When you marinate a butterflied lamb leg in a flavorful Greek marinade featuring garlic, lemon, and oregano, you’re in for a treat. What awaits is incredibly tender lamb infused with rich flavors, making it a perfect choice for grilling on the BBQ or roasting in the oven.
This dish is an exceptional choice for sharing at gatherings, following the Greek tradition of communal feasting. Looking for more culinary inspiration? Check out my collection of roast lamb recipes!
Greek Butterflied Lamb Leg
A butterflied lamb leg is essentially a leg of lamb with the bone removed, resulting in a flat, evenly thick piece of meat. This not only reduces cooking time compared to a whole roast leg but also allows for a variety of flavor infusion opportunities.
In today’s culinary journey, we’re embracing Greek cuisine! Think an abundance of garlic, an abundance of lemon, and an abundance of oregano – flavors that harmonize perfectly with lamb, considering it’s one of Greece’s beloved meats!
What you need
In the photo, you’ll notice just garlic, oregano, lemons, and the butterflied lamb leg (I’ll explain this in more detail below). And if you don’t mind, let’s pretend that I didn’t overlook adding olive oil to the picture. Including oil is crucial not only to impart richness and flavor but also to counteract the acidity of the lemon. This prevents the lemon’s acid from effectively “cooking” the lamb meat, a process similar to what you see in Ceviche.
Butterflied Lamb Leg
A butterflied lamb leg is essentially a leg of lamb from which the bone has been removed, allowing it to be flattened out. This transformation opens up a wider range of cooking possibilities compared to a bone-in lamb leg, which is typically best suited for whole-roasting due to its natural shape. The boneless, butterflied lamb leg also presents an excellent opportunity to infuse it with flavors that permeate the meat thoroughly.
When prepared with care and cooked to rare or medium-rare perfection, this cut of lamb becomes incredibly succulent and tender, making it an ideal choice for serving at gatherings. A 1.7kg/3.4lb butterflied lamb leg (derived from an average-sized 2.2kg/4.4lb bone-in lamb leg) can effortlessly serve 8 people, if not more.
How long to marinate butterflied lamb leg
Given the opportunity, I highly recommend marinating the lamb for a full 24 hours. This extended marination period results in meat that is even more tender and infused with richer flavors.
However, the wonderful thing about using a butterflied lamb leg paired with this intense lemon and garlic marinade is that even a shorter 3-hour marination can make a significant difference. All those intricate nooks, crannies, and crevices in the meat, as visible in the photo above, eagerly await the marinade to permeate.
Please take note: The surface of the meat may appear slightly whitened due to the lemon “cooking” effect on the meat. There’s no need to worry; this is an expected outcome and doesn’t impact the final result.
How to cook a Butterflied Lamb Leg (BBQ or oven)
Because the lamb leg meat is spread out or “butterflied,” it lies quite flat, making it ideal for grilling on the barbecue, a method not suitable for a bone-in lamb leg. Grilling enhances the delicious Greek flavors of the lamb.
However, your trusty oven can also produce outstanding results. In fact, while the Butterflied Lamb Leg in the video was grilled, the one in the photos was initially seared on the stove and then completed in the oven to ensure even cooking throughout.
Prepare the marinade by combining the ingredients in a large ziplock bag.
Place the lamb in the bag, ensuring it’s well coated with the marinade, and let it marinate for a minimum of 3 hours, but ideally 24 hours. Ziplock bags work best for marinating as they keep the meat fully immersed in the marinade. If you choose to use a bowl or container, increase the amount of marinade by at least 50% and turn the lamb occasionally during marination.
Cook the lamb using either the BBQ for approximately 20 minutes or a combination of stovetop and oven for 22 to 25 minutes.
For stovetop to oven cooking: This method is recommended for thicker cuts like a butterflied lamb leg. Starting on the stovetop and finishing in the oven ensures even cooking. Attempting to cook it solely on the stovetop may result in overcooked outer edges and undercooked middle, while using only the oven may lack surface color and flavor.
For BBQ cooking: This is the preferred method. The BBQ’s ambient heat cooks the lamb perfectly, as seen in the video. Charcoal grilling adds extra smoky flavors for bonus points.
Remove the lamb from the BBQ or oven when its internal temperature reaches 57°C/135°F for a medium-rare doneness. Remember that the temperature will rise a bit during the resting phase.
Allow the lamb to rest, during which time the juices will redistribute throughout the meat. Slicing it immediately will cause the juices to spill out. As it rests, the lamb’s internal temperature will increase to 62°C/144°F, achieving a perfect medium-rare, with a pink and juicy interior.
Serve the lamb whole for guests to carve at the table or pre-slice it for easier serving, whichever suits your preference.
Internal temperature of Butterflied Leg of Lamb
IMPORTANT ADVICE! Remove the lamb from the BBQ or oven just before it reaches the desired internal temperature, as it will continue to rise by approximately 5°C/7°F during the resting period. Failing to do so will result in overcooked lamb once it’s rested – a disappointing outcome indeed! Due to the varying thickness of a butterflied leg of lamb, you may find that while most of it achieves a perfect medium-rare, the thinner edges will unavoidably reach medium or even medium-well doneness. Interestingly, this variation caters well to guests who prefer their lamb more well-cooked!
How to serve Greek Butterflied Lamb
This dish is perfect for gatherings, served platter-style, or as a quick summer meal that can feed your family for a couple of nights. Here are some serving options and recommended side dishes:
- Spanakopita: This delightful spinach pie, cut into small pieces, serves as an excellent appetizer before the main course.
Alongside the Lamb:
- Greek Salad: A generous and fresh Greek Salad pairs wonderfully with this lamb dish.
- Flatbreads: Use them to create homemade lamb wraps!
For Side Dishes:
- Rice (or Similar Sides): Consider options like Greek Lemon Rice, Mediterranean Brown Rice Salad, or Greek Lemon Orzo Salad (Risoni).
- Quick, No-Cook Option: Couscous is a great choice. Simply dress it with lemon juice and toss in chopped tomatoes and cucumbers if you desire, maybe even some sliced olives. Delicious!
- Marinated Greek-flavored Chickpea Salad: This is exceptionally tasty.
- Vibrant and Zesty Lentil Salad: Alternatively, try the Roasted Eggplant Lentil Salad.
- Tzatziki: Serve it as a side (you can use the one from my Gyros recipe), or even plain yogurt jazzed up with a squeeze of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
The platter featured in this post showcases the Greek Salad, though you can certainly elevate the experience with homemade flatbreads and Tzatziki. Enjoy!