Full instructions for fail-proof roast lamb shoulder! The best boneless lamb shoulder roast recipe out there with tips and tricks to ensure success in the kitchen!
At first my kids made a disgusted face when they saw the very pink piece of meat. Even though they eat skirt steak like that without a problem, huh?! Once they tried the lamb they couldn’t stop eating. It was hard to save some for my husband.
The thing about big pieces of meat is that if cooked the wrong way they taste gross, however, if cooked the right way they become a glorious gourmet experience.
It’s scary to cook a big piece of meat. If done the wrong way, it’s ruined and it’s ruined all at once. There is no second try with a second piece of steak. This is why I wrote this post.
I want you to feel confident that you can do it. This is a failproof recipe for Roast Lamb Shoulder. There is nothing to loose.
Here are all the tips and tricks on how to achieve the BEST roast lamb shoulder:
Where to buy lamb shoulder
Like with any piece of meat, the quality is crucial for successful cooking. If you plan to buy your lamb shoulder at any regular supermarket store, be warned it might not turn out that delicious.
You don’t know how exactly the piece has been cut, how much cartilage they left in (probably a lot to increase weight and thus price) or what they fed that lamb.
If your regular supermarket leaves in tons of cartilage, which you have to tediously remove, you end up with much less meat and in the end didn’t even save that much money per pound of edible meat.
It’s best to go to local farms and buy directly from them or at least go to a small butcher that knows where his meat comes from and how it’s been raised. They will be able to guarantee high quality cuts which result in a high quality lamb shoulder roast.
How much lamb shoulder per person
Ok, so here I am suggesting a 2.5 lbs lamb shoulder for 4 people, that’s 10 oz per person. There is no exact amount though of course.
It all depends on what you will serve as a side dish, how many women/men will eat. How much the dinner guests usually eat.
As a rule of thumb you can calculate 10-11 oz per person in case served with a light side dish such as a salad and 7-8 oz per person in case served with side dishes high in carbohydrates such as potatoes that are very filling.
How long to roast lamb shoulder and at what temperature
I hate searing meat before putting in the oven because it’s such a mess. What I like to do is preheat the oven to much more than needed for roasting and then immediately reduce heat when I put the cut of meat into the oven.
In this case, for the lamb shoulder I preheated the oven to 450°F (230°C) and then immediately turned the heat down to 350°F (180°C).
In general, with a preheated oven to 450°F and then heat reduction to 350°F you can calculate 17-19 minutes per pound for your meat to be rare, 21-23 minutes per pound for your meat to be medium-rare, 25-27 minutes per pound for your meat to be meat to be medium and 28-30 minutes per pound for your meat to be done.
I never recommend to cook red meat to absolute doneness. It should always be at least medium to not be all dry.
To what internal temperature to roast lamb shoulder
The best way to roast your lamb to absolute perfection is to use a meat thermometer. With a meat thermometer you can check the internal temperature.
No need to cut into the meat and risking the juices run out instead of redistributing. The safe temperature to cook lamb is apparently 145F.
Now that I’ve told you what is “safe”, I’m “safe” to say I never cook it to that temperature. Way too done for me. I live a risky life filled with unsafe but deliciously juicy meat instead ;)
It is important to note that the temperature of big pieces of meat will rise another 5-ish degrees after taking out of the oven. The temperatures I am commenting below are for right-out-of-the-oven-measured temperatures.
To give you an idea about temperature and doneness I’ve roasted this piece of meat 3 times to different temperatures.
The lamb shoulder on the photos was cooked to 115F right out of the oven. The lamb shoulder in the recipe video was roasted to 125F right out of the oven. The third time I roasted it to 160 right out of the oven and it was completely done but not dry. If you like your meat done but still a bit juicy aim for 160F.
How to please dinner guests who all like their meat at different tastes of doneness
What I like to do when I cook roasts for several people with different meat doneness tastes, is to make it rare and then fry each individual slice in a cast iron skillet to the doneness each person desires .
That way everybody can eat their meat the way they like without much fuss. My kids and I like it pink, my husband likes it more rosy for example.
Since he doesn’t usually come home for dinnertime and eats dinner way later than us I can just fry it in the pan later when he comes home. Perfect, right?
Why not cut the shoulder and fry each “steak” individually right from the beginning? Because it would a) take forever and b) become all dry.
Lamb shoulder is a tough piece of meat and needs to be cooked over low heat for a long time instead of high heat for a short time.
Now let’s get to the recipe. I really hope you give this one a try. It is so so so easy to make and uuuuuuuh-maaaaaaay-zingggg!!!
Your butcher doesn’t have lamb shoulder? Ask for boneless pork shoulder instead ;)
Roast Lamb Shoulder
- 2.5 lbs lamb shoulder - (1200g, out of fridge at least 1 hour before starting to preheat oven!!)
- 2.5 oz butter - (70g, room temperature!!)
- 1 sprig rosemary
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- sea salt
- Preheat oven to 450 F (230°C).
