This cook was definitely an experiment. We wanted to produce lamb burnt ends. Didn't get 'em this time. But we did get some damn good smoked lamb.
Some people like lamb and some don’t. If it’s not fresh or cooked right, it can be gamey.
I like it as long as it’s fresh, seasoned well and cooked right. We eat a lot of rack of lamb and lamb chops, cooked on our PK Grill. My plan for this cook was to do a variation of the Greek Gyro method of cooking lamb on a spindle against a hot charcoal and wood fire to create some lamb burnt ends. But sort of Texas style by cooking it horizontally on a Jambo offset smoker at a high heat.
So I went to the local Costco and chose a fresh leg of lamb. It weighed 4.22 pounds and was boneless. I thoroughly trimmed and removed all of the exterior fat and silver skin. I pre-sliced the lamb (1/2-inch thick or so), coated the slices with some extra virgin olive oil and applied Penzeys lamb rub pretty generously. I bought the rub at the local spice store a couple of blocks from the house.
Then, instead of placing on a vertical spindle (that I do not have), I stacked it on a stainless steel rod so I can move it around on the offset pit more easily.
By pre-slicing the meat and creating more surface area for the heat and smoke to contact, the meat will cook somewhat faster and develop more bark and flavor from the wood fire. Since it's lamb, I used a garlic infused olive oil with fresh lemon juice as a mop to keep it from drying out.
I also prepped whole fresh sweet onions, bell peppers sliced in half, and whole tomatoes to go onto the Jambo pit as well.
Is it a Texas Version of Middle Eastern Shish Kabob or Greek Gyro or just good smoked lamb? Who the heck knows?
Braun Hughes (Franklin Barbecue pitmaster) sparked the idea on a Facebook comment to me a few weeks ago. “Are those brisket shish kabobs?” he asked, seeing the photo of the brisket burnt ends on my Facebook page. Later, we posted a story about brisket burnt ends -- "five pounds of absolute heaven" -- on the Posse Web site.
For the smoked lamb cook, I fired up the Jambo pit with a mix of post oak and hickory wood to 275F. The lamb went on the cook grate in the center of the smoker and the vegetables went on later, next to the firebox to roast and caramelize. After 45 minutes or so I mopped the lamb with the olive oil and fresh lemon juice every 20 to 30 minutes or so. When the lamb hit an internal temperature of 110F, I noticed it still had no bark, so I cranked the fire up to about 350F.
The lamb cooked until it was about 130-135F internal temperature and had a real nice mahogany brown crust, but no bark.
It was excellent and had many great flavors: the natural flavor of the lamb, the intense flavors of the rub and the light smoke flavor from the fire.
Even though I wasn’t able to produce burnt ends, I do think that there’s really something to pre-slicing the lamb and then cooking it on the smoker at high heat. The method helped transform the meat from a strong-tasting leg into a sweet flavor that’s typical in a loin as in a rack of lamb. Really good stuff.
The vegetables were good as well, without any burnt or black edges. But they definitely picked up flavor from the wood fire. The vegetables retained a really nice color, without the typical black crust if grilled. They were definitely scrumptious, especially the tomatoes that seemed to have cooked in their own juices. The flavors were intense.
So, as I thought through the results, I figured the lamb wasn’t a large enough cut of meat to be in the pit long enough to develop a bark from the Maillard reaction. Perhaps I will try cooking the lamb again but with a bone-in and a larger leg of lamb starting it in the pit at a higher temperature, and not mop.
As I said, when I started this cook, it was definitely an experiment. I wasn't sure it would hunt. But it does. It's a good way to cook smoked lamb.
Soon, I'm planning to cook pork bunt ends with Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins shooting some of his fantastic photos and video – so stay tuned! Pork burnt ends are damned good!