Bob Hart’s slow cooked lamb shoulder
GIVING SHEEP THE SHOULDER
The more I tangle with a shoulder of lamb, the more I marvel at it: I love the way it cooks and, even better, the way it tastes when smoke (ideally pecan) is added to the mix.
There is something immensely satisfying about choosing a method of slow-cooking and flavouring a joint and then discovering you have nailed it. And you can do that pretty much every time with a modestly priced shoulder of sheep – honest!
It is a process which is more perfectly executed with a charcoal barbecue, of course – something like a Weber kettle, a Weber Smokey Mountain or a kamado such as a Big Green Egg or a Primo.
But remember, a gas barbecue is simply a grill inside an oven. So any suggestion that you can’t slow cook in one, clearly, is nonsense. You may find, however, that a baking dish or foil tray for the meat helps.
The shoulder will weigh at least 2kg – sometimes rather more. But as you are going to concentrate on a targeted, finished temperature rather than time in cooking this beast, who cares?
Your task is simply to expose it to the heat of the barbecue of your choice and let nature take its course, monitoring it carefully as you go.
So, salt your shoulder generously with sea salt and coat it generously with an all-purpose barbecue rub. (Barbecue shops offer plenty, or you can simply use the simple recipe from one of my books.)
By this time, you will also have fired up your barbecue and ensured that the temp gauge is squarely in the smoke zone in the case of a solid fuel barbecue, or as low as it will run with a gas cooker.
Now add a couple of chunks of pecan or hickory to the fire with a charcoal cooker or, with gas, consider placing the lamb in a baking dish or foil tray which you can then seal with foil and to which you can add some lamb stock to keep everything moist.
In both cases, place the meat on the grill and forget all about it for as much as 4 hours, or even longer, until the internal temp of the meat is approaching 85-90 C. At this point, take it out and, in the case of the lamb in the solid fuel cooker, place it on a large piece of heavy-duty foil. Add some lamb stock and return the meat to the smoker to cook further and to soften.
In the case of the gas process, you have already done most of the work, of course. So remove the foil covering, return to the grill, splash in a bit more stock if it needs it and continue to monitor that internal temp. In both cases, the lamb will be cooked and ready to pull when it approaches the low 100s.
I serve the soft and delicate meat, which I like to pull apart with a couple of large forks, on a brioche roll with either barbecue sauce or, my preference, lashings of anchovy mayo – made simply by stirring chopped anchovies into Best Foods mayo with a squeeze of lemon.
Seal the deal with perhaps a scoop of your finest coleslaw on the side. Oh, my…