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Years ago you could not convince me to make leg of lamb. I grew up eating lamb but I was well into my adulthood before I realized that what I was led to believe was lamb as a child was actually poorly prepared mutton. Mutton is lamb that is older than one year. It is much fattier than lamb. The meat is tough, so it’s often stewed to help tenderize it. Its flavor is usually strong and gamey. It is NOT lamb.
Once I finally experienced perfectly cooked lamb I quickly realized what I was missing. Lamb chops are one of my favorite dishes. However, when I’m preparing lamb for a crowd I will usually choose leg of lamb. I’ve been preparing lamb for holiday celebrations for years now and this is our all-time favorite lamb roast recipe – Leg of Lamb with Fresh Herb Rub and Anchovy Mayo. I know! Anchovy with lamb, WHAT? You’ll just have to trust me on this one. Anchovies can be a turnoff to some but, once I learned to use them properly, I realized they are a great way to layer flavor. No one can figure out the ingredient mixed into the mayo that gives it that unique delicious flavor. Give it a try!
What is a leg of lamb? A lamb leg generally refers to the back haunches of the animal and the most common cut includes the upper part of the leg only. Ask the butcher to trim the lamb leg for you if they have not already done so. This means that they will trim away the fell, a thick outer layer of fat, as well as any additional fat that you request to have removed. Personally, I like to keep a layer of fat on the roast which insulates the meat and keeps it tender. I prefer a butterflied boneless or semi-boneless leg of lamb.
For my animal lover friends, If you are squeamish about preparing lamb you can ask for lambs that are market weight, which means no baby lambs, and no lambs that are too old and verging on (tougher and older) mutton.
Do NOT be intimidated by the idea of cooking lamb. It is a more expensive cut of meat so some people might be afraid to risk ruining their investment. Luckily, this is a not-fussy, super-easy roast. It can be cooked on the grill or in the oven. The key is to not overcook it. Trust me when I say you do not want well-done lamb. Medium rare, a little pink yet still tender, is my preference.
This recipe is for a grilled roast. On a gas grill, use your high heat setting and turn often. If cooking in the oven use 325°f with the following guide. (But, I beg you to try medium rare even if you are a medium well kind of cook.) Remember, your roast will continue to rise in temperature a few degrees when you take it off the heat and let it rest.
- Rare: 125°F (about 15 minutes per pound)
- Medium-Rare: 130°F to 135°F (about 20 minutes per pound)
- Medium: 135°F to 140°F (about 25 minutes per pound)
- Well-Done: 155°F to 165°F (about 30 minutes per pound)
This fresh herb rub made with fresh rosemary, thyme and sage is our go-to seasoning for everything these days. I first used it on Lamb but I have also used it on prime rib, chicken and even whole fish. It’s also good on roasted potatoes. Rub it on everything.
Leg of Lamb with Fresh Herb Rub and Anchovy Mayo
- 4 pounds boneless leg of lamb
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Herb Salt (recipe below)
- Anchovy Mayonnaise (recipe below)
- Rub lamb with oil and Herb Salt. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour before grilling.
- Prepare a grill for high heat. Grill lamb, turning often, until lightly charred and an instant-read thermometer registers 130°, 20–30 minutes.
- Transfer to a cutting board; let rest 10 minutes. Thinly slice against the grain and serve with Anchovy Mayonnaise.
Do ahead: Lamb can be seasoned 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.
- 8 fresh sage leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pulse sage, rosemary, and thyme in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add salt, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and black pepper and pulse to blend.
Do ahead: Salt can be made 2 months ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup grape seed oil
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 6 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, very finely chopped
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- optional: Add some of the herbs to your mayo to add an additional layer of flavor.
Whisk egg yolk, mustard, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually drizzle in grape seed oil, then olive oil, drop by drop at first, until mayonnaise is thickened and smooth. Whisk in anchovies and remaining lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.
Do ahead: Mayonnaise can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.