprinkle it with your fingertips.
- With a thick rub like this, it’s difficult to overcook, so just make sure you can see the meat through the rub.
You could add an injection at this point, but there’s really no reason. We still want to experience the delicious lamb flavor, so there’s no need to overdo it.
Setting up your smoker
Lamb reacts best to higher temperatures, so set your smoker to cook between 250 and 325 degrees Fahrenheit. You could go lower, but I feel that the higher temperature renders the thick layer of fat and crisps up the skin better.
Download a free copy of our smoking timings and temperatures charts to have on hand for future reference.
- In this example, we used the minion approach to build up the Weber Smokey Mountain. Fill the charcoal ring with unlit briquettes, then use an upside-down chimney starter to light 15-25 briquettes (more on a truly chilly day).
- After you’ve ashed those briquettes, scatter them over your unlit coals and then add your smoke wood.
- We had some half burned apple wood pieces on hand, but any smoke woods should work just well.
- We began with the water pan half full, then removed it for the last hour of cooking to assist the temperature rise. During the last few minutes, the liquid from the lamb will flow straight into the embers, giving a lovely smoky scent and flavor.
- Once the smoker is ready (don’t worry if it’s not perfectly hot), it’s time to add the lamb.
- Place the lamb fat side up on the grill rack
Monitoring your lamb during the cook
There isn’t much to do for the next four hours besides monitor your temps. Fortunately, lamb is quite forgiving, and even if the smoker reaches 350°F, there is no need to be concerned.
Internal temperature for pulled lamb should be between 195 and 203 degrees Fahrenheit. In my situation, I opted to remove it somewhat early, about 180F, and serve the lamb sliced. At 180F, it still tasted incredibly juicy, so this is something you should certainly try.
- After about an hour of smoking, you may add a few more wood pieces, which should be adequate.
- I use the Smoke from Thermoworks to assist monitor the temperature of the smoker and the lamb. The image below shows how the huge LCD display makes it simple to keep track of your temperatures.
- This shot was taken while the smoker was still heating up and before I put the meat probe. Once the meat is on, all you have to do is set your done temperatures and a high and low alert to warn you if your smoker is going too hot or cold.
- If your lamb is becoming too dark, you may apply the Texas Crutch (wrapping the lamb in foil) after around 4-5 hours, but you don’t need to wrap for this recipe.
- Once the lamb reaches about 180F, remove the water pan if using one and let the smoker to reach 300F. Moving the water pan may be risky, so proceed with care if you choose to do so. Make sure the space surrounding the smoker is clear, and then gently remove the top part and water pan using grill gloves.
- While it was optional, I noticed that the lamb fluids dropping on the hot embers gave a great smoky flavor. The increased heat also crisped up the lamb skin and enhanced the flavor of the fat.
Resting and serving your lamb shoulder
When your thermometer reads 180 190F for sliced lamb or 195 203F for pulled lamb, remove it from the smoker and cover it in foil for 15 to 20 minutes to rest.
- Carve the flesh off the bone using your finest slicing knife. You should observe a gorgeous pink smoke ring if you used a charcoal smoker with excellent smoke wood.
Because I was serving the lamb on little pita flatbread, I sliced it extremely small and mixed it up so that everyone received some pieces with crisp skin and wet fatty portions.
The lamb was delicious with pita bread, hummus, and a pumpkin and pearl barley salad. You may also try our pulled lamb wraps recipe. It would also be delicious on a tortilla, white toast, or just with a green salad and potatoes.
Looking for more delicious lamb recipes? Take a look at this filled and grilled lamb backstrap.