- Wash and destalk rosemary and chop finely.
- Wash and zest lemon.
- Peel and crush 3 cloves of garlic.
- With your fingers mix butter, rosemary, crushed garlic, lemon peel, salt and pepper together until very well combined.
- Cover the lamb shoulder with rosemary lemon butter all over. Make sure all sides are covered in butter. I used my hands. Then place it in a ovenproof dish.
- Place in the oven and reduce heat to 350 F (180°C) and roast for 50-75 minutes depending on desired doneness (more explanation in recipe post).
- Once roasted, take out of the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes without cutting into it. This is to ensure the meat sucks up all its released juices again.
Root vegetables are not mentioned in the recipe title, nor are they included in the list of ingredients – yet the recipe has them mysteriously appear in an ovenproof dish. What’s the story?
Hi Jennifer, thank you so much for pointing that out. The recipe originally included how to make root veggies in another dish at the same time in the oven as side dish but I later removed all that to focus exclusively on how to make the roast lamb shoulder. I deleted all the ingredients and parts of text in the blog post but forgot the line in the instructions. Just deleted that. Thank you for pointing it out :)
We were given a 4-H lamb — guaranteed under 6 months old. Has been delicious so far!! As good as the best we ate in NZ — Now we have a shoulder roast — bone in –2.5 pounds — and your philosophy coincides with that of my husband. So, Monday we will try it — I’ll let you know — We may sear in a cast iron skillet, since that is what he believes in — Anyway — yours is the best internet recipe I have found which agrees with his philosophy.
Carol, please come back and let me know how it went. I’ve had someone comment that NZ lamb is different in texture to Canadian lamb. I’d love to know if the recipe still works with NZ lamb, too. Thank you for your lovely comment :)
Thanks for the recipe!!! This worked Great for our family Easter dinner. Easy to follow and used lemon and rosemary we grew ourselves. Came out moist with part for the “done” folks, and part of it for the “more rare” people at 24 min / lb. Had a 4 lb boneless shoulder roast (colorado lamb) that I picked up at local butcher shop. My 8 year old son liked it and even those that don’t like lamb in the family tried a little and said it was good. Guessing they’ve had the more gamey australian lamb that we get over here in the past. Thanks again for the post!!
I’m so happy it worked for you and you liked it! You made my day Troy!!!
I have a 7lb bone in lamb shoulder. I’m going to follow this recipe but I’m confused as to how long I should cook it for medium rare.
21-23 minutes per pound for your meat to be medium-rare = 7×21 minutes = 147 minutes = 2 hours 27 minutes. This is for boneless though. I’ve never gotten my hands on a bone-in shoulder. So I’ve never been able to test myself but internet research tells me it takes MUCH longer. 15 minutes per pound longer it seems. So you might want to add 7×15 minutes = 1 hour 45 minutes on top of the 2 hours 27 minutes. Meaning 4 hours 12 minutes in total for the 7lbs bone-in shoulder but I could be totally wrong. As I said, I’ve never tried roasting bone-in lamb. Sorry I can’t be of more help.
Dan King says
I love lamb and have done legs many times. My supplier (I work at a hotel with high quality local farm raised lamb available) filled the order wrong and instead of getting an 8 lb boneless leg I got 4 2 to 3 lb boneless shoulders. I am cooking them for tomorrows Easter meal tomorrow and I do not like doing something for the first time for actual family gatherings!!! I am a bit freaked out. I am going to follow your cooking temp and time suggestions but would welcome any input or suggestions that you may have about cooking 4 individual shoulders in the same roasting pan (total weight is 10.8 lbs). Thanks in advance !!!!
Oh no, Dan, I JUST saw your message. Probably too late. Did it work out? Did everybody like it?
hi lorena –
I’m the only one in my family who enjoys lamb. everyone is gone for the weekend except myself and the dogs, so I made lamb and followed your recipe.
I’ve read the comments on this page, and am very familiar with “low and slow” cooking. I smoke a good amount of meat that way. I live in peoria, arizona and bought my leg of lamb from costco. I followed your recipe to the letter, and the lamb was extremely moist; exactly how I remember having it growing up! simply delicious.
thank you for an easy to follow recipe that even a 49 year old “bachelor” can follow! :)
Lon, you have no idea how happy your comment made me!! I’m totally fine with criticism when people try my recipes, follow to a T, and end up not liking it. It makes me extremely sad however to get negative feedback just because they “think” if won’t taste good but never tried. You made my day!!!
It’s in the oven right now, but we couldn’t figure out what a “string” of rosemary is (and Google wasn’t helpful). Any hints?
Hey JDB, I’m so sorry for the confusion!! I just corrected the mistake it’s “sprig”. I’m not a native speaker. I always thought it was called “spring”. Just learnt it’s called “sprig”. Oh gosh!
