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Smoked pulled lamb shoulder recipe

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  • Ingredients
  • Meat and poultry
  • Lamb
  • Cuts of lamb
  • Lamb shoulder

Succulent pulled lamb shoulder that melts in the mouth. Slow cooked in a smoker over several hours, this can be made in an oven if needed but is better in a smoker.

Washington, United States

8 people made this

IngredientsServes: 6

  • 1 bone-in lamb shoulder
  • 2 pieces hickory wood, for smoking
  • For the rub
  • 6 tablespoons soft brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • olive oil, as needed
  • For the spray
  • 150ml water
  • 150ml apple juice
  • 50ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1 sprig mint
  • For the glaze
  • 250g BBQ sauce, or to taste
  • 125g mint sauce, or to taste

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:5hr ›Extra time:1hr › Ready in:6hr20min

  1. Trim the lamb to remove any tags, residual bone shards and/or excess fat.
  2. For the rub, combine all the herbs and spices in a shaker. Rub the lamb evenly with the oil on all sides, then add an even coat of the spice mixture on all sides. Leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. For the spray, in a spray bottle combine the water, apple juice, apple cider vinegar and mint. Shake to combine.
  4. Heat the smoker to 120 degrees C by adding hot charcoal with 2 pieces of hickory. Place a pan of water in the bottom of the smoker.
  5. Add the lamb and smoke for 5 to 6 hours; check every hour and spray with the apple juice mixture to keep moist. If it is drying out quicker than this, spray more often. After 5 hours check the texture of the lamb; when it feels soft and ready to pull it is done. The time may vary based on the size of the lamb shoulder.
  6. Remove the lamb and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Use two forks to pull the lamb into shreds, discarding the bones and any excess. To the pulled lamb, add the BBQ sauce and mint sauce, a few spoonfuls at a time, to your taste.

To make in an oven

Follow the method as above, except in an oven at the lowest temperature (if this is higher than that for the smoker, cook times will be shorter). Do not add the wood pieces to the oven. When creating the glaze use a very smokey BBQ sauce or add a teaspoon of liquid smoke to give it some smokey flavour.

See it on my blog


Smoked pulled lamb shoulder

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For the Spice Rub

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 boneless lamb shoulder roast (roughly 3 pounds)
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Recipe: Smoked Lamb Shoulder

A simple recipe is all it takes when you use Texas pasture-raised lamb.

The cattle industry so dominates the identity of Texas ranching that it might be surprising to learn that we lead the nation in sheep production. The 740,000 head currently in the state is actually quite a ways off from the 10 million that resided here during the peak of the wool industry in 1943. Back then, the bushy Rambouillet breed, descended from the famous Merino sheep of Spain, was the unquestioned king. Nowadays there&rsquos just not as big a market for wool, so Texas sheep ranchers are trending toward breeds raised for meat, like Dorper. One of those ranchers is Houston Simmons, who started the Margaritas Sueño Meat Company in Menard less than two years ago.

Simmons has a breeding stock of 130 sheep and almost as many goats on properties in Kimble and Menard counties, southeast of San Angelo. He doesn&rsquot supply meat to any restaurants (yet), but he has delivered a whole goat to Denver for an event at Hank&rsquos Texas Barbecue. Frozen cuts of his pasture-raised lamb are available for shipping, so I ordered a couple square-cut lamb shoulders from him a few weeks ago.

I had originally asked for mutton. In doing some research on the meat served at Texas community barbecues of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I learned that three proteins were repeated far more often than any other: beef, pork, and mutton. I was curious what real mutton tasted like, but Simmons explained the difference between lamb and mutton as well as the difference between the meat sheep and the wool sheep that were probably served during those barbecues. &ldquoI&rsquove had funky, skunky sheep before,&rdquo he tells me, noting that it wasn&rsquot a positive attribute. His description reminded me of my first bite from a leg of lamb at a friend&rsquos house for dinner when I was kid. The flavor matched the odor of a sheep barn at the county fair, and I&rsquom not making a manure joke.

Simmons guesses I probably ate meat from a sheep raised for wool. The same lanolin that provides moisture (and the trademark smell) to the wool also flavors the meat. &ldquoThe old story you always heard was that if you touched the wool to the meat, that lanolin will get on it and make it really funky,&rdquo he says. Those wool sheep were likely slaughtered at an older age after they&rsquod provided a few years&rsquo worth of wool, and because of their age, the meat would be referred to as mutton. Sheep raised for meat like the Dorper breed (his have some Barbado mixed in as well) are known as &ldquohair breeds&rdquo and don&rsquot have the lanolin flavor. They are also harvested younger, but how young do they have to be to be considered lamb rather than mutton?

