This grilled leg of lamb recipe is one of my favorites. It is so simple yet the flavors are classic southern French and the natural savory flavor of the meat is left to shine. This was inspired by Richard Olney’s description of how Lulu Peyraud sometimes cooked a leg of lamb, but she did it in an oven. You could certainly do the same thing in the oven but I think it is even more profoundly tasty on the grill.
What you will need:
- A leg of lamb: This is best with a bone in leg of lamb that is on the smaller side, 4 to 6 lbs. You could do it with a boneless leg too if that is all you have available. Remove any excess fat on the outside but don’t worry about getting it all off.
- Olive Oil
- Several large handfuls of they twigs: It is best to use wild thyme that has some woody branches in it which help to support the lamb. If you only have the tender green sprigs you usually get in markets, that is ok but you’ll probably have to use more of them.
- Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Red wine vinegar
- Additional large branches of rosemary and/or thyme for basting
How to cook this grilled leg of lamb recipe:
- Get your grill started and set it up for indirect heat cooking with the charcoal off to one or both sides with a pan of water in between.
- While your grill is warming up, pour several tablespoons of olive oil over the leg of lamb and rub it into all the surfaces. Grind over black pepper and season generously with coarse salt.
- Before placing your grilling grate on the grill, cover the area which will be over indirect heat with the handfuls of thyme branches. They are going to act as a bed for the leg of lamb to sit on. They should primarily be under the leg. If there is too much around on either side this will burn quickly, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but might burn portions of the exterior of the lamb. Gently lay the seasoned leg of lamb on the thyme and place the grilling rack on the grill. Cover to keep in smoke and temperature. If you have a grill thermometer you want to shoot for around 350 to 425 degrees F. Hotter initially is ok but let the temp drop a bit as time goes on so it cooks nice and slow and even.
- After it is started and the lid is on, prepare your basting mixture which is about equal portions olive oil and red wine vinegar in a bowl mixed with a bunch of additional salt and pepper. You can use branches of rosemary, thyme and/or savory, tied together, as a basting brush. If you prefer, you can just use a long-handled basting brush.
- After about 15 minutes, and periodically thereafter, baste the grilling leg of lamb with abundant basting mixture. This will help add flavor and develop a nice, flavorful glazed crust on the outside of the roast.
Cooking time will vary depending on the heat of your grill and the size of your leg but will typically take at least an hour, up to 2 hours. I shoot for a medium rare doneness where the interior is still pink or even red for maximal flavor and juiciness. You can use a meat thermometer to test the interior if in doubt. You may need to add small amounts of charcoal periodically to keep the heat up.
- When the grilled leg of lamb is getting close, I like to throw the basting brush (rosemary and other herb branches) on the coals and then re-close the lid. You can even take all that thyme the leg has been sitting on and put it on the coals. These will burn quickly and give off a really rich, aromatic smoke that just infuses the meat with incredible smokey flavor.
- When done, simply remove from the grill (careful, they are heavy and hard to pick up with a tongs!) and place on a warm plater and cover with foil. It should be left to rest a while, at least 15 minutes and up to half an hour or more for larger legs.
- The grilled leg of lamb is then ready to carve and serve. Be sure to carve a slice from each section of the leg meat for each guest as each has their own unique flavor and consistency.
Enjoy this leg of lamb recipe!