How to Cook Butterflied Leg of Lamb

Unforgettable Leg of Lamb

Grill it, bake it, sauté it, kebab it; a butterflied leg of lamb is a most versatile cut of meat. With the bone removed, the meat is sliced down the center and laid flat in a shape resembling a raggedy-winged butterfly. Marinated or naked; on a plate or chopped up in a taco; a perfectly cooked lamb roast is sure to enhance your reputation as a culinary whiz.

To Marinate or Not to Marinate

Yes, that is the question. Time is the answer. If you are short on time, just season. If you are the type that makes long-range plans, marinate it the night before or at least for a few hours.

Celebrate the Marriage

Get a big and sturdy freezer bag. Stick the butterflied lamb in with any combination of fresh or dried herbs and spices along with acidic liquids that will tenderize the meat. Wine, vinegar, lemon juice and even yogurt help break down the connective tissue in the meat and impart flavor as well. A butterflied cut is particularly receptive to marinades because of the larger amount of flat surface. Marinades work more quickly at room temperature, but a long time out on the counter exposes your lamb to bacteria. If you're marinating for a several hours, start the process in the fridge. Thirty minutes before cooking, take it out of the fridge and bring it back up to room temperature to give the marinade a chance to really do its job.

Friendly Spices With Benefits

Properly cooked, your leg of lamb will be tender and tasty without a marinade. Studded with garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary, it only needs to be brushed with olive oil and thrown on the grill or in the oven. A spice rub might consist of anything from thyme and ground pepper to cumin and coriander seeds. Consider making a pesto of mint leaves, fresh rosemary and garlic to smear on the roast.

In the Oven

You can roll it up, stuffed or not; tie it with a string; and stick it in the oven. Roasting a butterflied leg of lamb is a snap. Just watch the temperature carefully and shoot for a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, as recommended by the USDA. Cooking for 15 to 20 minutes per pound at an oven temperature of 325 F is sufficient for medium-rare to medium.


The USDA cooking temperature includes a 3-minute resting period, during which the temperature of your roast will rise by about 10 degrees.

Use an oven bag for an even simpler roasting method, especially if you have used a marinade. The bag will keep the lamb moist and the resulting juices can easily be transformed into a sauce or gravy. Better still, shake around a tablespoon of flour in the bag before adding the roast and you'll have a crusty exterior and a ready-made sauce when you open the bag. Allow 40 minutes per pound for a rolled roast

Alternatively, for a quick-cooking method leave the roast flat, rub it with olive oil and spices and sear it in a stovetop grill pan. Put the meat in a roasting pan and roast it for only about 10 minutes per pound. Splash it with wine about halfway through and test for doneness with an instant-read thermometer. The uneven thickness of a butterfly cut means that there will be varying degrees of doneness, ensuring a good cut for everyone's taste.

On the Grill

The Whole Thing

A butterflied leg of lamb is a natural on the barbecue grill. A wine or soy sauce marinade works well for the whole piece of meat. Whatever your marinade choice, set aside a portion for basting. Turn the lamb often to make sure all sides are getting their turn at tenderness. Fire up the grill, throw the whole roast on the fire and cook for about 20 minutes on each side, basting with the reserved marinade as you go along. Be sure to let the meat rest a few minutes. Cut into slices diagonally for extra tenderness.


Cut the meat into cubes and marinate with rosemary and lemon juice or your own marinade concoction. After a few hours, remove the cubes, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stick the meat on skewers, alternating the cubes with pieces of onion and other fresh vegetables. Grill for only a couple of minutes on each side.


For a South of the Border taste, rub your lamb with cumin and salsa and grill it over very hot coals or sear it on a stovetop grill until it's crispy on both sides and cooked through. Put in on a wooden board and quickly chop it into small pieces. Spoon the meat into warm tortillas and dress them like tacos with lettuce and salsa.