Slow cooked lamb is hands down my favorite way to eat lamb. This roasted lamb shoulder dish is impossibly juicy, tender and takes all of five minutes to get into the oven. Then it’s hands off for the next few hours while your house fills with the aroma of earthy spices and roasting meat.
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Lamb leg or lamb shoulder?
I know a leg of lamb is the more commonly known roasting joint, but for me a slow roasted lamb shoulder wins every time.
A roasted leg of lamb is very nice (I even have a recipe for one on this very website). It is also more ‘carveable’ into presentable slices, if that’s your thing. But I’ll forgo the pretty presentation if I can have these shreds of juicy shoulder meat that melt in the mouth. Shoulder of lamb gives you this soft, shredding quality thanks to its marbling of fat and sinew through the meat. It sounds unappealing, but I promise it’s a good thing. That fat and connective tissue slowly breaks down during cooking, keeping the lamb moist and giving it amazing flavor.
Want more roast dinner recipes? Try these:
How to make easy slow cooked lamb
Slow cooking lamb shoulder is ridiculously simple. Here I’ve included an easy spice rub with cumin (aka lamb’s best friend), but if you want to go even simpler with salt and pepper, by all means do that. Lamb has a beautiful, almost sweet, flavor of its own. Salt and pepper will highlight the meat, while earthy spices (think cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika and saffron) complement it perfectly.
I’m providing a method for regular oven slow roasting and steam oven slow roasting; they are very similar in outcome but the steam oven version is faster.
Prep the meat
The first thing to do is thickly slice an onion or two and a head of garlic. Drop those into the base of a heavy pot (I love cast iron cookware for slow cooking) and put the lamb shoulder on top.
Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle all the spices over the top.
You could mix the spices first, but what can I say, I’m a lazy cook. You’re going to rub them around and mix them up anyway, so take the easy path.
That is literally it for prep. Put the pan into the oven and roast for several hours – about 5-6 hours for a regular oven or four to 4 and a half if you’ve got combi steam. See the recipe card below for full temperature and timing details.
Particularly if you’re roasting the lamb in a regular oven, you may find you need a touch of water in the bottom of the pot to stop the juices from evaporating and then scorching during cooking. The idea isn’t to stew the meat, just to add enough liquid that it keeps things moist.
At the end of cooking, you should be able to easily pull the meat apart with a fork or tongs. It’ll be moist and succulent and tender. I dare you not to eat any while you’re getting it ready to put on the table.
Quite a lot of fat will render out of the meat during cooking; spoon this away but don’t get rid of the juices underneath it. Those juices are full of deeply savory flavor and are perfect drizzled over the meat for serving.
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Slow cooked lamb serving suggestions
I have to be honest here, this is not a dish I make with a lot of sides.
Most often I serve slow cooked lamb with a simple salad, bought hummus and flatbreads. We shred the meat at the table, straight from the pot, and turn it into DIY wraps with Sriracha sauce for the adults. Quick pickled onions are an optional extra. It’s messy and drippy and absolutely a family favorite meal.
If you want to do things differently, you can roast a pan of root vegetables alongside the meat for the last hour. Or make a cauliflower puree or mashed potatoes for something wintery and worthy of dinner guests.
Got leftovers? You can reheat and make use of any of the original serving suggestions above, or shred the meat and add it to rice that’s been spiked with fried onions, garlic and turmeric. It’s kind of a simplified biryani, and it’ll stretch a small amount of meat a long way.
I’d love to know how you serve your slow cooked lamb. It’s such a versatile centerpiece to a meal; let me know in the comments when you try this and what you eat it with!
Happy steam oven cooking, see you here again soon.
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Slow Cooked Lamb
- Preheat oven to 320°F/160°C.
- Scatter the onion and garlic into the base of a roasting dish or tray. Add the meat on top and rub all over with the oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.3.5 lb lamb shoulder, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground paprika, 1½ tsp salt, 1 onion, 1 bulb garlic, 1 tsp black pepper
- Cover the dish with a tight fitting lid or a large piece of aluminium foil, and cook until the meat is very tender and easily pulls away from the bone, about 5-6 hours. The easiest way to check if it’s cooked is to tug gently at the bones – if they can be pulled right out of the joint your meat is done!
Combi steam/convection steam oven
- Preheat oven to 285°F/140°C, combi steam setting. If your oven has variable steam, use 50%. If not, don’t worry! Just set to combi steam (or convection steam, or hot air plus steam) at the correct temperature and the oven will take care of the steam level for you.
- Scatter the onion and garlic into the base of a roasting dish or tray. Add the meat on top and rub all over with the oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.3.5 lb lamb shoulder, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1½ tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 onion, 1 bulb garlic, 1 tsp ground paprika
- Cook the meat until it’s very tender and easily pulls away from the bone, about 4 to 4 and a half hours. The easiest way to check if it’s cooked is to tug gently at the bones – if they can be pulled right out of the joint your meat is done!
Resting and serving (both cooking methods)
- Remove meat from the oven, transfer to a dish and set aside in a warm place to rest, loosely covered, for 20-30 minutes.
- Drain or spoon off most of the fat from the meat juices, and put the juices into a small bowl or jug for serving. You can discard the fat or use it to roast outstanding vegetables.
- Serve your slow cooked lamb by pulling away large shreds of meat rather than carving.
- If you prefer to make this dish without the spice rub, or with a different spice rub, go for it! Any earthy spice blends will go well with lamb, as do woody herbs like rosemary and thyme. If you’re keeping things very simple, a rub of salt and pepper is wonderful.
- If you have leftovers, pull the meat from the bones and refrigerate it for up to a few days. Reheat gently in your steam oven, or pan fry in a little of the roasting fat until the meat is heated through and getting a little crispy on the edges.
- The cooked, shredded meat freezes well if it’s sealed tightly; I vacuum seal meal-sized portions but a zip-lock bag with the air pressed out works just fine.