Boneless Leg of Lamb

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Years ago, I remember telling a friend that I wanted to take a butchering class some time. She said, “you mean you want to learn how to kill chickens?”

I then clarified that I wanted nothing to do with animals outside of my kitchen, but I wanted to know what to do with them once they were in my kitchen.

The extent of my butchering has been trimming beef tenderloins. This came from too many times purchasing packaged filet mignons, which looked perfect underneath the stretched plastic wrap, but when I got them home they would fall into 2 or 3 pieces.

That’s when I started buying whole tenderloins and being in charge of cutting the filets myself. It’s less expensive, and nothing goes to waste.

When on Amazon.com looking though cookbooks a few years ago, I came upon what seemed like a perfect reference book for me. It’s called The Butcher’s Apprentice, by Aliza Green, published in 2012.

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This book was my dream come true. Pretty much anything you need to learn how to do with meat is in this book, along with step-by-step directions. Recently I decided to de-bone a leg of lamb using the book.

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I opened it up and immediately noticed that the photos are mirror images of what they should be. I would have imagined the photos be from the butcher’s perspective, maybe using a camera attached to the ceiling.

I tried laying the book on the floor upside-down, but the angle of the camera was off for me.

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There was also no labeling of the leg of lamb. Turns out mine didn’t have a pelvis attached. The parts about shanks and femurs and so forth were lost on me – I was mostly trying to match what the meat looked like in the photos.

Basically, I gave up on my “prized” book, and just removed the two bones that I found, some fat, and some of the fell.

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What was left was a mess, but I seasoned it with garlic pepper and salt. Check out my scimitar! My husband thought I’d perhaps joined the dark side when he spotted it.

Then I pushed it all together, and tied it up.

I placed halves of garlic cloves, from about 5-6 cloves, into holes I made in the meat using the point of a knife.

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I poured some olive oil in a large roasting pan and placed the lamb on the oil. Then I turned over the lamb, making sure it was covered with oil.

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After more garlic pepper and salt, I put the lamb in the oven that was preheated to 400 degrees.

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After 10 minutes I used large forks to turn it over. The other side browned in about 5 minutes.

I reduced the oven to 325 degrees. I think the old standard is ten minutes a pound, but I decided to use my oven probe to make sure the lamb cooks only to medium rare, or 125 degrees.

The thing is, when you use a probe, you actually have to listen for the beeping that tells you that the probe has reached the desired temperature. I, unfortunately, was not in the kitchen, so the oven went to HOLD and continued to cook my precious lamb roast.

When I realized that the lamb had been in the oven too long, I quickly took it out of the pan and let rest on a cutting board.

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When I sliced it, the lamb wasn’t terribly overcooked, but it certainly wasn’t medium rare, which is how I love it. This is not a mistake I haven’t made before – I’ve got quite a few burnt pots to prove that I get distracted easily when I’m cooking.

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If lamb is cooked properly, just like a filet mignon, it doesn’t need much!

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I served the lamb with persillade and roasted tomatoes.

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The persillade was also wonderful with the tomatoes.

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The pinkest parts of the lamb were wonderful, probably because of the high quality of the meat.

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Overall, I’m really disappointed in this book. I don’t think photos taken from an observer’s perspective does anyone any good when trying to learn an involved skill like meat butchering. I had better luck closing the book and using common sense.

53 thoughts on “Boneless Leg of Lamb

  1. Despite all your problems it still looks amazing and I bet it tasted even better. I completely see your point about the photos in the book, it doesn’t make any sense. My knives are no where near sharp enough to attempt any butchering, I always watch in awe when they do it on the tv!

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  2. The lamb looks terrific! I think you are quite brave and daring to try deboning a leg of lamb on your own! I’ve deboned chicken legs, but for this, I’d just ask my butcher. Have you ever tried baking halved tomatoes with a topping of persillade and breadcrumbs? If you liked the combo, you’d probably love it that way!

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  3. I can completely see why you would be disappointed in that book. How on earth can you follow something in the third-person perspective, upside-down no less! Clearly an amateur photographer for the book. I am sure Conor’s treatise next week will be much clearer to you. Personally, I would eat the lamb cooked that way, though! It all looks lovely and delicious Mimi!

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  4. I’m with you on rare-ish lamb but it still looks very good. As a previous respondent said, YouTube videos can be good, once you get past the ads, the irritating music and the self-promotion (you can tell I’m a bit ambivalent!). Lx

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  5. I usually grill, BBQ, or broil butterflied deboned leg of lamb as a flat piece of meat rather than a roll. A marinade of mustard rosemary honey and garlic is delicious. It only needs about 30mins to med rare and ends up crisp and charry on the outside. Deboning is a delicate operation, I find a thin flexible blade deboning knife the easiest to manipulate. Keeping the blade angled to the bone is paramount and the other thing to remember is that practice makes perfect. A deboned leg of lamb is my very favourite cut…

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    • That’s exactly why I purchased my 10″ scimitar. Found it on Amazon and it was very useful. And sharp! Grilling sounds really lovely as well, especially with honey mustard!

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  6. I learned how to bone a leg of lamb from one of Julia Child’s books. She had some photos (taken from the observer’s point of view), but more important she had some drawings showing the bone structure. It was the drawings that really clicked with me. I think a lot of the older books are better in that regard — from the 50s through the 90s. They didn’t have YouTube as a crutch, so the books has to be complete. Anyway, love lamb! Good post — thanks.

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  7. Your lamb looks fantastic despite the book not being a real help! You have inspired me to have lamb for dinner tonight, but probably just kebabs, as I won’t have time to roast (and it is over 100° out!).

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  8. I’m so glad you reviewed that book–I was thinking of purchasing it, but if the photos aren’t from the butcher’s view it would be useless. Despite your difficulties, and your “overcooked” lamb still looks pretty good. (I prefer my lamb medium rare too.) I’ll certainly be checking out Conor Bofin’s post on butterflying!

    The tomatoes and the persillade look like just the thing to go with lamb.

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  9. Well, you surely did an amazing job in the end, it looks delicious… I can say that de-boning anything is really hard and takes lots and lots of practice to get it right. I only do it every now and then and it’s like learning all over again. The only reference book I own on trimming and cutting meat has the same issue with the photos but as a reference it’s not bad.

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