When you need an impressive dish, serve this succulent smoked leg of lamb and watch all your guests happily devour every bite. Coated with a simple yet flavorful dry rub, this smoked lamb comes out unbelievably tender and juicy with the perfect touch of complex wood notes. You'll be surprised how simple it is to make, and this recipe only calls for about 10 minutes of hands-on preparation time before your trusty smoker takes care of the rest.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Makes an elegant yet easy dinner: A leg of lamb looks stunning on the dinner table and always elicits those oohs and ahhs. You’ll look like a master chef serving this lamb, but no one has to know how simple it is. If you can apply a dry rub, you can prepare this beautiful piece of meat.
Great for all sorts of occasions: Lamb is a favorite dinner for a special occasion, such as Christmas and Easter, but don’t save this recipe just for the holidays. Smoked lamb is equally perfect for your summer grill-outs, so you’ll get plenty of use with this one recipe. Don’t be surprised if it becomes one of your favorite smoked meats.
No oven space required: The smoker takes care of all the work. If it’s summer, you don’t have to worry about heating up your kitchen, and during the holidays, you can leave your oven open for plenty of side dishes and baking.
Serves a crowd: Your typical leg of lamb roast weighs between 5-7 pounds and can feed about eight people. If you’re hosting an even bigger party, you can pick up another roast or two and smoke them at the same time. No one is going hungry when this lamb is on the menu.
Take care of prep work before guests arrive: Once you take the few minutes needed to prepare the lamb, you can put it on the smoker, and you’re free to mingle until dinner time. Entertaining doesn’t get easier than that.
Leg of lamb: You can use a boneless, bone-in or partial bone-in leg of lamb. Pictured is a partial bone-in leg of lamb. Keep in mind, the bone acts as an insulator, so a boneless lamb leg cooks faster. Boneless leg of lamb is also often prepared with kitchen twine — leave the twine on during the smoking process and remove it before carving to help it stay together while cooking.
Olive oil: This helps our dry rub adhere to the meat and promotes browning.
Dry rub: We use a simple mixture of dried rosemary, dried oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Rosemary and oregano are classic lamb seasonings, so don’t skip those. If you want to use fresh herbs, you're welcome to substitute those.
Step 1: We start by stirring together the dry rub in a small bowl (photo 1). For now, we set it aside.
Step 2: Now we rub olive oil all over the lamb and then coat it with the dry rub (photos 2 and 3).
Step 3: And just like that, we’re ready to put the lamb roast on a 225-degree F smoker. I like to put it directly on the grill grates fat-side up (photo 4).
As the meat cooks, the fat melts to make for an even more flavorful finished dish. To ensure our lamb meat cooks to the perfect temperature, we insert a leave-in thermometer into the middle of the roast.
Step 4: When the lamb leg reaches our desired internal temperature, we remove it from the smoker, cover it with heavy-duty aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving into thin slices on a cutting board (photo 5).
In just four simple steps, you’re ready to enjoy the most mouth-watering lamb leg roast. Heavenly, isn’t it?
Note: This smoked leg of lamb recipe was tested on an electric pellet smoker, but you can use any type of smoker.
What to Serve on the Side
Of course, no meal is complete without an array of your favorite side dishes, especially when celebrating a holiday. Here are a few recipes you’ll love.
- Smoked macaroni and cheese
- Smoked mashed potatoes
- Croissant stuffing
- Air fryer fingerling potatoes
- Truffle egg salad
- Fresh green bean casserole
- Roasted potato salad
A lamb roast is also lovely with a nice glaze. While this recipe is certainly delicious on its own, here are a few glazes I use with other meats that would work just as well with the flavor of the lamb.
Internal Temperature Guide
The USDA recommends cooking lamb until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. However, many world-class chefs much prefer cooking lamb on the rarer side for a juicier, tastier piece of meat, and they’re not wrong. This lamb leg is wonderful at medium rare, and I wouldn’t go higher than medium — the meat will start to dry out and toughen.
Once we remove the meat from the smoker, it will raise about 5 degrees. Depending on your personal preference, use this chart to determine when to remove the meat.
|Rare||120 degrees F|
|Medium rare||130 degrees F|
|Medium||135 degrees F|
|Medium well||140 degrees F|
|Well done||150 degrees F|
For a point of reference, I removed the pictured lamb when the internal temperature reached 130 degrees F. The lamb was a perfect medium rare and melt-in-your-mouth tender.
How to Store Leftovers
If you have leftover lamb, allow it to cool completely and then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. The leftovers make wonderful sandwiches and sliders.
