Roast Leg of Lamb

Roast Leg of Lamb

[Editor’s Note: Following are a few words of advice from the authors regarding what you need to know before buying lamb for this roast leg of lamb recipe or any other roast lamb recipe.] The best cuts of lamb for roasting include the rack, shanks, leg (bone-in and boneless), shoulder, and thick chops. More than any other meat you can buy, lamb can vary in its characteristics due to the diversity of the breeds, their diets, and the climates in which the animals were raised. Ask your butcher for information about the flavor profile of the lamb sold in the shop.–Editors of Williams-Sonoma

LC Plain And Perfect Note

This roast leg of lamb recipe, dear readers, is something you want to save for when you track down a lamb whose taste and texture make your soul sing. Seriously. There’s not a lot to this recipe aside from just enough garlic and lemon to accentuate the meat itself. Plain and perfect, that’s what we consider this.

Roast Leg of Lamb

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 2 H, 25 M
  • Serves 6
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Year-Round Roasting cookbook

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  • A 4- to 5-pound (2- to 2 1/2-kilogram) bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, preferably organic, thinly sliced


  • 1. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for up to 1 1/2 hours.
  • 2. Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C). [Editor’s Note: Trust us, you’re going to want to scrub that oven if you’ve got even the tiniest burnt-on spillover from last fall’s apple pie; otherwise your oven is going to smoke like crazy when it gets this hot.]
  • 3. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, salt, pepper, and oil and mix well. Using a small, sharp knife, cut 10 slits about 1 1/2 inches (4 centimeters) deep in the lamb. Push some of the garlic mixture into the slits and rub the rest all over the outside of the lamb, turning to coat all sides.
  • 4. Place a sheet of aluminum foil in a large roasting pan, shiny side down. Distribute the lemon slices evenly along the center of the foil. (It may be necessary to overlap some lemon slices.) Place the lamb on the lemon slices.
  • 5. Roast the lamb, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C) and continue roasting, still uncovered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the lamb, away from the bone, registers 130°F (54°C) for medium-rare, 30 to 50 minutes more. Transfer the lamb to a carving board and tent with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • 6. Carve the lamb against the grain into thin slices. Serve right away.

Recipe Testers Reviews

This roast leg of lamb is definitely a recipe that I'll use again and again. The lamb turned out to be easy to cook and the meat came out juicy and tender. The leftovers were even better the next day.

We enjoyed this roast leg of lamb recipe and its flavors. We used locally raised lamb of quite good quality, which the recipe enhanced. I would have liked some lemon juice in the rub, though, in addition to the slices tucked beneath the lamb in the pan. The lemon didn’t seem to penetrate the meat very much. Also, when the meat was sliced after resting, it was a little more rare than medium rare. I’d let the internal temperature get closer to 140°F next time to let it cook a bit more. The timing was accurate for the most part, but it took 58 minutes at 300°F for the lamb to reach an internal temperature of 130°F, not 30 to 45.  

The place I intended to buy the lamb, which had bone-in legs on several previous visits, had a supply issue and did not have any. I wanted to make this before the session ended, so I went to a butcher shop, where all they had available in the 4- to 5-pound range was semi-boneless leg of lamb. Their bone-in legs were about 8 pounds, so I went with one that was 4.25 pounds, with only part of the femur bone intact. This difference would have affected my cooking time, and it might have also affected the internal temperature readings I was getting, due to the shape of the meat. I started the oven at 500°F and had no problems with that temperature. I sliced the lemon about an 1/8 inch thick.

I ended up using a whole boneless leg of lamb since my grocery store didn't carry the bone-in version. I'm not sure if this is why but the cooking time was off by about 30 minutes, bringing the cooking time to about 80 minutes for perfectly medium-rare lamb.


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  1. It turned out great, tender, very flavorful and easy. I would definitely recommend this recipe…easily made for mid-week dinners.

  2. I usually buy a boneless leg, separate it into the three three large muscle groups, trim off every bit of gristle and fat that I can, and marinate/stuff and roll-tie each one into a mini roast.

    They cook quickly and by reducing the fat (of which there is plenty intramuscular fat to prevent dryness) I end up with beautiful medallions of lamb without any of the often objectionable rancid fat flavor so common in commercial lamb.

    I learned this many years ago from an old copy of Cook’s Illustrated.

    1. The gland in the leg joint is what causes the bad, gamey flavor. Some butchers remove it, grocery store dudes in white coats don’t know what the heck it is. Remove it and you’re golden.

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