Pulled Barbecued American Lamb Shoulder with Lemon and Herb Fennel Slaw

Prep Time

25 min

Cook Time

-- min

Total Time

-- min


6 to 8

Pulled Barbecued American Lamb Shoulder with Lemon and Herb Fennel Slaw


American Lamb Shoulder and Rub

  • 4 pound bone-in American Lamb shoulder
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons minced thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Fennel Slaw

  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, plus 2 tablespoons fennel fronds
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion (about 1 large red onion)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Citrus-Vinegar Sauce

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder


For the American Lamb Shoulder and Rub: The night before, in the bowl of a mortar and pestle combine garlic, orange zest and salt. Mash into a thick paste. Fold in oil, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg and pepper. Rub paste over lamb shoulder on all sides, taking care to really massage rub into the skin. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

For the Fennel Slaw: Combine fennel and onion. In a small bowl, whisk to combine oil, lemon juice and salt. Drizzle over salad and toss; set aside for 10 minutes. Fold in parsley, yogurt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill for an hour or more before serving. Slaw will keep well covered in the fridge for 3 days. Before serving, taste; add salt as needed. 

For the Citrus-Vinegar Sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, orange juice, orange zest, honey, red pepper, salt, pepper and chili powder. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Turn heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes. Pour into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep in fridge for up to 5 days, but allow sauce to come to room temperature before serving.

To smoke lamb shoulder: Light charcoal and wait for it to become completely gray. Or, on a gas grill, set one side to 250°F. 

Soak 1 pound hickory chips in water for 15 minutes, then drain. 

Bank hot coals to one side of grill and place a pan of water on the other side. Allow coals to cool until ambient temperature of closed grill is 250°F as measured by a grill thermometer or a meat thermometer inserted through vent in lid. 

Add a handful of hickory chips to coals or, for a gas grill, make a packet of chips in aluminum foil, poke holes in it and place it on grill. Place shoulder on grill over pan of water and close lid quickly. 

Every 30 minutes, add a handful of chips or another foil packet of chips. Maintain cooking temperature within 25°F of 250°F by adding coals to bring temperature up or closing vents to bring it down. 

Smoke until shoulder is very tender with a thick crust on the outside and internal temperature is 190°F, about 5 to 6 hours. 

Remove to cutting board; rest 10 minutes. Pull lamb into bite-sized pieces. Serve on buns with Citrus-Vinegar Sauce and Fennel Slaw. 


Notes on smoking: No matter what kind of grill you are using, it’s essential to keep grill closed as much as possible so the temperature remains steady and smoke doesn’t escape too quickly.

USDA recommends the following time and temperature parameters

Ground Lamb

Internal temperature of 160°F

All Other Cuts

Internal temperature of 145°F, with a 3 minute rest

thermometer timer illustration
Visit our Lamb Cooking Time & Temperature page for recipe inspiration and tips on preparing the perfect lamb.

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