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Leg of lamb

Other Names: American-style roast, bas de gigot (French, shank half leg), boneless leg, bottom roast, butterflied leg, _coscia- (Italian), gigot (French), gigot raccourci (French, short-cut leg), half leg shank end, half leg sirloin end, haunch (British, leg with sirloin), haut de gigot (French, sirloin half leg), jiggot (Scottish), lamb steamship, leg center roast, pierna (Spanish), short-cut leg, 3/4 French-style leg, whole (or full) leg.

General Description: Leg of lamb is the most versatile cut of lamb and makes a beautiful roast for a large group. A bone-in leg of lamb (NAMP 233) is the most economical; one with the aitchbone (hipbone) removed (NAMP 233E) will be easier to carve. Boneless leg of lamb (NAMP 234) can be stuffed or spread with a seasoning paste and then rolled and tied. A boneless leg minus the shank (NAMP 234A) will be more tender. A boned, rolled, and tied (BRT) or netted leg is easy to roast.

A full American-raised leg of lamb is rather large and unwieldy for many families, so it’s often cut into two pieces: the shank (lower) end is less meaty and tougher than the sirloin (or upper) half, which is usually more expensive and bonier. Many people ask the butcher to bone the sirloin half of the leg, then either roll and tie it or butterfly it. Australian and New Zealand leg of lamb is much smaller and is shipped with the aitchbone removed.

A short leg is partially boneless because the aitchbone has been removed along with the hindshank and the sirloin. It is smaller than a whole leg but still makes a dramatic presentation. A lamb center roast contains the leg bone (femur), the inside (top) round, the bottom round, and the knuckle with the shank and the sirloin removed. A lamb bottom roast is a boneless roast taken from the shank end of the lamb leg. A French(ed) leg of lamb has been cut to expose the end of the shank bone. If the bone at the end is simply chopped off, it’s called an American leg.

An oven-ready leg has had the hipbone removed for ease of carving, and the leg has been netted or tied. A butterflied leg is completely boned and trimmed then opened up for broiling or outdoor cooking. (When spread flat, it resembles a butterfly.) Because this cut varies in thickness, it can easily satisfy many tastes with a natural range of doneness.

Lamb cutlets (NAMP 1234A) are thin cuts of lamb that are usually cut from the leg and should consist of a single muscle. Pound the cutlets to thin them further.

Part of Animal: Lamb leg, one of the five primal cuts, consists of the rear legs of the lamb containing the sirloin, top round, bottom round, shank, and knuckle.

Characteristics: Leg of lamb is generally tender, though it is made up of different muscles. If you buy a boneless leg of lamb, you may wish to remove (or have the butcher remove) the shank end, which will be tougher, and use it for braising or grinding rather than roasting.

How to Choose: Choose the size and shape of lamb leg that’s right for your needs; boneless is easier to carve but takes longer to roast and won’t be quite as juicy. The fell, the thin parchment-like membrane that covers the muscles in the leg and other parts, should always be removed.

Amount to Buy: For bone-in leg of lamb, allow about 3/4 pound per person; for boneless leg of lamb allow about 1/2 pound per person.

Storage: Store whole leg of lamb up to 3 days refrigerated; up to 4 days if marinated.


  1. Trim most of the outer fat from the leg. If the hip-bone has been removed, sew or skewer the opening closed. Spread a seasoning paste over the lamb, if desired, and leave at room temperature for 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brown the lamb on all sides in a large skillet over high heat.
  3. Roast fat side up for 40 to 60 minutes, or to the desired temperature. Test in several places, as the different muscles cook at different rates.
  4. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes before slicing. The meat will rise in temperature about 5°F as it rests.
  5. Bone-in leg will cook faster than boneless, because the bone conducts heat to the inside.

Flavor Affinities: Capers, cardamom, dill, ginger, lemons, mint, red wine, rosemary, shallots, tarragon, thyme, yogurt.

from Quirk Books: