When you marinate a butterflied lamb leg in a bold garlic/lemon/oregano Greek marinade, very good things will happen … Specifically, amazingly tender, seriously flavour-infused lamb! Excellent to grill on the BBQ, or roast in the oven.
A sensational share platter meal option for gatherings – the Greek way!
Greek Butterflied Lamb Leg
Butterflied lamb leg is simply a leg of lamb with the bone removed so the meat lies flat and is relatively uniform in thickness. This means the lamb cooks faster than a traditional whole roast leg, as well as opening the leg up to all sorts of flavour possibilities.
Today, we’re going Greek! Lots of garlic, lots of lemon, lots of oregano – flavours that are a natural pairing with lamb given it’s one of Greece’s favourite meats!
What you need
Just garlic, oregano, lemons, the butterflied lamb leg (more on this below), and pretty please can we also pretend I didn’t forget to put olive oil in the photo? 🙂 Oil is necessary not only to add some richness and flavour, but also to dilute the lemon so the acid in the lemon doesn’t “cook” the lamb meat, like you see it done for Ceviche.
Butterflied Lamb Leg
Butterflied lamb leg is a lamb leg with the bone removed so it can be “butterflied” to lie flat. This gives you a broader range of cooking method options compared to a bone in lamb leg which is easiest roasted whole due to its shape. It also affords us the opportunity to really get some great flavours in all the way through the flesh.
When prepared well and cooked to rare or medium rare, it’s an incredibly succulent, tender lamb cut that’s ideal served for gatherings. A 1.7kg/3.4lb butterflied lamb leg (the meat cut from an average size 2.2kg / 4.4 lb bone-in lamb leg) will easily serve 8 people, if not more.
The outer surface, pictured above, will typically come with a layer of fat on it. Trim off as much or as little as you want – though I do caution against excessive fat removal because the fat keeps the meat nice and juicy, not to mention fat = flavour!
And here’s what the flesh side looks like. This is the side that the bone was cut out of:
How long to marinate butterflied lamb leg
If time permits, I recommend marinating for 24 hours. This yields more tender meat, and better flavour infusion.
However, the beauty of using butterflied lamb leg with this rather intense lemony-garlicky marinade is that even a short 3 hour marination makes a remarkable difference. All those nooks, crannies and crevices in the flesh that you can see in the photo above are just waiting for the marinade to seep into!😂
Note: The surface of the flesh will turn a bit white, from the lemon “cooking” the meat. Don’t be alarmed – it’s supposed to happen and has no effect on the final result. 🙂
How to cook a Butterflied Lamb Leg (BBQ or oven)
Because the lamb leg meat is “butterflied” out so it lays relatively flat, it makes it perfect for cooking on the BBQ, which you can’t really do with a bone in lamb leg. Lamb LOVES to be grilled, and it really brings out the best of those tasty Greek flavours!
Having said that, your good ol’ oven will do a sensational job too. In fact, while the Butterflied Lamb Leg you see in the video is grilled, the one in the photos was seared on the stove then finished in the oven (to finish cooking it through more evenly).
Make marinade – Mix the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag;
Marinate lamb – Add the lamb, massage well, then marinate for 24 hours (minimum 3 hours). Ziplock bags really are the most effective and efficient way to marinate this lamb because it keeps the meat fully enveloped with the marinade. If you prefer to use a bowl or container, increase the marinade by at least 50%, and toss once or twice during the marinating time;
BBQ, or stove + oven – Cook the lamb either on the BBQ (20 minutes) OR on the stove followed by finishing it in the oven (22 – 25 minutes).
Stove ➔ oven: Starting on the stove and finishing in the oven is the best method for thick cuts of meat like butterflied lamb leg. If you try to cook it just using the stove, you’ll end up with a thick band of overcooked meat on the outer edges by the time the middle cooks through.
On the other hand, if you try to cook it just using the oven, you won’t get much colour on the surface. Nobody wants a colourless piece of lamb!
BBQ: The ideal. The heat of a BBQ is more ambient compared to the direct contact heat of a stove, so you can cook it perfectly – as you will see on the video. Plus of course, you get all those smoky extra flavours from the grilling. Got charcoal? Even better. Bonus points for you!
