A roast leg of lamb makes an impressive traditional display on any Easter table. A roast leg of goat is every bit as striking, and in my mind, qualifies as an even greater delicacy.
In today’s busy grab-and-go world, cooking any piece of meat larger than a steak or a chicken breast can feel intimidating. Let’s be honest, there’s a reason special-occasion dishes are reserved for special occasions. Feast-worthy meals can be time consuming to produce, and for most of us, serving up a hefty leg of goat or lamb on a weeknight just isn’t practical.
Big chunks of meat also tend to be pricey, and the idea of investing in something you can’t be certain will turn out right can be enough to make you think “Hmm. How about chicken wings?” What a lot of home cooks don’t realize, though, is that prepping and cooking a big cut of meat can actually be easier and more forgiving than working with smaller cuts. You just need to know a few basic principles, and a have a simple trick or two up your sleeve. So below I share my favorite method for serving up a flawless roast leg of goat or lamb on your first try. It employs a surprisingly simple kitchen hack known as the reverse sear.
This method, popular for steaks, is something I learned while cooking at Heartland in St. Paul, where I needed to be able to produce perfectly rested cuts at a moment’s notice. Serving up big roasts on a daily basis, I was able to fine-tune a method I’ve found to be virtually foolproof, even for beginner home cooks.
Here’s a tutorial on how I roast legs. It works well with either leg of goat or lamb.
This recipe is by chef Alan Bergo. A chef from Minnesota, Alan is a 15 year veteran of the culinary industry, former executive chef of Acclaimed Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. Founder of the website Forager Chef, he’s best known as a respected authority on Midwestern foraging. Learn more about Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at Forager Chef.
1 goat or lamb leg, roughly 4 – 5 lb (or purchase a boneless leg approximately 3-4 lb)
Flavorless, high heat cooking oil, like grape seed
Aromatic herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme, finely chopped to yield ¼ cup
5-2 teaspoons kosher salt to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, or more to taste
Heavy sauté or cast iron pan for searing
Roasting pan with a cooling rack
Kitchen twine, for tying the roast to ensure even cooking
When working with a whole lamb or goat leg, this method requires deboning the meat first, but fear not: As long as you have super-sharp knife, that’s not nearly as hard as it sounds (see pictures and detailed directions below). Or purchase a boneless leg but give up the option of using the leg bone for soup.
From there, the rest is easy: You cook the meat at a low heat (I like 250 °F). When the meat comes up to desired temperature (see guidelines below), you take it out of the oven, rest it thoroughly, then sear it in a hot pan on the stove top, and serve. The result is a perfect, evenly cooked rosé interior and a beautifully browned crust.
First, remove the bone, I like to save it to make soup or broth afterwards. Raw, it also makes a great dog treat.
- Feel where the bone is, then make an incision along the closest seam.
- Using fingers and sharp knife work in to reveal the bone.
- Release the bone and fully remove.
- Continue to remove the cartilage and excessive silver skin separating the muscle groups.
- After all bone and tissue have been removed prepare to tie.
- Trussing will ensure even cooking. It does not have to be perfect.
- Trussed and ready to season and then roast.
Salting, Searing and Roasting
- Season the meat with salt, pepper and herbs inside and out. Roll the leg up tightly and tie with kitchen twine to ensure even cooking. Let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight. The salting helps to dry out the meat surface, which makes searing it effortless, but it’s optional. If you don’t feel like seasoning the meat overnight, try to do it a few hours beforehand. I also like to bring the meat to room temperature before I cook it. I’ve found about 1.5-2 teaspoons of kosher salt for a 3-4 lb goat leg is great.
- The next day, 1.5 hours before you want to serve (assuming a 3-4 lb leg) preheat the oven to 250 °F and place the leg in the oven. Set a timer for 1 hour, and take the temperature in the middle of the roast with the thermometer. When the internal temperature comes up to your target temperature, remove the leg from the oven and allow to cool on its rack in a warm-ish location for 15-20 minutes. You could even turn the oven off and let the roast rest in there with the door slightly ajar.
- Meanwhile, heat up your sides and garnishes and prepare to serve.
- Finally, heat a few tablespoons of oil in the sauté or cast iron pan on high. Turn on the hood, and or open a window, since you’ll be using some high heat for a few minutes. When the oil is just starting to smoke gently, reduce the heat to medium-high and brown the roast deeply on all sides.
- After the roast is browned, transfer to a cutting board, remove the twine, cut into slices with a sharp knife and serve immediately.
Season the goat meat with the teaspoon of salt, then set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Alan’s temperature guidelines for Lamb using this recipe
Cook the leg in the oven until it hits the following temperature for your preference, I like mine around 130 °F.
- Rare: 120 °F
- Medium rare: 130 °F
- Medium: 140 °F
- Medium-well: 150 °F