Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (2024)

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Mary

4.50 from 6 votes

Jun 09, 2021, Updated Feb 12, 2024

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Smoked Lamb Shoulder is an absolute treat. This slowly smoked lamb shoulder recipe is spritzed with a savory mix of apple cider vinegar and juice, and then pulled for tender and flavorful lamb. This recipe is a great one for your next summer cookout!

Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (2)

Recipe Highlights

  • Lamb Shoulder needs a low and slow cooking method, either on a smoker or in some braising liquid for the tender pulled texture.
  • The lower temperature slowly renders the intramuscular fat for a juicy and tender bite.

It’s common to hear folks dismiss the flavor of lamb. This is unfortunate, as it can be absolutely incredible when done right (and sourced from quality meat). This misconception often comes from the experience of eating overcooked lamb, or even mutton (meaning lamb that is over 1 year old, and thus not officially “lamb”).

Table of Contents

  • Recipe Highlights
  • Ingredients
  • Preparation
  • How to Smoke Lamb Shoulder
  • Chefs Note
  • Pulling
  • Saucing
  • Serving Suggestions
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • What To Serve With Pulled Lamb
  • More Lamb Recipes
  • Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe

The idea for this lamb shoulder recipe was inspired by how we smoke pork shoulder. The technique is identical and the flavor is out of this world, especially when you start with a high-quality lamb.

Ingredients

  • Lamb Shoulder – It’s most likely you will find boneless lamb shoulder, and we recommend it so you don’t have to cut away the bones.
  • Binder – We use extra virgin olive oil to help bind the seasoning to the shoulder. You can also use chicken stock, mustard, or other liquids that you like the flavor.
  • Seasoning – Our favorite lamb seasoning is our pork seasoning, which has sugar, herbs, and savory spices. It also has a good portion of kosher salt.
  • Spritz – Spraying flavored liquid onto the lamb while it smokes helps the smoke and flavor stick to the meat. We use apple cider vinegar and apple juice.

What is Lamb Shoulder

Lamb Shoulder, as implied by the name, comes from the upper portion of the leg of a lamb. Most often it’s from the front legs and can also be called lamb arm. It’s similar to the pork butt in that it is a muscle that gets a lot of movement, which makes for a tough cut.

The meat is tough if you just grilled it hot and fast, therefore it really needs to be slowly braised or slowly smoked in order to render out the intramuscular fat resulting in that soft delicious texture.

As it smokes, it also mellows out the unique and often gamey flavors that can come from lamb. But those signature flavors will also vary from rancher to rancher, so don’t assume a fresh lamb is going to be gamey at all.

Buying Lamb Shoulder

Lamb shoulder will either come bone-in or boneless. We have smoked both and found that buying boneless is much easier for consistency in size and for the pulling process after it’s done. For the price of lamb, it also cuts back on the per pound price that you would pay for by adding the bone.

Consider buying from a reputable butcher, where they know the lamb rancher. This assures that the lamb will be fresh and less than 1-year old sheep. The older the lamb and as it crosses the 1-year threshold, the more it can take on the more pronounced flavor of mutton. You can read more about lamb in our recipe for leg of lamb.

Preparation

For this lamb shoulder recipe, we are preparing a boneless lamb shoulder.

  1. Start by removing the butcher twine holding it all together. Do this to open the meat up for trimming and seasoning. Lay it out flat on a sheet pan.
  2. Next trim away any excess fat on both sides of the shoulder or cartilage using a good quality filet or boning knife.
  3. Coat both sides of the lamb with olive oil and lamb seasoning. If you want a more savory rub with no sugar, consider our herb-focused chicken seasoning.
  4. Tie the lamb back up again with more butcher twine tightly so it’s one uniform roast as you put it on your smoker.
Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (3)

Now it’s time to smoke the lamb shoulder.

How to Smoke Lamb Shoulder

Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (4)
  1. Prepare your smoker targeting 250 degrees Fahrenheit (F) using fruit wood, like apple or cherry. Alternatively oak or hickory are good options. We find mesquite a little too smoky for lamb.
  2. Place the lamb shoulder on the smoker and smoke for three hours. Insert an instant-read Bluetooth thermometer, like the Thermoworks Smoke Unit, to monitor the internal temperature. In this phase, the smoked lamb will start to turn red and develop a bark.
  3. After three hours, start to spray the shoulder with the spritz. The spritz adds some moisture to the smoked lamb and helps the smoke molecules to stick to the meat. Make sure to use a food-safe spray bottle for this.
  4. After spritzing for two to three hours (five to six hours total) the internal temperature of the shoulder should be at, or around, 165 – 170 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, wrap the shoulder in butcher paper or aluminum foil and place it back into the smoker to continue cooking.
  5. Place the thermometer probes back into the shoulder and continue smoking until the internal temperature of the lamb reaches 200 – 205 degrees F. You know it’s done when somewhere in that range an instant-read thermometer can probe the meat with no resistance, much like the feeling of room temperature butter (i.e. it should feel soft and tender). We use the Thermoworks Thermapen One.
  6. Remove the roast and then let it rest for 30 minutes. Then remove and pull the meat.

Chefs Note

If the smoked lamb is done earlier than you want to serve, then store the lamb wrapped (not pulled) in a cooler with no ice for up to four hours. This will hold the temperature until ready to pull and serve.

Pulling

Using two large forks, or a pulled pork shredding tool, gently pull at the edges of the shoulder. If you pulled while probe tender, the meat should easily come off. As you shred, remove any cartilage or leftover fat pockets and discard.

Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (5)

Saucing

There are a number of sauces we would recommend. If using a sauce, just toss it with the warm pulled lamb. Note that we aren’t using mint.

