The perfect leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic
It is without a doubt a classic for any Christmas dinner; the leg of lamb. Not only for Christmas but it is also served a lot during Easter. It will work well for any festive season. But how to prepare the perfect leg of lamb? I’ll walk you through it in this post step by step.
The perfect leg of lamb
How to make the perfect leg of lamb? In this recipe I will show you how to make a delicious juicy leg of lamb and confidently place it on the Christmas table.
Table of contents
- The perfect leg of lamb
- What do you need to prepare the leg of lamb?
- Buying of the lamb
- Where does the leg of lamb come from?
- How many servings does the roast lamb leg make
- Preparing the lamb
- What is the right cooking time?
- Can I prepare the leg of lamb in advance?
- Can I keep the leftovers?
- What is the best temperature for the meat?
- What can I serve with the leg of lamb?
A large cut of meat is always a classic at the Christmas table and with good reason. It’s relatively easy, slicing can be done at the table and most people love a good piece of meat.
What do you need to prepare the leg of lamb?
Below I list all the extra’s and tools you need to create the perfect whole leg of lamb.
- Meat thermometer – this is essential to measure the internal temperature of the meat and make sure it is cooked properly
- A large baking tray that will fit the leg of lamb easily
- Aluminium foil to cover after baking
- Sharp knife
Buying of the lamb
Getting it exactly right starts with buying the right piece of meat. I have a favorite supplier where I go each year to buy a leg of lamb. If you have a good butcher in your area that you know and trust go there and ask for recommendations. Make sure you get a bone-in lamb leg. That ads so much extra flavor to the dish. If you insist you can of course use a boneless lamb leg but I would recommend one with the bone. You will definitely not be able to find that at the grocery store so make sure to order it in time at your favorite butcher.
Where does the leg of lamb come from?
The leg of lamb is coming from the rear of the lamb and is a bit fattier then – for instance – a lamb chop. It is also perfect if you’re serving a larger crowd. Instead of having to make several smaller pieces you only have to worry about the one piece of meat. It is always roasted whole and like I said, preferably with the bone in.
How many servings does the roast lamb leg make
Obviously that is depending on the weight and size of your lamb. A whole leg usually weighs somewhere between 2 and 3 kilo and should be more than enough for 6-8 people.
Preparing the lamb
The best way to prepare the lamb is to start by letting the meat get to room temperature. Take it out of the fridge at least an hour or more and leave it standing on the kitchen counter covered, so it can get to the right temperature.
Start by slicing the fat of the leg in diagonal diamond shapes. You need a good sharp knife to do this. Cut around 1 centimeter deep so you have enough space to add your herbal mixture and rub it in.
The herb mixture is made by chopping the rosemary, thyme and garlic as fine as possible. Mix this with a good amount of olive oil and rub the entire leg with it. Also season generously with pepper and salt.
Now comes the time to place the leg in the oven. Preheat the oven at the highest temperature (usually this is around 230˚C (446˚F) Place the remaining fresh garlic cloves, thyme, rosemary and the onions in a large baking tray and place the lamb on top. Place it in the oven and turn the heat down to 150˚C (300˚F)
What is the right cooking time?
That is probably the most asked question but also one that is the hardest to answer. The only right way to get the leg just right is by measuring it with a meat thermometer. You insert the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the leg to make sure it measures correctly. It is easiest to use a thermometer that you can insert and that can stay there so you don’t have to open and close the oven all the time.
How long it takes depends entirely on your oven, how thick the leg of lamb is and how heavy. My leg of lamb of roughly 2 kilo at 150˚C (300˚F) took around four hours. Remember that you are making a slow roast. Due to the lower temperature the meat has all the time to develop the most delicious flavors. You can also ask your butcher if he can give you an estimate on how long he thinks the meat is needing. Most good butchers have a pretty good idea.
If you want to use a boneless leg of lamb make sure to adjust the timings as that will cook quicker. if you’re going for boneless you might also ask your butcher to make a filling to go inside.
Can I prepare the leg of lamb in advance?
Serving a roasted leg of lamb and timing it perfectly for your Christmas dinner can be a bit of a challenge if you’re not entirely sure how long the meat needs. You can prep the entire leg the day before. On the day of your dinner you can cut portions of the meat and heat those (covered with aluminium foil) in an oven at 150˚C. After about 10 minutes the meat should be hot enough and still juicy.
Can I keep the leftovers?
If you have a lot of meat leftover after the dinner, you can slice the rest of the lamb and keep it in the fridge for 1-2 days. It is also delicious as dinner the day after Christmas with some leftover vegetables. Or you can freeze the meat in portions for later use.
What is the best temperature for the meat?
For medium rose stick to around 60˚C. (140˚F). You can bake it a little longer if you want but don’t go any higher than 70˚C (158˚F). Remember that it will also keep rising in temperature during the resting process. Also make sure to have the meat rest for at least 30 minutes covered with some foil.
What can I serve with the leg of lamb?
The leg of lamb combines brilliantly with the roasted vegetables, roasted brussels Sprouts or roasted cauliflower. Also delicious with the baked potatoes. I think the cranberry sauce is also a great addition for serving the lamb. Or make a gravy out of the juices at the bottom of the roasting pan. That’s pretty delicious too.
As a starter you could go for the salmon tartare or the salmon terrine. Or go for a celeriac soup with mushrooms.
As a dessert you could go for this fantastic Christmas trifle or the chocolate chip surprise. Or have a look here for all the Christmas dessert.
The perfect leg of lamb
- Meat thermometer
- Large baking tray
- Aluminium foil
- 2 kgs leg of lamb with bone
- 1 bunch rosemary
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 head garlic Whole head
- 2 onions roughly cut
- olive oil
- pepper and salt
- Cut the lamb on the fatty side. Make incisions of around a centimeter deep in diamant shape. Remove the needles from a few rosemary twigs and thyme and cut them finely. Chop a few of the garlic cloves aas well. Rub the lamb well with olive oil and the herb mixture. Make sure you press it inside the cuts. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven on full temperature (usually around 230˚C) Take the rest of the garlic apart into separate cloves and smash them on the side with a large knife. Spread the onion, a part of the garlic, thyme and rosemary across the bottom of a baking tray. Place the leg of lamb on top and sprinkle with the rest of the garlic and the herbs. Place in the oven and lower the temperature immediately to 150˚C.
- Use the thermometer as that is the only way to be sure that your meat has reached the desired temperature. Medium pink is around 60˚C. You can keep it in the oven longer but never go further than 70˚C. Remember that it will continue cooking once out of the oven too!
- Roast the lamb for about four hours in the oven and check regularly to make sure the top doesn’t get too brown. Baste it from time to time with the cooking liquids in the oventray. If it gets too dark but is not cooked properly yet, cover the baking tray with aluminium foil and place back in the oven
- Take it out of the oven once it reaches the right temperature and wrap in aluminiumfoil. Place a towel over that to keep it warm and leave to rest at least for half an hour in a warm spot. Cut at the table with a large and sharp knife and serve with roasted vegetables and baked potatoes
The nutritional values above are calculated per portion. The details are based on standard nutritional tables and do not constitute a professional nutritional advice.
I just had some slow cooker lamb neck 🙂 And lamb leg is also one of my favourites! Garlic, thyme and rosemary are perfect for the lamb.
Ah this would be great in the slow cooker too! Although this one probably doesn’t fit. Lol. But great idea for a lamb neck. I tend to make pulled pork in the slow cooker always!