How to Smoke Lamb Shoulder
Smoked lamb shoulder, y’all. Lamb isn’t the most famous of barbecue meats, but it’s fatty and slightly gamey meat means it’s practically built for smoking.
Recently I was invited by Whole Foods to come and chat with Reece the Butcher about all things meat related. Reece told me that they were now farming Dorper lamb in Texas, which is also quite popular to farm in the more arid and harsh regions of Australia. An engineered breed from South Africa, the Dorper is bred for eating, with a shorter coat than sheep bred for wool and the ability to withstand some pretty harsh environmental conditions. Reece also said that the American palate seemed to be more open to Dorper, since it was the “beef of the lamb world”, or, less intense in gamey flavor than you’d find in traditional lamb breeds. Not too sure how I feel about that, the lambier the better, I reckon!
Growing up in Australia, lamb has always been one of the major meats, and a Sunday lamb roast is as Aussie as they come, mate. In particular the fattiness of the shoulder lends itself to being the perfect for slow cooking and, ipso facto, for smoking and barbecuing too. And although they do love to barbecue mutton in Kentucky, lamb just ain’t a thing in Texas. So, I held my own experiment.
Whole Foods were kind enough to give me the lamb shoulder for this test, which was actually New Zealand lamb. So, it had flown nearly as long as I had to get there. Though a leg is equally delicious for roasting, the shoulder is slightly fattier, making it even more suitable for smoking. Here’s how my first attempt went:
I started by seasoning the meat with a healthy amount of kosher salt, pepper, olive oil and dried oregano. I mean, really rub that stuff in. Get intimate. There is a huge Greek population in Melbourne, Australia who have influenced the way we prepare and flavor our lamb, hence the oregano, but trust me it works. Rosemary does too, but it’s pretty intense (but, if you do decide to oven slow roast, you can use the rosemary as a bed on the bottom of the pan).
Using some temperature guidance from my mate Danny Mikes, we ran the pit at 300f. For a bone in cut, you want to cook til 120-125 for rare or 130-135 for medium. Danny also likes to use a vinegar baste for his meat as it cooks, I’m partial to a decent seasoning beforehand and letting a bark form during the cooking (using wet bastes doesn’t allow for this).
The shoulder did began to get pretty dark in place, in future I’d probably use a Texas Crutch (where you use foil), and wrap the base while leaving the top exposed to preserve the crust/bark. Kinda like forming a bowl with the foil.
I reckon these would be damn fine served with some tortillas and a fresh salsa or barbecue sauce.
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Kinda sweet, a little savory and sorta spicy, pepper jelly is a great all round condiment to keep in the fridge.