Rotisseried Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Butter

Chris Allingham

Staff member
Originally post by Susan Z in the Grilling Forum on 7/13/04


From Steven Raichlen's

Here's how to set up your grill for rostisserie cooking:


Build a fire; the coals should be hot.

Rake the coals into two parallel rows: one about 4 inches in front of where the spit will turn and one about 4 inches behind where the spit will turn. Place a drip pan in the center under the food. Skewer the food on the spit and turn on the motor. Add fresh coals every hour.


Preheat the front and rear burners to high. Place a drip pan in the center under the food. Skewer the food on the spit and turn on the motor.


Lamb is the preferred meat of Greeks--especially at Easter. It's hard to imagine an Easter celebration in Athens (not to mention in Chicago, Boston, or Astoria, New York), without a fire pit where whole lambs are spit-roasted to mahogany crispness. The following recipe calls for butterflied leg of lamb, which you can cook easily on a backyard barbecue grill. The turning motion of a rotisserie will give you the best results, but you can also cook the lamb using the indirect grilling method.

Serves 12

1 butterflied (boned) leg of lamb (about 6 pounds)
for the spice mix:

2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
to prepare the lamb:

2 lemons, cut in half
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
for the basting mixture:

1 cup Greek olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
2 teaspoons black pepper
1. Make the spice mix by combining the salt, pepper, and oregano in a bowl. Spread the leg of lamb open and season the inside with 1/3 of the spice mix. Squeeze the juice of half of 1 lemon over the meat and cut the half lemon rind into 1/2 inch pieces. Rub the surface of the lamb with 4 tablespoons butter and sprinkle the lemon pieces on top. Fold the lamb back into a cylindrical roast and tie it with butchers string or pin shut with bamboo skewers. Let it marinate for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Two hours before you pan to serve the lamb, set the grill up for rotisserie cooking and preheat to high. Place the lamb on the spit and rub with lemon and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Generously season with spice mixture. Place the spit on the rotisserie and start grilling. Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the basting mixture (olive oil, lemon juice, wine, garlic, oregano, and pepper) in a large bowl and whisk to mix.

3. After 15 minutes, restir the basting mixture and use it to baste the lamb all over, using a long handled basting brush. Baste every 15 minutes. From time to time, reseason the lamb with spice mix. If using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals as needed. As the lamb fat melts, it may cause flare ups. Snuff these out by flattening the coals with a metal spatula or with a few squirts from a water pistol.

4. Cook the lamb until crusty and brown on the outside and the meat is well-done and tender. The internal temperature will be 170 degrees. (Greeks like their lamb well done.) Unspit the meat on a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Remove the string or bamboo skewers, slice the meat, and serve.

Note: to grill the lamb using the indirect method, preheat the grill to 350 degrees. Place a drip pan in the center and place the lamb over it. You'll need 2 to 2-1/2 hours cooking time.

Jane Cherry

TVWBB All-Star
Thanks for posting this. Used the rub tonight which was excellent. Didn't use any butter, but olive oil instead on the interior of the meat before rolling. Studded the interior with garlic cloves and did not bother to baste.

It was a 3.5 pounder and after two hours, was little more done that I'd prefer. My fire was little hotter than I'd liked, ran at 350 despite closing my vents. When I do rotisserie method, I prefer to keep the lid closed and not open it up constantly to baste. It usually isn't necessary I find, as everything is always perfect without basting in this process.

Ken P.

I roti'd lamb last week; not same rub but close and it was a 3.5 pd'r.

Cooks fast.

Grill was about 375 thru period and I should have pulled off at :50 to 1 hour; left for 1:15 and was too well done for some recette's.

Still very tasty and the extras made a spectacular Hache next day (kind of French shepard's pie)...

Dean Torges

Closed Account
Have had an eyeball on this recipe since you posted it, Chris. Got it focused for Thanksgiving and followed the recipe without much variation. 5.5 lb leg of lamb, once boned. Same seasonings, same baste, same schedule. Did mince some garlic for the inside and inserted some intramuscular slices along the exterior because I didn't think the baste would bring enough garlic to the result. Lemon, garlic and oregano. Can't do lamb without them.

Very pleased with results. Was a little reluctant to include the lemon peel, but did it anyway. Adds nothing that a squeeze of lemon over the sliced lamb doesn't do better, imo. Fambly preferred the lamb to the turkey, which largely went uneaten. No lamb leftovers.

Anyway, looking forward to an excuse to do this again. Thanks.

Dean Torges

Closed Account
Greek Easter this weekend. Butchered a 100 lb lamb yesterday and finished wrapping today. Got him all parceled up. Heart, liver, even the head. Boned out the back legs, mixed a paste-like marinade as per above, tied them up, squeezing more lemon over the top and set them aside to marinate for a day. Tomorrow they go on the Weber rotisserie, basting a little with olive oil. Gonna add onion to one, as per Kevin's suggestion. Will undercook and finish off in oven at my sister’s house Sunday where all the Torgeses assemble.

Have lotsa lamb left over. Ribs for bbq, chops, and etc. I have a great fricasse recipe that I learned from my mother. Looking forward to making it tonight for Mary and me. After you brown in evo and braise the lamb parts (like a cut up shoulder, bone in) with celery and garlic until tender, you take a half dozen eggs, beat the whites stiff, fold in the yolks and add gently the juice of a lemon or two, then pour slowly into the still hot (but not too hot) stew so that it sets up but doesn’t curdle. Serve it with a pilaf made with garlic, butter, evo and stock, and it’s as close to heaven as I may ever get. Arne avgolemono.