Alternatively, you can freeze the leftovers. After all, this is a big cut of meat — we don't want it to go to waste. Keep the lamb in a freezer-safe container, and it should last for two to three months. You can still eat it after that, but the quality starts to go down.
Every cut of meat is different, and various factors can affect the cooking time, such as the weather, bone preparation, desired internal temperature of the meat and heat consistency. That said, plan for about two to three hours for rare or medium rare and three to four hours for medium or medium well when smoking a standard 5- to 7-pound roast. Boneless cuts of meat cook even faster.
The ideal smoking temperature is 225 degrees F, though you can go up to 250 degrees F. This low and slow cooking method gives the lamb plenty of time to take in that wonderful smoke flavor.
For this particular cut, we do not need to wrap the lamb when smoking. While we wrap brisket and pork shoulder to help the meat get out of the stall, that’s not the case with leg of lamb. Wrapping would just keep that smoky flavor from infusing the meat.
Cherry wood is a favorite for lamb and other gamey meats. This fruity wood delivers a sweetness that’s perfect with lamb. In that same vein, apple wood works nicely. I’ve also used hickory with excellent results, and that's a great option if you prefer a stronger smoky flavor. Since I worked with an electric smoker, I used wood pellets. If you're smoking on another type of unit, such as a charcoal grill, using wood chunks instead of wood chips is recommended because of the longer burn time.
Let the meat sit at room temperature before smoking: This removes the chill from the meat and promotes more even cooking.
Don’t skip the resting period: This allows the juices to redistribute to the meat. If you carve too early, you’ll be left with dry lamb, and no one wants that.
Use a water pan: This creates a moist environment to help keep our meat nice and juicy while cooking.
Infuse for extra garlicky flavor: If you’re a big garlic fan, you can cut small slits into the lamb and stuff them with fresh garlic cloves while smoking for extra flavor. The same can be done with fresh rosemary sprigs.
Don’t let the meat thermometer touch the bone: This gives you an inaccurate reading.
Know your food source: If you prefer less gamey flavor, look for an American lamb. Australian and New Zealand lamb tends to show off a stronger flavor. Your local butcher or grocery store meat department can let you know if the package doesn't specify.
For the perfect beer pairing, you’ll love an amber or brown biere de garde. This type of beer shows off earthy notes that are perfect with game meat and the rosemary. You also get a touch of sweet esters, which is especially lovely if you go with cherry or apple wood or serve it with one of the aforementioned glazes.
If you prefer wine with your meal, try a French malbec. This wine features a blackberry backbone that’s nice with lamb as well as tobacco notes to pair with our smoking preparation.
Whether you’re celebrating the holidays or hosting a summer barbecue, you can’t go wrong with this smoked leg of lamb recipe. Everyone will love that juicy, flavorful meat.
Get More Smoked Meats
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Smoked Leg of Lamb
- Wood pellets or wood chunks cherry wood, apple wood or hickory recommended
- Water pan
- Aluminum foil
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ tablespoon smoked paprika
- ½ tablespoon black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leg of lamb bone-in, boneless or partial bone (see notes)
- Heat the smoker to 225 degrees F. Meanwhile, stir together the dried rosemary, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, smoked paprika and black pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Rub olive oil all over the leg of lamb on both sides. Coat with the spice mixture on both sides as well.
- Place the lamb fat-side up directly on the grill grates of the smoker with a water pan. Insert a leave-in meat thermometer in the center of the lamb, making sure not to touch the bone if present. Close the lid and smoke until it reaches your desired internal temperature: 120 degrees F for rare, 130 degrees F for medium rare, 135 degrees F for medium, 140 degrees F for medium well and 150 degrees F for well done.
- Remove the lamb from the smoker. Cover with aluminum foil and let the meat rest for 15-20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute to the meat. Carve into thin slices, about ¼-½ inch in thickness. Enjoy!
- Cook to medium rare with medium being the highest internal temperature for best results. After that, the meat isn't as tender or juicy.
- For a bone-in or partially bone-in leg of lamb, look for a roast that's about 5-7 pounds. A boneless leg of lamb will be closer to 3-4 pounds. If using boneless, it will likely come tied in kitchen twine — keep the lamb in the twine until you're ready to carve.
- If you prefer less gamey flavor, look for an American lamb. Australian and New Zealand lamb tends to show off a stronger flavor. Your local butcher or grocery store meat department can let you know if the package doesn't specify.
- Let the meat sit at room temperature for one hour before smoking to take off the chill and promote more even cooking.
- If you’re a big garlic fan, you can cut small slits into the lamb and stuff them with fresh garlic cloves while smoking for extra flavor. The same can be done with fresh rosemary sprigs.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.