Have you ever attempted to cook lamb roast but couldn’t just quite get it to the right temperature? Or maybe you wanted your leg of lamb medium-rare, but you overcooked it until it was way past well done and came out dry and too tough to chew. These problems are common when it comes to roasting lamb. Luckily, there are some guidelines we can follow to ensure we avoid some of the common lamb roasting mistakes.
The recommended lamb roast temperature by the USDA is an internal temperature of at least 145˚F for medium-rare meat. Well-done lamb should have an internal temperature of at least 165˚F. Remove lamb from the heat source when meat is 5˚F lower than the minimum (as it will continue to cook).
Lamb is a delicious type of meat, and if you cook it, you’ll want to do it right. This article will explore the guidelines for roasting lamb, the different roasting methods, and what meat temperature is the best.
The Best Temperature to Cook Lamb
The USDA states that lamb patties and ground lamb should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160˚F. For lamb steaks, chops, and roasts, the minimum internal temperature is 145˚F before removing from the heat source. The USDA also recommends that you use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature.
A consumer may cook the lamb roast to a higher temperature depending on their personal preference of doneness. Many people like to eat lamb that is medium-rare and well-done. Therefore, it would be best to try it both ways to see what you like the best.
Lamb cooked at temperatures less than 140˚F is not considered safe because of the potentially harmful bacteria that live inside the meat. If the temperature isn’t high enough, there’s no guarantee that these bacteria were killed. However, many people also enjoy lamb rare, in which the interior of the meat is red. A rare slice of lamb is cooked below the recommended USDA regulations at the minimum temperature of 125˚F.
For those who like eating lamb roast rare, it is possible to do so without getting sick. Eating a rare lamb roast that is pink on the inside is okay because the heat would have killed any bacteria that might have been on the surface of the meat. This is safe as long as the meat has been seared well. On the other hand, minced lamb and mutton should never be eaten pink but should be cooked to a golden brown color.
What Lamp Looks Like at Different Temperatures
- Cooking lamb medium-rare is usually done at a temperature of 145˚F, which the USDA recommends. The interior of the meat here is pink or slightly pink.
- As for well-done, the temperature should be at least 165˚F and cooked until the meat is gray-brown. As long as the internal temperature of the lamb roast is above 145 degrees, then it is ready to serve. Personal preference will determine if you want medium-rare, medium, or well-done.
Pro Tip: If you want to make sure the lamb roast is cooked right, you can slice it in the thickest part to let the juices run. When the meat is cooked medium and well-done, the juices will run a golden brown color from the meat. For medium-rare, the juices will run pink.
When it is removed from its heat source, the internal temperature of the lamb will continue to rise by about 5 degrees. Because of this aftereffect of cooking, you should carefully time when to remove the lamb from its heat source in order to get your desired results.
Best Way to Cook Lamb
Slow-cooking a lamb roast is one of the ways to produce the most flavorful and delicious results. What it means for your lamb roast to be slow-cooked is that you have given time for the connective tissues and the fats to break down, creating juicy and tender meat that will fall right off the bone.
If you are considering slow cooking lamb, the oven will not always be your most reliable friend. Some parts of the lamb require a long amount of time to be slow-cooked. Therefore you may resort to using a slow cooker, such as a roasting pot or a crockpot.
Using the oven works well for most parts of the lamb because lamb is naturally very tender meat. Tender cuts of lamb loin, leg, and shoulder will generally cook well in the oven. These parts are rich in fatty tissues, which will break down easily during the cooking process. But since ovens are a dry heat cooking source, you want to avoid leaving the lamb in for too long, as this will dry your meat.
Try This: If you need to slow cook the lamb or want slow-cooked results, a crockpot should be used.
Using a slow cooker such as a crockpot is an excellent way to slow cook lamb. This way, the meat will come out really juicy, tender, and practically fall right off the bone. The time for waiting may take 5 hours, which is a lot longer when compared to the 90 minute cook period for lamb roast by the oven, but it is well worth the wait, as the meat will be tender from the crockpot.
Choose the Right Cut
Sometimes meat from the slow cooker may still come out tough. Therefore, it is vital to choose the right kind of lamb meat for slow cooking. Generally, meats with thick fatty parts that are well-marbled produce much better results in the crockpot. Also, cooking the lamb with the right amount of liquid is key. If you are using too much liquid to the point the lamb is submerged, you will not do it justice. A slow cooker is already producing a lot of moisture to slow cook the meat, making it moist and tender. 2 cups of water/other flavored liquid should do just fine.
If you are making a lamb roast stew, a general tip is to raise the liquid to cover 1/3 of the meat. This will prevent boiling the meat, which will result in it becoming tough and unpalatable.
