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October 17, 2023

Hot Tips: Lamb Cooking Time and Temperature

Chef basting American lamb cooking on open flame outdoors

Lamb is a tender, flavorful meat perfect for both special occasions and everyday dinners. Like all meats, it’s important to cook your meat safely and avoid the risk of foodborne illness. We’ve compiled some top tips for ensuring your lamb is not just cooked to perfection, but that it also tastes great.

Select Your Cut

The cut of your meat will determine the proper cooking time and temperature for lamb. Cuts of lamb include: bone-in lamb leg, shoulder roast, lamb cubes for kabobs, ground lamb patties, lamb chops, stew meat, lamb shanks, boneless lamb leg and rolled lamb.

Lamb meat tends to be tender, however, the tenderness can vary based on the cut. Some cuts, like the loin or rack, are naturally tender, while others, like the leg or shoulder, benefit from slower cooking methods to become tender.

To prep your meat, bring it to room temperature and always cut against the grain. Keep a meat thermometer handy — it’s the most reliable way to ensure your lamb is cooked to a safe temperature. The internal temperature of meat will continue to rise after you pull it from the oven, so it’s good to follow these guidelines:

  • Medium rare: pull from oven at 135 degrees and let rest until it reaches 145 degrees
  • Medium: pull from oven at 150 degrees and let rest until it reaches 160 degrees
  • Well: pull from oven at 160 degrees and let rest until it reaches 170 degrees

Lamb is often best enjoyed when cooked to a slightly pink or medium-rare internal temperature. This helps preserve its tenderness and flavor. However, personal preferences for doneness can vary, and lamb cooked to medium or well still tastes great!

Cooking Time and Temperature by Cut

Lamb leg: For a 5-7 pound lamb leg, roast to 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes per pound (medium rare), 25-30 minutes (medium) or 30-35 minutes (well done).

  • Once the lamb leg reaches the desired internal temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 15-20 minutes. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a juicier and more tender roast.
  • Carve the lamb leg against the grain for the best texture and presentation.

If you're using a boneless lamb leg, you may need to adjust the cooking times slightly, as boneless cuts can cook faster than bone-in ones.

Shoulder roast: Cooking a lamb shoulder roast is a bit different from a lamb leg due to the shoulder's higher connective tissue content. This means the shoulder benefits from slower cooking methods to break down the tough connective tissues and become tender. 

For a 3-4 pound lamb shoulder, roast at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes per pound (medium rare), 25-30 minutes per pound (medium) or 30-35 minutes per pound (well done).

Lamb kabobs: Lamb kabobs are often cooked to medium-rare or medium for the best tenderness and flavor. Cut cubes to 1-1.5 inch and broil or grill for 8-12 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

Once the lamb kabobs are cooked to your desired doneness, remove them from the heat and let them rest for a few minutes before serving. 

Lamb patties: For a 4 ounce lamb patty, broil or grill for 6-7 minutes to preferred doneness.

Lamb chops: Lamb chops are typically cut from the rib, loin or shoulder area, and can be bone-in or boneless. Rib chops and loin chops are often the most popular cuts for grilling or pan-searing due to their tenderness.

Lamb chops 1-1.25 inch thick should be broiled or grilled for 9-12 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

Lamb stew: Cut stew meat in 1-1.5 inch pieces, cover with liquid and simmer for 1.5-2 hours, until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Lamb shanks: Lamb shanks are flavorful and hearty cuts of meat that benefits from braising to achieve a tender and succulent texture. For 0.5-1.0 inch lamb shanks, braise for 1-2 hours, until the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Lamb Cooking Ingredients

Lamb is a versatile meat that can be prepared and flavored in a variety of ways. We’ve compiled a list of recipes for cooking lamb, but here are some of our favorite ingredients, flavors and add-ons to make your next meal a success:

  • Leg of lamb: Spice blends that include allspice, cinnamon and brown sugar, or marinades with pomegranate molasses
  • Lamb shoulder roast: Herbs and spices like rosemary and curry, salsa, and other Mediterranean flavors
  • Lamb kabobs: Sesame sauce with Greek yogurt, tahini and lemon juice
  • Lamb burgers: Fresh toppings like pickled red onions, kalamata olives, mixed greens, feta cheese and cucumbers
  • Lamb chops: Mint and tahini, peach salsa and creamy parmesan sauce
  • Lamb soups and stews: coconut yogurt, garam masala, korma sauce, butternut squash and even chocolate
  • Lamb shanks: honey glazes, roasted vegetables and green salsa
  • Boneless lamb and rolled lamb: pesto, burrata, lemon vinaigrette and eggplant

No matter what type of cuisine you enjoy, there are lamb recipes perfect for your family’s next meal.

Download our Lamb Cooking Time & Temperature Guide