Maybe you&rsquove seen meat sold as &ldquospring lamb.&rdquo That would be very young, around four months old, and would be the equivalent to cabrito or veal. The general cutoff for regular lamb is one year old. Lambs at Margaritas Sueño are born in October and November, and are harvested at anywhere between ten and fourteen months old. Rather than using the age, a weight of 100&ndash115 pounds is his target, because, Simmons said, &ldquoThe yield on the carcass is at its peak at that weight.&rdquo That can take longer to reach for pasture-raised lambs like the ones sold by Simmons. Lambs finished in feedlots grow more quickly and normally reach that weight by the time they&rsquore nine to ten months old.

I preferred the lamb shoulder that hung inside the Pit Barrel Cooker. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Because of their age, the sheep sent to feedlots can easily be defined as lamb rather than mutton. Simmons doesn&rsquot see the need for a distinction just because his sheep are a month or two beyond that one-year threshold. Besides, he said, he prefers the flavor of pasture-raised lamb. He and a friend took four lambs from their herd. The friend sent two lambs to the feedlot, and Simmons finished the other two on grass. It took Simmons three months longer to get his lambs to the same weight, and then they tasted them side-by-side. Their conclusion was, &ldquo[the feedlot] makes it bigger, but it waters down the flavor of the meat.&rdquo If you cannot buy from him, Simmons said the Capra Foods lamb (out of Goldthwaite) offered at grocery stores is pasture-raised Dorper sheep similar to what he has.

Mutton was once so popular in Texas that the name remains in the few barbecue joints that still serve it. Most of them serve the ribs, and while the menu might say mutton, they&rsquore smoking lamb. Some of the best &ldquomutton&rdquo barbecue can be found at Sam&rsquos Bar-B-Que in Austin, Gonzales Food Market in Gonzales, Davila&rsquos BBQ in Seguin, and the multiple locations of Southside Market.

Simmons prefers the T-bone lamb chop if he&rsquos getting his pick of cuts, but admits he tries not to &ldquoget high on my own supply.&rdquo He eats plenty of lamb and goat, but the cuts he gets are usually the ones other people don&rsquot want to buy, unlike the chops. Simmons is also fond of wild game he gets from the hunting tours he leads on his property, and he said he rarely eats beef or pork. For barbecue, Simmons likes the square-cut lamb shoulder, which has the first four ribs attached. That&rsquos what he sent me to smoke.

Smoked Lamb Shoulder

1 square-cut, bone-in lamb shoulder
Kosher salt
Yellow mustard
Low-salt barbecue rub

The night before cooking, apply kosher salt liberally to all surfaces of the lamb shoulder. Use 1.5 percent of the weight of the meat to determine your salt amount if unsure. Let the salted meat sit uncovered in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.

Prepare a smoker at 275 degrees. While heating the smoker, remove the lamb shoulder from the refrigerator and cover with a thin coating of yellow mustard. Apply barbecue rub to cover all surfaces, and place into the preheated smoker. You can use a standard offset smoker, but I cooked two shoulders and had better results with hanging them inside a Pit Barrel Cooker. It took 3 hours for a 3-pound shoulder to reach 195 degrees. I could have let it go longer in the pit to finish, but I wanted it to shred very easily, so I wrapped it in foil and moved it to a 200-degree oven for another hour. After a 30-minute rest outside the oven, I shredded the entire shoulder, discarding the bones and any hard fat, of course.

Serve the meat on its own with a Kentucky black barbecue sauce on the side for dipping, or do what I did and place it in a warm pita with tzatziki and some pickle de gallo. Either way, it&rsquos a good way to get yourself out of a beef and pork barbecue rut and support Texas ranchers at the same time.

Buying Lamb Shoulder

Lamb shoulder will either come bone-in or boneless. We have smoked both and found that buying boneless is much easier for consistency in size and for the pulling process after it’s done. For the price of lamb, it also cuts back on the per pound price that you would pay for by adding the bone.

Consider buying from a reputable butcher where they know the lamb rancher. This assures that the lamb will be fresh and less than 1-year old sheep. The older the lamb and as it crosses the 1-year threshold, the more it can take on the more pronounced flavor of mutton. You can read more about lamb in our recipe for leg of lamb.

