Rotisserie Grilling Lamb | Rotisserie Roasting a Whole Lamb | Doneness
For general guidelines on rotisserie grilling, see Rotisserie Grilling Basics.
Rotisserie Grilling Lamb
Cuts of lamb that have a basic cylindrical shape and a fairly even distribution of weight are suitable for cooking on a rotisserie. Good choices include leg of lamb, rolled shoulder, and whole lamb.
Lamb cooked on a rotisserie can be positioned to allow for direct cooking or indirect cooking. Placing the meat directly over the heat source results in direct cooking and a grilled quality, although this usually works best for small cuts of lamb. Placing the meat in front of or next to the heat source allows the meat to roast and is best for larger cuts.
When cooking lamb rotisserie style, the indirect cooking method is most often used. Both charcoal and gas grills must be preheated before rotisserie cooking can begin. (Refer to the article, "Grilling Lamb" for details on preheating.) Rotisserie is a slow cooking process. The best results are achieved when lamb cuts are seared at a high temperature for the first few minutes, followed by low to medium/low heat for the remainder of the cooking time. A rotisserie ring is beneficial when using a charcoal grill because it allows the spit to be positioned at the perfect height in relation to the heat source.
Cooking with a rotisserie is a long, slow process, which allows the fat in the meat to melt slowly. As the meat rotates on the spit, it is continually basted with the melting fat, which prevents the meat from drying out. The meat is close enough to the heat source to allow a crispy crust to form on the surface.
Rotisserie Roasting a Whole Lamb
A dressed lamb weighing about 25 pounds works well for rotisserie cooking. Depending on appetites, this should be enough to serve 12 to 18 guests after cooking and carving. Make sure to order the lamb far enough ahead of time so the butcher has plenty of time to prepare the lamb.
If the lamb is to be marinated, a minimum of 4 hours is required for the meat to marinate before cooking. If the lamb will not be marinated, the meat can be seasoned just before it is ready to cook.
There are many recipes for cooking lamb with a rotisserie, but high quality meat usually does not require too many additional flavorings. A marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, and oregano works very well or a rub of fresh herbs, such as basil and oregano in addition to black pepper and crushed garlic, is also popular. The combinations of flavorings are almost endless.
The prepared lamb can be cooked on a rotisserie over a charcoal grill or gas grill, but if the lamb is too large for the standard backyard grill, larger rotisserie units can be rented at many party supply companies. The units are usually in the form of an elongated charcoal grill that represent a fire pit that has been raised several feet from the ground. The units are equipped with a heavy duty rotisserie that can easily accommodate a 25 lb. lamb or larger.
For a change of pace, the lamb can also be cooked over an open fire. Make sure to have a minimum area of 6 by 6 feet for the fire and rotisserie unit. A large clear zone free of brush and overhanging tree limbs is necessary. Fire pits constructed of masonry walls of at least 2 feet in height work the best. The masonry helps to contain the fire and it protects it from wind. The heat from the fire remains in a more localized area, which makes it easier to control the heat in relation to the rotisserie. Keep children away from the fire and always have a fire extinguisher handy. Make sure to have plenty of firewood on hand. The rotisserie should be set up in front of the fire, not over it. A drip pan should be placed under the meat. If it isn't possible to set up a motorized rotisserie unit while using an open fire, this may not be a practical method of rotisserie cooking unless people are willing to share the burden of turning the spit by hand. It is hard to match the flavor of the meat, especially if aromatic woods are used in the fire, such as oak, apple, or cherry.
For more information on Lamb, see Meat - Lamb.
Rather than relying on a cooking time chart for proper doneness, always use a meat thermometer. The chart does not allow for the many variables that often influence doneness. A cooking time chart should be used as a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for the accuracy of a good meat thermometer. To accurately check temperature, the thermometer must be pushed through the thickest part of the meat and away from any bones (bones conduct heat).
The minimum temperature recommended for cooking most lamb cuts is 140ºF. (During the resting period, the temperature of the meat will rise an additional 5ºF or so, to the minimum recommended safe temperature of 145ºF). Any boneless lamb roast that has been rolled, stuffed, and tied (such as a boneless shoulder roast), should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 160ºF. (During the resting period, the temperature of the meat will rise an additional 5ºF or so, to the minimum recommended safe temperature of 165ºF).
It is also easy to visually determine when the lamb is thoroughly cooked. The exterior of the lamb will appear crispy with a dark brown color and the meat will begin to split apart. Even with these visual signs of proper doneness, it is still recommended that a meat thermometer be used to verify the internal temperature of the meat.