K Kruger

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Arne avgolemono.
From your description I believe I've had this just once before--a huge dinner with the Levas clan in San Diego many years ago now. It was wonderful. Definitely need to give it a shot. Maybe with a spanakotiropita starter. And I think I just might rotis a leg on Sunday...

Happy Easter.

K Kruger

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Sunday I made the spanakotiropita because the dough was ready but I hadn't gotten to the lamb leg. I used the spanakotiropita as a starter for Frango Piri-piri done on the 8" EZQue rotis using two 4-lb chickens. Used fresh sour orange juice for that. Very tasty. The spanakotiropita was delicious. Topped it with a little grated asiago for the last few min in the oven (no Greek hard cheese available!), which worked fine.

The lamb I did tonight on the rotis. I modified the recipe thus: I boned the leg and sprinkled the inside with Kosher. I topped that with a heavy sprinkle of herbs de Provence as I'm virtually out of oregano at the moment. I love herbs de Provence with lamb (it's gotta have lavender in it though). A little granulated garlic on that then white pepper, then the juice of half a lemon. Skipped the butter--I don't think it works here. Rolled and tied it, rubbed the outside with h de P and gran garlic, squeezed on lemon juice from the other half, wrapped and fridged it for 8 hours.

Got coals going for the rotis, pulled out the roast and salted it lightly, and black peppered it.
I made a baste of:

1/2 c lemon juice
1/4 c white wine
1/4 c olive oil
1 med onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tsp h de P
1 tsp salt
several turns of the black and white

I used grapevine as smokewood. Rotis'd between 350 and 400 for about two hours, till medium in the thickest part, med-well elsewhere. I basted about 6 times, more than I'd planned but it was smelling so good. To compensate for the baste and the frequency, I'd set up the coal piles closer together so that the edges of the roast were closer to the heat than if the piles were at the sides of the kettle. This gave the roast some nice crustiness. I think I might even go closer in the future. Very tasty.

Josh Z.

Diggin up an old post here, but this recipe is actually quite good. I'm not a huge oregeno fan, but this is the real deal. I didn't bother with the mop and rerub and it was still well rubbed with a nice lemon taste.

We cooked ours till 136 and rested it. It had some rarer spots, but on a whole was a bit more done that we wanted (still delicious).


My Halal market doesn't seem to do boneless leg of lamb, so I just cooked it on the kettle at high heat. It's pretty impossible to rotis if it's not butterflied, isn't it?

K Kruger

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Not at all.

If bone-in rotis as usual. If you bone it, or buy one already boned, then you can tie it. If you wish, the butterflied lamb can be marinated as is, then rolled and tied or, if desired, additonally seasoned (or even stuffed) before rolling and tieing. Use kitchen twine and tie at 2-inch intervals, just tight enough to keep the meat together.

Clark Deutscher

TVWBB All-Star
Put a version of this together tonight. Rubbed both sides of the leg with olive oil. Then covered with salt, white pepper, garlic, and oregano. Squeezed one and a half lemons over and let sit in fridge for five hours. Rotiss to med in the center. Didn't baste. Was excellent with a rice pilaf!


Dean Torges

Closed Account
Since I'm accessing it again, tiime that this recipe came back up for reconsideration. It's wonderful, and tomorrow we're having two legs done this style. Plus I also have a baby lamb (local) butchered out at 18 lbs, including the head, liver, lungs and heart, for fricasseeing with tempered egg sauce (arne avgolemono).

Years ago here I mentioned stuffing stove gasket rope around the rotisserie insert and sealing it off with stove cement so I could control temps top and bottom. I did it while acknowledging that since the cement was not waterproof, I'd likely have to do it again down the line. Well, it's still in place, hasn't degraded, gets wet and is stored outside. Virtue is that since air now only passes through controllable vents, I'm able to dial in the temp I want almost as well as I can with the WSM. Just a reminder if you want the same control.

Dean Torges

Closed Account
Hi, Kevin. Yes, the lamb was superb. The variations I play on the original process are possible with the modified ring and the controlled heat it provides. I stuff the lamb inside with an oregano/butter/evo/garlic/salt/lemon zest sorta paste and don't do any basting. The lamb becomes self-basting. Dial in about 375 and let 'er rip for about 2.5 hours.

The lemon I add after it's sliced, abundantly, with liberal kosher salt. That takes care of that. But you can't add garlic after the fact, so I stud it up good subcutaneously with garlic slivers. Hard to overdo it.

A leg is easily boned and tied in a roll, but if you buy one already boned inside elastic netting (as per Costco), don't remove the netting altogether or you can't get it back on without a specialty sleeve. If you peel the netting back half-way from the hock end, you can work the paste throughout the interior and then pull the sock back over the meat.

Jane Cherry

TVWBB All-Star
So I pulled this up after accessing the originally posted Raichlin recipe on the net. Figured that whatever was modified here would work better, and yes, Greek olive oil and Herbs de Provence suit my taste better. A question on the netting method, you can rotisserie the lamb with the netting in place? I was also wondering if the basting liquid could be used for a short marinade as well. Would that work?

Jane Cherry

TVWBB All-Star
So I am not trimming fat, tendons on the inside of the lamb, just applying the seasonings to the inside? I don't mind a little fat, but I've never done this method, always cut up for kebabs or for curry, and have always trimmed well.