Pull temperature = 57°C/135°F – The right time to pull the lamb off the BBQ / out of the oven for medium rare is when the internal temperature reaches 57°C/135°F. It will rise a little while resting (next step);
Temp rises during resting to 62°C/144°F – Resting the lamb is essential, to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat as it sits. If you try slicing before resting, all those juices just run everywhere!
As the lamb rests, the lamb continues to cook a little more due to the residual heat. The internal temperature will rise to 62°C/144°F. This is precisely medium-rare, the optimal doneness for lamb leg so that it’s a blushing pink and beautifully juicy;
Plate up and serve! Put it out whole and let people carve their own slices off at the table, or you can serve it already sliced (my preference) for ease of serving.
Internal temperature of Butterflied Leg of Lamb
KEY TIP! Pull the lamb off the BBQ/oven before the target internal temperature is reached because it will rise by around 5°C/7°F as it rests. If you don’t pull the lamb off/out early, the lamb will be overdone by the time it’s rested – and how sad will that be?! 😞
|Doneness||Pull Temperature*||Target Temp after resting **|
|Rare (dark pink)||49°C / 120°F||54°C / 129°F|
|Medium-rare (recommended, blushing pink)||57°C / 135°F||62°C / 144°F|
(hint of pink inside)
|63°C / 145°F||68°C / 154°F|
(least juicy, no pink at all)
|67°C / 153°F||72°C / 162°F|
* Pull temperature is the internal temperature at which the lamb should be taken off the BBQ or out of the oven. ** This is what the internal temperature will rise to after resting, and this is your final Target Temperature for your desired level of doneness.
The reality is, because of the uneven thickness of a butterflied leg of lamb, while most of it can be a perfect medium rare, the thinner edges will be unavoidably medium or even medium-well done. But that actually works perfectly to cater for guests who prefer their lamb more well-cooked!
How to serve Greek Butterflied Lamb
This dish is fabulous for gatherings, shared platter-style, or a quick summer meal that will feed your family over a couple of nights. Here are some serving options and suggested sides:
To start: Spanakopita – This lovely spinach pie, cut into small pieces, makes a fine first course before the main event;
Greek Salad – A big, juicy, fresh Greek Salad is literally made to serve alongside this lamb;
Flatbreads – Stuff the meat inside for homemade lamb wraps!
Fast no cook side option – Couscous. Douse it generously with lemon, toss through some chopped tomato and cucumber if you’re feeling it, maybe some sliced olives. YUM.
Marinated Greek-flavoured Chickpea Salad (this is really, really good)
Tzatziki as an accompaniment (use the one in my Gyros recipe) or even just plain yogurt jazzed up with a squeeze of lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Enjoy! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Greek Butterflied Lamb Leg
- 1.5 – 1.8kg / 3 – 3.6 lb butterflied (ie. boneless) lamb leg (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 3 large garlic cloves , minced using garlic press
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp zest (= zest of 1 lemon)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp oil (for brushing BBQ or for stove sear)
- Mix marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag.
- Add lamb, massage bag well to get the marinade into all the meat cracks and crevices.
- Seal bag and marinate for 24 hours (3 hours minimum).
- Remove lamb from the fridge 1 hour prior to cooking (to take fridge chill out for more even cooking).
- Brush grates with oil then preheat BBQ until very hot. (Takes a good 15 minutes, lid closed, with my basic gas BBQ).
- Remove lamb from marinade and place on the grill, fat side down.
- Cook for 12 minutes, then turn and cook the flesh side for 8 minutes, or until the internal temperature in the thickest part registers 57°C / 135°F for medium-rare or desired pull temperature (see Note 3).
- Loosely cover with foil, and rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Stove/Oven (Note 2):
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (all oven types). Place a rack on a tray.
- Cut lamb into 2 or 3 large pieces so it fits in your skillet.
- Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Sear until golden brown on both sides, around 2 – 3 minutes each side. (Note: It will not colour much more in the oven)
- Roast for 22 – 25 minutes, or until the thickest part registers 57°C / 135°F for medium-rare or desired pull temperature (see Note 3).
- Remove from oven, loosely cover with foil, and rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Life of Dozer
Another kind of leg. No doubt the other half of him is up to no good…..