Another option is to source your lamb from a reputable mail order company, like D’Artagnan Foods. They source their lamb from small and sustainable farms from around the world. The attention to detail shows in amazing flavor of the meat.

Smoked Lamb Barbacoa | Grilling

I've had Kenji's beef barbacoa recipe on a running "must-make" list ever since he posted it back in April. The reality of my limited time—between working my day job and developing grilling recipes for this column—means that non-grilled dishes often fall to the wayside. But my desire for a taste of that spicy and earthy stewed meat never ceased, so I devised a solution to have my barbacoa and eat it too—take the recipe outdoors. In doing so, I also made a big switch from beef to lamb, and the results were so delicious that I couldn't wait to share this modified recipe with all serious eaters.

Barbacoa? Where's the Pit

Barbacoa is a traditional dish in Mexico that involves pit-roasting a whole lamb or sheep slathered in an adobo sauce and covered with avocado, banana, and/or maguey leaves. That traditional execution can be adapted to a smaller, more suburban scale by wrapping an adobo-coated lamb shoulder in banana leaves and slow cooking it in a smoker. For a minute I pondered making my barbacoa in that fashion, but it's not really what I was after—I wanted to achieve the fully flavor-infused barbacoa that I lusted after.

On Lamb and Smoke

In that dash for an intensity of flavor, I thought of ways to possibly up the game. Lending a robust beefiness to barbacoa was the recipe's initial challenge and my source of inspiration. But, what if I were to forgo the beef and use an even more flavorful animal to begin with?

For cooking low and slow, the lamb shoulder roast was a no-brainer place to start. It's a cut that's laden with fat and sinew, with disparate muscles in between. This makes it a bad choice for high-heat roasting, which would leave it too tough, but perfect for low and slow cooking, which allows enough time to render the fat and break down connective tissue. The result is a meat so tender that it easily pulls apart.

Letting my barbecue background guide me , I started this off in the smoker over oak wood, figuring that a bit of smokiness would only heighten the flavor of the final product. My pitmaster blood also couldn't let me put that meat into the pit naked, so I came up with an earthy and spicy rub. This let me introduce some of the required barbacoa flavors—dried chiles, cumin, oregano, onion, garlic, and cloves—to the lamb right off the bat.

From Smoke to Sauce

I didn't want to only smoke the lamb, though: It was important to also let it braise in the complexly layered sauce for maximum flavor. For the sauce, I mainly followed Kenji's recip, but I did scale back a few ingredient amounts, knowing that the rub on the lamb would provide some of what I left out. I also changed a couple things up, like using guajillo chilies I had on hand instead of New Mexican chilies or chile negros.

I used the time that the lamb was smoking to put together the sauce. Then, after three hours in the smoker—meat doesn't pick up much smoke after that amount of time—I transferred the roast to a large Dutch oven, covered it with sauce, and stuck it into a 250°F oven. If you don't to waste a good fire, though, you can also finish it up in the already running smoker.

After that, it was just a waiting game until the lamb became tender enough that my probe thermometer went into the center of the meat with no resistance. This required an additional three hours of cooking, with the final internal temperature of the lamb hitting 175°F.

A Tender Rest

At this point, the lamb could be pulled, but not as easily as I had imagined. I know from previous experience that chilling the meat and then reheating it results in a more tender final product. I decided to transfer the shoulder to a large bowl and let it sit, fully immersed in the sauce, overnight.

The next day, I removed the lamb and pulled it into large chunks while it was still cold, discarding any overly large pieces of fat or sinew that still existed. When gently reheated in the sauce, those chunks became incredibly tender, with some breaking apart into smaller shreds while others retained their size and shape.

Barbecued Barbacoa

A final taste called for a little more salt and a squirt of lime juice to freshen it up. Aside from that, I can't imagine changing a thing: The meat was rich and tender, with the distinctly heavy flavor of lamb flavor coming through the strongly earthy, spicy, and smoky sauce. The rub held up throughout the entire process, and the pieces still clinging to that blackened bark were insanely good.

I actually worried that this intensity of flavor that made me love this so much might be a little overboard for my guests who gathered to help eat, but it was the best-received meat of the afternoon, beating out my all-time favorite skirt steak, and that's saying a lot.

We enjoyed the lamb piled into grill-toasted corn tortillas with onion, cilantro, and tomatillo salsa, which added a tartness that provided great contrast to the warm and spicy lamb.