We raise lambs here in NZ and eat a lot of it. Shoulder is a tough meat to cook. Personally, we do all shoulder roasts low and slow otherwise they’re tough as old boots. Leg is a different story. Boneless and rolled I’ve tried both slow roast and regular hot to medium roast as per this recipe. A regular dry roast ends up inedible. I tried a few times and realised it was best to use a lot of liquid and roast low and slow (150C for about 3 hours with a lid on, in a heap of stock) to get anything worth eating from the shoulder cut. You must have an amazing butcher or some top quality lamb in the US to be able to eat it cooked this way!
thank you for your thorough comment. I live in Canada and get my lamb shoulder from a little farm outside Montreal. I don’t know if that is the reason it’s not only edible but absolutely delicious this way. Of course, I eat lamb maybe 3-4 times a year. Not very often. I just don’t know the “best” way to cook it for everybody’s taste that’s for sure. I can only go off of what I and my family love and the shoulder this way was delicious to me.
Eric Reinertson says
Totally agree with Lorena! World of difference between North American lamb and lamb from Australia or NZ. A grain finished young lamb shoulder roasted to 125 F. (medium rare) would be neither dry nor tough!
Thank you for your comment Eric! I really appreciate it!
We raise lambs here too in New Zealand. All fed by their mums and then some good green fresh spring grass. Never have we ever had a tough lamb. We cook ours all ways from rare to slow cooked, but most often in our Weber BBQ. Having a bone-in shoulder today. We usually just sprinkle with salt these days to get the full flavour of the lamb, but am going to try the lemon and rosemary today from our garden.
Yummmm. Very good. Cooked this recipe today and really enjoyed it. Last year’s spring lamb. Absolutely delish. Thanks Lorena for the inspiration.
Im so happy you found my recipe useful and liked your lamb :D
Sounds absolutely amazing!!! One day I’ll get to know New Zealand!!
Robin Gagnon says
What a great way to prepare lamb. I will have to keep this recipe in mind.
I’ve never made lamb before! Now I have to give it a try!
Is the shoulder roast you cooked deboned? It looks that way. We raise lamb but we sell all of the shoulder roasts bone-in.
Yes, it’s deboned. The farm I buy from sells only deboned, haha. I will try and find a bone-in shoulder to test this recipe with bone in but for now I can’t give heat and time recommendations for bone-in shoulders.
Hmmm, I thought that with a tough cut like lamb shoulder, the coventional wisdom is to roast low and slow (something like 320F for 3 – 4 hours) to break down the tough muscle and connective tissue. Wouldn’t cooking at 350F for only 1 hour produce a gristly, dry roast?
Well, you can obviously cook it any way you like. I’ve made this roast 4 times by now and have never ended up with a dry roast but juicy and rare as shown in the photos. I roast it as explained in the post for 18-ish minutes per pound in preheated oven of 450F and then reduced to 350F. Try it and let me know if you weren’t satisfied ;)
I must confess, I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to very rare meat, so I might have to pass. Interesting approach, though.
Thank you :) Cook it for 28-ish minutes per pound for the meat to be done done. It shouldn’t be dry because there is quite a bit of fat in that piece of meat. I can imagine it tasting wonderful made in a slow cooker as well though of course if you prefer the slow on low approach :)
Cook root veggies in the same pan as the lamb?
depends on the size of the lamb shoulder. If it’s small enough to be roasted in an hour I’d add the root veggies to the same pan. If it’s bigger I would put the vegetables in a different dish and pop in the oven later in the process of lamb leg roasting.
Wow, I just wanted to comment on how lovely this lamb photo looks. For your first time cooking a lamb shoulder recipe it couldn’t have come out nicer. Bet it tasted as good as it looks! Running to the grocery store now to try this recipe out. Thanks :)
It was absolutely delicious!! It’s been a while and I still remember! I absolutely love lamb in all its shapes and forms but this was exceptionally delicious! :D
Robyn @ Simply Fresh Dinners says
How lucky that you caught the last of the light, Lorena! This is a stunning photo and I’ve been drooling over it all morning, lol. I think we forget about putting lamb in our regular meal rotation but I don’t know why because it’s so darn delicious.
If I cooked a meal this gorgeous I don’t know if I’d want anyone to eat it, lol. I’d just want to shoot photos all night.
Great recipe! Sharing :)
Hahahaha, thank you Robyn. We eat quite a bit of lamb because I buy all meats in large quantities. 1/4 lamb, 1/4 pig, whole chickens, etc. However much I can somehow fit in my regular sized freezer. I made that recipe last year when I hadn’t learned yet to feed my family something else when cooking and shooting for the blog, so they were waiting impatiently for their food ;)
This looks amazing! And I’m so impressed your kids ate it! You’ve given me hope that one day my picky 3-year-old will be more adventurous. I LOVE lamb, but I almost never make it. This looks perfect for fall :)
Thank you Lucy :) My kids eat pretty much anything. They never got much of choice though. Ugh! “This or nothing” is what I always tell them, so they tend to choose to eat whatever I make. Sometimes they make faces like with the lamb shoulder but then they are happy they tried it :) When I know they really, really don’t like something I don’t make it in a couple of months and then try to introduce again.