|Our Wood Fired Leg of Lamb|
Lamb is one of those proteins that tend to be associated with special holidays and occasions rather than as a common animal protein to introduce to the grill. Let’s change that with this easy and highly flavorful way to add wood flavoring to cuts of lamb on the charcoal grill. Know this technique can easily be done on the gas grill as well so simply pick your equipment and follow the suggested technique to bring abundant flavor and juiciness to your favorite cut of lamb.
I’ll be doing a leg of lamb and rib loins of lamb on a charcoal grill using charcoal and wood chunks to bring the great smoke flavor.
Grill Set UpFor the charcoal grill, I like to have a fine mesh screen in place over the charcoal area to utilize even the smallest ember for the heat and temperature control of cooking on the grill. I get two chimney starters of charcoal (I’m using lump hardwood) ready. My grill will have three rib loins plus a leg of lamb on it. I also get about four wood chunks – I’m using Single Filet sizing from SmokinLicious® in ash, sugar maple, and wild cherry – ready to go on top of the hot coals once poured into the charcoal area.
For a gas grill set up, pre-heat the grill to maintain a cooking temperature of 275°-300°F. Use only the heat of the burners on one side of the grill, while the other side remains off. The lamb will be placed on the grill with the burners in the “off” position. This is the indirect method of cooking and is an easy way to ensure that the lamb cooks without burning the skin and that you don’t have to babysit the grill! Wood chunks would be placed either directly on the heat shields of the lit burners or in a smoker box or disposable pan set on the lit burners.
A Flavorful Drip PanBefore the fire is started, I’ve prepared a drip pan containing Syrah wine, rough cut onion, garlic, and mint leaves to catch the renderings from the meat and prevent flare-ups on my direct method charcoal grill. If using a gas grill, this pan would go under the grill grate where the meat is placed. Another benefit to the drip pan is it adds flavor to the cooking environment producing an aromatic convection steam. Since the leg of lamb is thickest, it will go on the grill about 45 minutes ahead of the loins. The leg must maintain a temperature of 275° to 300°F on the grill. I insert a temperature probe in the thickest portion of the leg to ensure internal temperature.
Flavorful, Easy GrillingAfter 45 minutes of initial cooking to the leg of lamb only, it’s time to add the rib lions. Since I have a total of three loins, it is a full grill. The temperature probe will remain in the leg of lamb as this will determine when everything comes off the grill to rest. It can be a challenge to add charcoal when the grill grate is full and your cooking on a kettle grill, but if you keep a helper nearby, and you have chimney starter ready with hot coal, this won’t be a huge issue. Our lamb has been oiled and rubbed with fresh herbs, garlic, and seasoning. Just a few hours of wood grilling to perfection in flavor.
The FinishOne of the tricks to grilling with wood on either a charcoal or gas grill is to have a plan on how to maintain the main protein while not depleting any of the moisture. I love to use insulated blankets, the kind you purchase for a hot water tank. They work perfectly at maintaining the meat’s temperature so you can be up to an hour away from serving. I wrap the meat in foil and then in the insulated blanket. Sometimes, I’ll use a cooler if I’ve run out of places to put foods for a big gathering.
The beautiful, flavorful skin on the lamb is a mahogany color providing just the right amount of bite to each piece, courtesy of cherry, maple and ash hardwoods. We are serving our lamb with a Jasmine rice and wood-fired Brussels sprouts and carrot, along with a wood-fired Canadian salmon. Remember, lamb doesn’t have to be reserved for the special occasion. It’s readily available throughout the year and is a perfect protein to add to the grill.
Tasting Notes:To tone down the boldness of the smoke, always reach for hardwoods that are lighter in flavor tones. These would include Alder, Ash, and Wild Cherry.
Cooking the lamb on a charcoal grill will impart stronger wood flavorings than a gas grill. Especially if you use a direct method of cooking (food is placed directly over the charcoal and wood).