First of all, you’ll need to ask the butcher for a whole lamb shoulder. You want to buy a lamb shoulder that weighs around two or three kilograms. If you can only get two kilos, that’s going to be fine, but if you want to feed a bigger crowd, or have enough pulled lamb to graze on all weekend, we recommend you get a hearty three kilo slab of lamb shoulder.

Our host Adam likes to leave a light coating of fat on top, but also recommends slicing off some of that harder fat because that’s not going to render as well. You only need a thin membrane to add that extra juicy flavour. Happily, this pulled lamb recipe is super easy to prepare for the smoker.

Next, add a nice layer of peanut oil and then add your rub to all sides and all edges to give us that nice crusty bark on the outside that will maintain that moisture for us. This now goes in the smoker at 220 degrees Fahrenheit (105 degrees Celsius) for a couple of hours

So you’ve left your lamb shoulder on for a couple of hours. It’s got some smoke, its got a nice bark covering on the outside. What you’ll need ot do next to maintain some of that moisture inside is wrap your lamb shoulder in aluminium foil. This is an Australasian Barbecue Alliance power move and one of the secrets to perfectly smoked pulled lamb.

Now that the lamb is wrapped, instead of cooking to time, you need to cook to an internal temperature of about 203 degrees Fahrenheit. How you can gauge the time is by using a digital thermometer and a probe. At this stage, all you need to look at is the gage going up to 203 degrees. Once your lamb hits that temperature, pull it off the grill.
At this stage, you’ve just taken the lamb shoulder off the smoker. It’s been wrapped for the last few hours, preserving that delicious moisture inside that flavoursome crusted outside bark.

Smoked Lamb Shoulder Chops

You are going to love these smoked lamb shoulder chops this Easter for their amazing flavor.. unlike any lamb you've probably ever tasted.

Brined and marinated with creamy buttermilk to tenderize and bring out the best of that wonderful lamb flavor. I used my Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) to season the top and bottom of the chops to perfection.

Lamb has never been my favorite meat but I could not stop eating these.. they were that good and they bring something extra special to your family dinner table this year for Easter.

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Brine/Marinade Time: 3-4 hours
  • Cook Time: 25-40 minutes
  • Smoker Temp: 240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 140°F
  • Recommended Wood: Apple and/or Cherry
  • Lamb Shoulder Chops
  • Buttermilk brine (recipe below)
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Jeff’s Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub)
Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

I found these at my local grocer already sliced into chops but if you can't find them, you can go to a butcher and he can probably hook you up. In my opinion these are not as tender as lamb loin chops but they reign supreme in flavor and once you taste these, you'll see what I mean.

I used a simple buttermilk brine on the lamb shoulder chops as follows:

Pour the buttermilk and water into a large pitcher. Add the salt and stir for about 30 seconds to make sure the salt is dissolved into the liquid.

Note: This was enough to cover about 4 chops. If you are making more, you may need to double the recipe or adjust the recipe as needed.

Place the lamb shoulder chops into a bowl or zip top bag

Pour the buttermilk brine over the top of them to cover.

Place the chops in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

When the brining time has finished, discard the buttermilk brine and rinse the meat with cold water to remove any residual salt.

Drizzle some olive oil onto the top side of the chops and use a brush to spread it out.

Generously sprinkle Jeff's Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) onto the top side.

Flip the meat over and do the olive oil and Texas style rub again on the other side.

Place the chops on a Weber grill pan or Bradley rack for easy transport to and from the smoker.

Let the lamb chops sit there while you go get the smoker ready.

Setup your smoker for cooking at at about 240°F with indirect heat.

If you smoker has a water pan, fill it with hot water.

Make sure you have enough smoking wood available for about 30 minutes of light smoke.

Once the smoker is preheated and ready to go, place the lamb shoulder chops on the smoker grate.

Watch them carefully as these may cook fast and especially if they are on the thin side.

Mine were just over ½ inch and took about 25 minutes.

When they reach about 110-115°F it's time to move them to a very hot grill or under the broiler of your oven to finish up.

Tip: Use a fast reading thermometer such as the Thermapen to cook these perfectly.

Place the meat on the grill or under the oven broiler and watch them very carefully.

One advantage of the broiler is that it allows you to see the top and how brown they are getting.

If you are going for grill marks, use the grill.

When they reach just a little above medium rare, they are done. I like to take these to about 140-145°F.

