slow-roast shoulder of lamb
Updated: Sat, 6 March, 2021
Roasted shoulder of lamb cooked slow and low on the bone is a match for a good few finer cuts. The fat melts away, the skin crispens up and the aromatics flavour the meat gorgeously.
Low temperature cooking
Cooking meat in a very low oven for a very long time gives quite similar results as does sous-vide – and without the hassle, the stress and the apparatus. The meat, be it roast lamb, beef or poultry, gets unbelievably tender but not dried out, and the flavours intensify.
Certain cuts can’t be cooked any other way and lamb shoulder is the best example.
Cheap cuts are easy to cook
Butterflied, or de-boned shoulder of lamb is arguably much easier to cook and carve but there’s no comparison in taste between that and meat cooked on the bone.
Besides, it’s going to be pulled meat; it will virtually walk away from the bones and you won’t need a knife to carve it so the advantages disappear. Even when cooking half a shoulder for two or three people, I always keep the bone in.
Super low and super slow roasting
I’d love to do an overnight roast one day: like Heston Blumenthal’s roast chicken from ‘In Search of Perfection’ book series. The bird roasted at 100C or thereabouts so in a barely warm oven.
But at the time my oven was an ancient gas one and I lived (still do) with a wannabe Health and Safety guru who wouldn’t dream of keeping a gas oven on while we slept. I pondered the possibility of sticking the bird on the radiator instead for a similar effect but laughed myself out of the kitchen on that idea.
As it is, roasted at 170C the lamb is still simply amazing. The flavourings in the marinade work their magic overnight, the anchovy and garlic pushed into the meat are a great pairing with fatty lamb shoulder and a bonus: potatoes cook underneath the roast.
If you have no casserole dish large enough to house the lamb and all, use a deep roaster and cover it tightly with foil for the initial period.
How to marinate lamb shoulder?
Marinade is important but what's super-important is salting the meat the moment you bring it back home. Even if it is going to sit in the fridge for a couple of days before it's cooked. Salt is truly a magic ingredient and it both flavours and tenderises the meat.
Apart from salt, my favourite combo for lamb is as below: rosemary, mint and garlic. If you have some truffle oil in your store cupboard - and people do, for years - this is the moment to use it. It gives the lamb unbelievably rich and luxurious taste.
But anchovies are also quite magic on lamb - I stud my joint with slivers of garlic and bits of anchovy before it goes into the oven.
How long is long?
I cook my lamb shoulder for most of an afternoon and that's how you get the meltingly tender, pulled meat. That's the beauty of cheap cuts and slow cooking: season it, put it in the roasting tin and into the oven and you can forget all about it - if the divine smell lets you...
slow-roast shoulder of lambServings: 4Time: 6 hours roasting plus marinating
- whole shoulder of lamb
- a bulb of garlic
- a few anchovy fillets in oil, drained
- a few sprigs of rosemary
- some waxy potatoes, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced thinly
- ½ litre lamb, chicken or vegetable stock
- a large bunch of rosemary, leaves stripped
- a bunch of mint, leaves stripped
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup or honey
- 1 tbsp. truffle oil (optional)
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- zest from one lemon
- 3-4 tbsp. groundnut or olive oil
1. Blitz the marinade ingredients together. Spread over the lamb and marinate overnight, preferably, or at least for a few hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3.
3. Place the sliced potatoes and onion at the bottom of a large casserole or a baking tray (in which case you’ll need to cover it with aluminium foil for the roasting).
4. Score the skin side of the lamb in diagonal pattern, then make incisions all over the joint (jab it with the tip of a sharp knife) and stuff bits of anchovy and slivers of garlic into them.
5. Place it on top of the potatoes, pour in hot stock and cover with a lid or quite tightly with aluminium foil. Roast for 4-5 hours depending on the size of the shoulder.
6. After that time take the cover off and increase the heat to 200C/400F/gas 6. Roast for another hour until it’s crispy on top.
7. The potatoes will be soggy and not terribly appetizing so scoop them out with a slotted spoon onto a small roasting tray and put under a hot grill for 10-15 minutes while the lamb is resting. Dish it all out with a serving spoon – you won’t need a knife for the meat.