The Rules Chefs Want You To Follow When Making A Leg Of Lamb

You're putting together a holiday feast or a dinner party, and you've decided a leg of lamb will be on the menu — now what? There are a few rules chefs have given to ensure you get the perfect end result and leave all your guests well fed.

The first step when making a leg of lamb involves picking what type of leg you want. The cut is relatively versatile and can come either boneless or bone-in (via The Spruce Eats). While there are pros and cons to both styles, if you're looking for a foolproof recipe, consider selecting a leg of lamb that has been deboned, as removing the bone will help the meat cook more evenly. Chowhound says you might also want to consider the number of people you're looking to feed — the rule of thumb is about eight to 12 ounces of meat per person.

When it comes to seasoning the leg of lamb as you prepare to place it in the oven, there are a few options. As Chowhound mentions, Chef Peter Merriman is a big fan of a marinade and suggests creating one with salt, sugar, rosemary, Dijon mustard, and lemon, then allowing the lamb to soak in all the flavor. However, if you've forgotten that step, or simply don't have the time, not to worry! Lamb is very flavorful on its own, so the article suggests rubbing the exterior with herbs and spices such as garlic, thyme, and mint, prior to roasting, for a delectable finished product.

Tips for cooking a leg of lamb

With leaner cuts such as a leg of lamb, you'll want to start out with a very hot oven — about 450 degrees Fahrenheit — to get a beautiful brown on the exterior of your lamb (via Chowhound). Once you have that flavor sealed in (around 15 to 20 minutes), lower the temperature and allow the lamb to cook through. While some roasts take hours upon hours in the oven, Chowhound notes a leg of lamb is relatively quick, and can generally be completed in less than two hours.

To determine whether your leg of lamb is cooked to perfection, the easiest way to check is by using a meat thermometer. As The Kitchn explains, a medium-rare lamb will clock in at about 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, a medium at 135 to 140, while well-done lamb comes in at about 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. AllRecipes suggests taking out your leg of lamb a few degrees before it actually hits the perfect temperature, as the internal temperature of the meat will increase slightly as it rests, allowing it to reach your desired level of doneness. 

Finally, before you even think about serving the lamb, you need to take about 20 minutes to let the meat rest. Resting is crucial for most meats, as it allows the juices to distribute throughout the meat, and permits the muscle fibers to relax so the protein is more tender (via ThermoBlog).