Lamb is not as popular a choice among pitmasters when it comes to smoking, or at least it is not as commonly cooked as ribs or brisket. But the fact is that smoked lamb shoulder is a delicious meal and is easy to prepare even by newbies in the art of smoking.
The lamb shoulder cut has a thick layer of fat, which means that you will need to prepare it at a higher temperature. This will allow the fat to render evenly and the lamb’s skin to develop a beautiful caramelization. Because of this requirement for higher heat, lamb is not so complicated to prepare as compared to other meats, which require low and slow smoking and attention to keeping the heat at a certain lower level.
The resulting lamb shoulder dish should be juicy, and fatty with a slight nuance of gaminess.
Here is a complete guide for preparing the perfect smoked lamb shoulder.
Step 1 – prepping the lamb shoulder and the rub
Purchase the lamb shoulder from a trustworthy butcher or another supplier as the first step. Right now, lamb shoulder from Australia or New Zealand is the finest you can get.
When the lamb shoulder is ready, you may either make the rub from scratch or use the leftover rub from your Thanksgiving turkey.
The Simon and Garfunkel dry rub, which contains salt, sugar, parsley, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil, bay leaves, powdered black pepper, and dried crushed hot red pepper flakes, is a fantastic suggestion for a rub for smoked lamb shoulder.
Here is how to prepare the rub for your smoked lamb shoulder:
- Combine all of the ingredients of the rub in a blender and use the pulse function to mix them together well.
- After that, use some sort of binding agents such as olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, or some water to cover the meat and allow for the herbs and spices to stick to it properly.
- Apply the rub on the moist lamp using an adjustable dry rub shaker or by sprinkling it evenly and generously on the meat.
- Apply the rub but make sure that you can see the meat through it.
- If you want, you can add an injection to infuse the lamb, but this step is not really necessary as the lamb itself tastes delicious, and you can risk overpowering this flavor.
Step 2 – get the smoker ready and going
- As mentioned earlier, lamb can handle higher temperatures, so set the smoker to a temperature from 250 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher heat will help make the skin crisp and render the fat.
- Set the smoker, such as the Weber Smokey Mountain using the Minion Method, and use a compact rapid-fire chimney starter to light up the starter coal or briquettes.
- When they burn to ash, add them to the well in the middle of the unlit briquettes.
- Add the chosen smoke wood, apple chunks, or others.
- Fill the water pan to the middle, but you will have to remove it around the midpoint of the cooking in order to allow for the heat to be high enough and so that the melted fat from the meat drips directly on the hot coals for an added smokiness.
- When the smoker is ready and has reached the desired temperature, you can add the lamb.
- Place it on the cooking rack with the fat side up.
Step 3 – keeping an eye on the lamb during the cooking
Once your lamb shoulder is in the smoker, all which is left for you to do is to keep an eye on the temperature in the cooker for the next 4 hours. Make sure that the temperature remains from 250 to 325 degrees during the cooking.
Even if the temperature rises above this level at some point, you don’t need to worry, as the lamb can handle temperatures of up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit pretty well.
- Monitor the temperature of the meat with a reliable meat thermometer. If you want pulled lamb, then aim for an internal temperature of 195-203 degrees Fahrenheit. For sliced lamb – aim for temperatures from 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. You can, of course, pull it out even earlier – at 180 degrees and let it rest and cook to the desired temperature.
- You may want to add some more wood chunks after the first hour of cooking.
- It will be easier for you, and better for the cooking process, if you use a good thermometer which will measure the meat’s temperature and the temperature in the cooker, without the need of opening it every time. It is advisable to get a wireless thermometer with dual probes and with a receiver with an alarm function so that you can enjoy doing something else while the lamb is cooking and yet can monitor the temperatures closely.
- In case you fear that the lamb shoulder is becoming too dark during the cooking, you can wrap it in foil after 4-5 hours of cooking.
- When the temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit, you may want to remove your water pan so that the temperature inside the smoker can get to 300 degrees or higher. Remember to use suitable grilling gloves when handling the water pan during cooking.
- Once you remove the water pan, the temperature inside the smoker will rise, and the fat from the meat will drip directly on the hot coals allowing for the emission of delicious smoke, which will infuse the meat. Plus, the higher temperatures will make the skin of the meat crispy and tasty too.
Step 4 – resting and serving the lamb shoulder
When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 180-190 degrees (if you are preparing sliced lamb shoulder) or 195-203 degrees Fahrenheit (for pulled lamb), you should pull the meat out of the smoker to let it rest.
Wrap the lamb shoulder in some foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, you can proceed to carve the meat with a suitable sharp slicing knife. When prepared properly, the meat should have a distinctive pink-colored smoke ring in the middle.
You can slice it or dice it as preferred and serve it with a BBQ mop sauce of your choice, salads and sides, or on pita bread, or as you like it.
Now, you and your guests and family can enjoy this delicious fatty and juicy meat!
Ingredients for making smoked lamb shoulder
- 1 lamb shoulder
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, or water
For the Simon and Garfunkel rub:
- Salt – 1 tablespoon
- Sugar – 1 tablespoon
- Dried parsley – 1 tablespoon
- Dried sage – 2 tablespoons
- Dried rosemary – 1 tablespoon
- Dried thyme – 1 tablespoon
- Dried oregano – 1 tablespoon
- Dried basil – 1 tablespoon
- Dried and crushed bay leaf – 1 tablespoon
- Ground black pepper – 1 tablespoon
- Red hot pepper flakes (optional)
Instructions for cooking smoked lamb shoulder
- Set the smoker to a temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit
- Bend the ingredients for the rub in a blender using the pulse function
- Cover the lamb with some olive oil, water, or Worcestershire sauce, and sprinkle with salt
- Sprinkle the rub on top of the lamb evenly
- Place it in the preheated smoker with the fat side up
- Smoke the meat at 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 4 hours
- Remove the water pan and let the lamb cook at higher temperatures of 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
- If necessary, wrap the meat in foil for the final stages of the cooking
- Pull off the meat from the smoker as soon as the temperature of the meat reaches 195 to 203 degrees Fahrenheit
- Wrap the lamb in foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes
- Slice it and serve it as preferred