When they are finished, serve them right away for best results. If you have to hold them for a few minutes, tent some foil over them during the wait.

Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

I have hundreds and hundreds of smoking recipes in every imaginable category on this site and all of them are absolutely free. The only thing I offer for sale are the recipes to my (2) amazing dry rubs and my one-of-a-kind barbecue sauce.

Please understand that this is how I support the newsletter, the website and all of the other stuff that we do here to promote the art of smoking meat.

Read these recent testimonies:

I tried the rub on a beef brisket and some beef ribs the other day and our entire family enjoyed it tremendously. I also made a batch of the barbeque sauce that we used on the brisket as well as some chicken. We all agreed it was the best sauce we have had in a while. –Darwyn B.

Thank you for the great advice. Followed your rib recipe and everyone loved them. Used your rub and sauce. On point! –Charles W.

Love the sauce and rub recipes. So far I have used them on beef ribs, pork ribs, and different chicken parts. Can't wait to do a beef brisket. Texas rub is great as well! –Peter S.

You see the raving testimonies and you wonder, “Can the recipes really be that good?”

No worries! Make up a batch and if it's not as good as you've heard.. simply ask for a refund. Now that's a bargain and you know it. Let's review:

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FAQ's and Tips To Make Smoked Lamb Yiros

Of course, not everyone has a BBQ or has the weather to BBQ so you can cook it low & slow in the oven. I typically place it on a trivet with a water or beer in the roasting tray which helps add moisture to it. Follow the same instructions to wrap and rest the meat too

These days there are some GREAT shop-bought pitas you can buy for your yiros but if you are feeling adventurous then check out my homemade pitas - HERE

The beauty about cooking large-format meats are 1. It feeds a crowd 2. Leftovers. Once the meat has cooled enough then portion it into freezer bags, label and freeze them. Leftover smoked lamb shoulder is GREAT for pizzas, breakfast hash and/or burgers. Just defrost it, add it as a topping or heat it up with a little BBQ sauce and you are good to go!

Pretty much anything. Grilled chicken thighs (use thighs as they are more forgiving when grilling), pork, beef and goat. All of these meats can be cooked slowly on the BBQ or grilled quickly to provide you with epic results.

How to Make BBQ Pulled Lamb Shoulder

1) Prepare your lamb shoulder by trimming any excess fat then slicing little pockets to insert the garlic and rosemary into the flesh. Season with kosher salt and olive oil inside and out. Finally, apply a liberal amount of venison dry rub or equivalent.

2) Fire up the smoker to about 120C. When humming, add mesquite chips. When it’s smoking, add the shoulder. Remember the first few hours of smoking is the most important for smoke flavour, so keep topping up with woodchips/chunks.

3) Keep an eye on the internal temperature, as soon as it gets to 72C you should be ready to wrap the lamb in foil. Don’t add any more woodchips from this point. While wrapping, add the beer to the bottom of the foil to keep it moist. Raise the smoker temp to 125-130C and cook until the internal temperature reaches 93C. Remove, wrap in a towel and rest for 90m in an esky.

4.) Pull and add BBQ sauce – Enjoy an Aussie take on a US Classic!

(All times are approximate only and will change depending on the size of your meat and the consistency of your smoker (not a problem in the Masterbuilt! )

Recipe: Smoked Lamb Shoulder + Smoked Pulled Pork

Take 10lbs of lamb shoulder (we sourced ours from Central Market), rub generously with salt, pepper and garlic powder overnight, then smoke over oak and hardwood just like a beef brisket.

Mind you that this lamb shoulder does have a few rib bones in it, so a little more studious monitoring is required so it doesn’t overcook. Our Thermoworks Thermapen MK4 and Dot make this an easy task.

Most BBQ lamb recipes I’ve seen treats lamb like a steak, to be grilled or seared over high heat to a rare temperature. In this instance we are cooking low-and-slow for juicy, fatty, shred-ready pulled lamb.

We wrapped the lamb shoulder at the 165F mark and smoked till internal meat temps reached 195F-200F in our BGEXL, again as we would a beef brisket. I should mention that we also had a pork shoulder (boston butt/picnic) also sharing grill space with the lamb that we sauced and wrapped at the stall temperature. (Our favorite bottled sauce on most everything barbecue is Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha & Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce.)

Once rested, we started pulling the meats apart and feasted on the bbq goodness for over 2 weeks.