Finally, the lamb must slow cook for at least 5-9 hours on low heat. This process is to break down fats and connective tissues in the meat, giving you the tender results you desire. If the lamb continues to be tough, this means it will need to be slow-cooked longer with liquid levels remaining at the appropriate level.
If the lamb meat is tough, this means the meat is either overcooked, or you haven’t given it the time for the slow cooking to break down the fats and the connective tissues. Leaving the lamb roast longer in the slow cooker will give it time to become juicy and tender. It is also possible the cook tender lamb in the oven with the right recipes, but it is much easier to overcook it this way. The dry heat of the oven will not break down the collagen, as well as slow cooking methods will.
Resting Lamb after Cooking
Before cooking lamb, if you are going to season the meat, you may choose to let it rest in order to allow the seasonings to soak in. Depending on the chef, letting the lamb soak in seasonings may be good to do overnight or even a few hours before cooking. For others, 30 minutes works just fine. So, it really depends on your preference and the amount of time you have.
The resting process of the lamb is extremely important after cooking because the juices need time to redistribute throughout the meat. Therefore, let the meat rest as soon as it is done cooking. Ideally, it should rest for at least 15 minutes. Slicing into the meat right after you have finished cooking will cause all of the juice to spill out onto the cutting board. The result is a less juicy and tender dinner. Do not make this mistake; be patient and wait for the juices to soak into the meat.
Pro Tip: While resting the lamb roast, also be sure to wrap it in a loose foil. This will protect the meat from being exposed to any contaminants or particles that could decrease the quality of your meat. Covering your meat will also allow it to cook a bit more as the heat is still increasing the internal temperature. Never wrap the meat too tightly in foil, as this may cause it to leak the juices that you are trying to let soak back into the roast.
Lastly, it would be best to keep it on a warm serving plate while you rest it. This is a way of ensuring the meat is maintaining its internal temperature while resting. Resisting it on a cold surface may decrease its internal temperature, which you want to avoid.
Also, note that in the resting process, the meat will increase in its internal temperature. This means if you are cooking your lamb roast to medium-rare (which has a recommended cook temperature of 145 degrees), you can still take the lamb roast out of the oven at 140 degrees internal temperature. During the rest period, the lamb roast’s internal temperature will rise to 145 degrees.
Best Parts of the Lamb to Roast
Lamb meat has many tender parts. Therefore, there is no real guideline as to which is the best. Some cuts of the lamb are tougher than others, so these may need a longer roasting time.
A boneless leg of lamb is generally the coveted part of many lamb cuisines. This is because the meat usually comes out very juicy and tender. Slow cooking a lamb leg, whether it is boneless on bone-in, is the favored way among many since this allows for the juices to soak through the entire leg. This is also a part of the lamb that is marbled and rich in flavor, so it comes out really tender when slow-cooked.
Other Great Cuts of Lamb
- The lamb shoulder can also produce very tender meat. This part requires a lot longer period of slow-roasting but can also be cooked with dry heat. The bones in the shoulder also make it challenging to carve out the meat. It can also be cut into lamb chops, although this is not as desirable as chops from the ribs would be.
- Lamb’s breast requires a slow and low heat moist cook, which is ideal for a crockpot or other slow cooker. This is because this part of the lamb contains a lot of fats and connective tissues, so when cooked slow, the meat will become tender and juicy.
- Lamb shanks are the tough, muscular parts on the animal’s lower leg. These muscles are used every day when the animal moves, so the meat itself has a lot of connective tissues. Lamb shanks are great for being braised in a roasting pot and can also be slow-cooked.
- Lamb loins are considered one of the lamb’s prime and most coveted parts because of their tender juiciness and richness in fats. Lamb loins are already naturally tender when cooked, so they cook well in dry heat. They are best for lamb roast and also lamb chops.
Many ingredients that go well with roasted lamb include rosemary (for seasoning), olive oil, Dijon mustard, butter salt, pepper, and garlic. People also like to eat roasted lamb with potatoes and other vegetables, such as carrots and celery.
Check out the video below for a delicious recipe idea!
Roasting lamb is the best way to ensure that you will get the juiciest and most tender meal from your cut of meat. Many parts of the lamb are rich in fatty and connective tissues and become really tender when you do slow cook them. For the best results, you should slow cook most parts of the lamb in a slow cooker, such as a crockpot. However, slow-cooking lamb steaks, legs, and loins in an oven are also very delicious as dry heat will cook well an already tender part of the lamb.
Overall, roasted lamb is a delicious investment, so don’t wait to get cooking. Try it out and find out what works best for you.
For more, don’t miss How to Tell When Brats Are Done on Grill | The Best Way.
Hi, I’m Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.
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