  • Carolina Style Vinegar Sauce
  • Chimichurri Sauce
  • Garlic Butter Sauce

Serving Suggestions

To stretch your dollar you can serve it as an appetizer and place on a crostini, similar to this brisket crostini recipe. You can also use it for a pizza or lamb sliders.

But one of our favorite uses is to serve it in pita bread with a little bit of tzatziki sauce. The smoky and super tender meat is nicely balanced by the fresh and cooling tzatziki. Just fill some pita bread with some crunchy greens, and a hefty amount of pulled lamb, and top with your favorite tzatziki recipe.

Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (6)

Frequently Asked Questions

how long does it take to smoke lamb shoulder

Plan 30 minutes per pound for smoked lamb shoulder at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also about the same time if you choose to smoke at 225 degrees F.

should you wrap lamb when smoking

Yes, we recommend wrapping after the lamb has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This will speed up the smoking process and lock in the juices. You will lose a slight bit of the bark but it’s a good tradeoff.

is lamb a good meat to smoke

Lamb is a perfect meat to smoke low and slow. It brings out the rich flavor with the added smoke flavor profile.

What To Serve With Pulled Lamb

Whenever we serve pulled lamb shoulder we like to add a rich side dish and pair with wine.

Wine Pairing for Lamb Shoulder

For the lamb alone I loved it with a nice Pinot Noir (I vote Oregon Pinot for the balance of earthy and fruity flavors). But with pitas, smothered in that bright citrusy and herbal tzatziki sauce, it works surprisingly well with a bright and fruity rosé.

Side Dishes

  • Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad
  • No Mayo Coleslaw
  • Grilled Hasselback Potatoes

More Lamb Recipes

  • Smoked Lamb Lollipops
  • Pulled Lamb Sliders
  • Smoked Lamb Burgers with Rosemary Aioli and Pickled Onions
  • Grilled Rack of Lamb with Jalapeno Chimichurri
  • Smoked Lamb Meatballs
  • Boneless Leg of Lamb
  • Bone-In Leg of Lamb
Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (7)

Now on 2nd edition

Fire + Wine Cookbook

“This book is a one-stop guide for anyone truly interested in elevating their BBQ experience into a culinary work of art.”
5 out of 5 Stars
San Francisco Book Review

About Vindulge

Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.

*This post was originally published April of 2016 and updated June of 2021 with more recipe details, how to instructions. The recipe remains the same.

Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (8)

4.50 from 6 votes

Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe

By Mary Cressler | Vindulge

How to smoke a lamb shoulder and what to do with it after it's cooked.

Prep: 15 minutes mins

Cook: 10 hours hrs

Resting Time: 30 minutes mins

Total: 10 hours hrs 45 minutes mins

Servings: 8 servings

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Equipment

  • Butcher Twine

Ingredients

For the Smoked Lamb Shoulder:

  • 5 pound lamb shoulder, (We recommend boneless)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup Ultimate Dry Rub

For the Spritz:

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup apple juice

Instructions

  • Pre-heat Smoker: Prepare your smoker targeting 250 degrees Fahrenheit (F) using fruit wood, like apple or cherry. Alternatively oak or hickory are good options. We find mesquite a little too smoky for lamb.

  • Prep Lamb: Start by removing the butcher twine. Lay the meat out flat on a sheet pan. Next, trim away any excess fat on both sides of the shoulder or cartilage using a good quality filet orboning knife. Coat both sides of the lamb with olive oil and dry rub. Tie the meat back up again with more butcher twine tightly so it’s one uniform roast as you put it on your smoker.

  • Smoke: Place the lamb shoulder on the smoker and insert an instant-read Bluetooth thermometer, like the ThermoworksSmoke Unit,to monitor the internal temperature. Smoke for three hours. In this phase, the lamb will start to turn red and develop a bark.

  • Spritz: After the first three hours, start to spray the shoulder with the spritz. The spritz adds some moisture to the lamb and helps the smoke molecules to stick to the meat. Make sure to use a food-safe spray bottle for this.

  • Wrap: After spritzing for two to three hours (five to six hours total) the internal temperature of the shoulder should be at, or around, 165 – 170 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, wrap the shoulder in butcher paper or aluminum foil and place it back into the smoker to finish cooking.

  • Place the thermometer probes back into the shoulder and continue smoking until the internal temperature of the lamb reaches 200 – 205 degrees F. You know it’s done when somewhere in that range an instant-read thermometer can probe the meat with no resistance, much like the feeling of room temperature butter.

  • Remove and Rest: Remove the roast and then let it rest for 30 minutes, then pull the meat.

Notes

Buying: Consider a boneless lamb shoulder. Be sure you have butcher twine at home.

Pulling: Using two large forks, or a pulled pork shredding tool, gently pull at the edges of the shoulder. If you pulled while probe tender, the meat should easily come off. As you shred, remove any cartilage or leftover fat pockets and discard.

Chef’s Note:If the lamb is done earlier than you wish to serve, then store the lamb wrapped (not pulled) in a cooler with no ice for up to four hours. This will hold the temperature until ready to pull and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 378kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 48g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 152mg | Sodium: 167mg | Potassium: 739mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 77IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Mary Cressler | Vindulge

Prep Time: 15 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 10 hours hours

Resting Time: 30 minutes minutes

Total Time: 10 hours hours 45 minutes minutes

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: barbecue, bbq, grilling

Servings: 8 servings

Calories: 378

Keyword: lamb shoulder recipe, pulled lamb, smoked lamb shoulder

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Categorized as:

Dinner, Food, Recipes, Red Wines, Rosé Wine, , Wine

Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (9)

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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

About Me

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Smoked Lamb Shoulder Recipe (2024)
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