Whole Lamb Shoulder With Babybacks On The Side
The shoulder cut of lamb is fatty and tough but cheap to buy. It requires a little love to start it off and a lot of cooking time but it rewards you with being probably the tastiest lamb you’ll eat. I’m using the Big Green Egg set up to cook at a low temperature here, but any BBQ can be adapted to cook ‘low and slow’ – have a look at Meathead’s article here to find out how to set your’s up – indirect cooking
I’d only planned to cook the lamb, but my two little boys love ribs so much that I decided to pick up a couple of racks of babybacks just for them.
3-4 hrs (or overnight if you can) prior to cooking do this to the lamb:
- rinse and pat dry with kitchen roll
- cover in yellow ballpark/swedish mustard
- liberally coat California Rancher Santa Maria Seasoning (or your own favorite BBQ rub)
- sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves
- cover with cling film
and with the ribs, again in advance of cooking if you can:
- remove the membrane from the back
- light coating of sunflower oil
- liberally coat with California Rancher Wild Hog seasoning (or your own favorite BBQ rub)
- cover with cling film
I’m mixing up two different cooking methods with the lamb. First it gets a solid couple of hours on the Big Green Egg set up to cook indirectly at around 140-150C. I started it off with one handful of hickory and maple woodchips to give it a subtle smoky flavour but then no further additions. A tray sits underneath to collect all the juices.
Whilst this is cooking – chop up a couple of onions, carrots and stalks of celery. Sauté gently with half a dozen cloves of garlic then pour in a bottle of red wine and a generous squeeze of tomato puree.
Cook this mixture down for 20 mins then set aside.
When the lamb has developed a golden crispy hue, it’s time to start phase two – the braise. Tip your veg mix into a baking tray then sit the lamb on top. Cover tightly with two layers of thick foil.
If you like, you can sit this in the oven but mine just went back on the Green Egg. It needs about 4 more hours cooked low and slow. Longer if you have a large joint. A good way to tell it is done is to wiggle the bone – if it is loose then you’re done.
All the fat should have melted away and you should be able to cut the meat with a blunt wooden spoon. I like it to be falling apart.
Strain the veg and juice out of the tray, separate the fat then simmer down to reduce and use as gravy.
Ribs are so quick to prepare and so gorgeous to eat that if you have room on the grill, it makes sense just to sling a couple of racks on when slow cooking anything else.
Mine went on at the same time as the lamb for the first 2 hrs to pick up the smoky flavour and colouring. I then use Dr.BBQ’s technique of drizzling with honey or brown sugar then putting them in a little foil parcel with some apple juice. Seal this parcel up then back on the grill. This second stage tenderises the meat. The longer you leave them the more fall-apart they will be. About 1.5-2hrs is good.
You can pause the cooking at this point to make sure the ribs are ready at the same time as the main dish.
They need to be taken out of the foil and put back on the smoker naked for another hour. About 30 mins before you are going to eat give them a good thick coating of your favourite BBQ sauce.
I’d love to include a photo of the meal served up looking arty and pretty but in all honesty it got wolfed down before I got a chance.
Here instead is a photo of my wife and boys with the in-laws walkng off big belly-fulls of lamb shoulder, ribs & roast potatoes.