Spring Meat Smoker Recipe: Lamb

Spring Meat Smoker Recipe: Lamb

Ah, spring.

It's mild temperatures. The light rains that wash away winter. Everything waking up after a seasonal shutdown.

For those who take the winter off from meat smoking to recharge, there's no better time to dust off your drum smoker and get back to it – there's a whole summer ahead that's prime meat smoking season.

The spring is the perfect time to work with meats that have a lighter flavor profile and aren't as hearty as other cuts. 

What better option than succulent lamb? And we've got two great meat smoker recipes for lamb that are sure to please – smoked leg of lamb and smoked rack of lamb.

Lamb: A Meat Synonymous With Spring

So why lamb in spring?

That's a great question and it has a few interesting answers:

  1. Agricultural Cycles: Based on natural breeding cycles, typically lambs are born in late winter or early spring, making spring the prime time for fresh lamb to be available.
  2. Flavor and Tenderness: Spring lamb, which is lamb less than a year old and usually marketed within a few months of birth, is prized for its tenderness and mild flavor compared to older sheep. This makes it a preferred choice for special occasions and festive meals that commonly occur in the spring.
  3. Religious and Cultural Celebrations: Lamb has significant cultural and religious symbolism, particularly in Christian and Jewish traditions and their respective observances of Easter and Passover, two holidays celebrated in the spring.
  4. Culinary Traditions: In many cuisines, the lighter, more delicate flavors of lamb are well-suited to the spring palette, which transitions away from the heavier, richer dishes typical of winter.

A Look at Lamb Cuts

Lamb has a rich history with humanity.

It was a solid food source for humans as they stepped into an agrarian society. Easier to care for, fruitfully multiplying, and able to move to greener pastures in large groups, lamb is one of the earliest staples of the modern diet. 

And as a food source, lamb leaves little to waste. In other words, it's a type of meat with plenty of options to work with on your ugly drum smoker.

The most popular cuts of lamb include:

  1. Leg of Lamb: A go-to cut, leg of lamb is ideal for smoking due to its size and relatively uniform shape, allowing for even cooking. A whole leg can be bone-in, which helps the meat stay juicy and adds flavor, or boneless, which is easier to carve. The leg of lamb takes well to a low and slow cook (the defining characteristics of meat smoking), which tenderizes the meat while imbuing it with the smoky flavors.
  2. Shoulder: Lamb shoulder is another excellent choice for smoking because of its higher fat content and connective tissue. This makes it ideal for slow cooking, which breaks down the tissues into tender, flavorful bites. The shoulder can be smoked whole or as smaller roasts, and it absorbs marinades and rubs exceptionally well, enhancing its flavor profile during the smoking process.
  3. Ribs (Rack of Lamb): Lamb ribs, or spare ribs, are less common than pork ribs but are gaining popularity among barbecue enthusiasts for their rich flavor. They are smaller and leaner than pork ribs but have a generous amount of fat, which helps keep them moist during the long smoking process. Smoked lamb ribs can be a real treat, with the fat rendering slowly to create succulent, flavorful meat.
  4. Breast: While not as commonly smoked as other cuts, the lamb breast is a fattier cut that benefits greatly from the slow-cooking method of smoking. It can be rolled and tied for an even shape, making it easier to handle and serve. Smoking the breast slowly allows the fat to render and the connective tissue to soften, resulting in a deliciously tender dish.
  5. Shank: The shank is a tougher cut that requires long, slow cooking to reach its full potential, making it a good candidate for smoking. The bone-in shank imparts additional flavor and helps the meat stay moist during the cooking process. Smoked lamb shank can be an exceptionally flavorful dish with a fall-off-the-bone texture.

2 Meat Smoker Recipes for Lamb

So, let's get to it!

Here are two delicious recipes for lamb to start off smoking meat during the warmer months on solid footing.

Smoked Leg of Lamb

The cut most think of when preparing lamb, smoked leg of lamb is a great choice for springtime meat smoking. As we mentioned, not only does it do well with smoking, but it also has a naturally unique presentation.


  • 5-7lb leg of lamb
  • Olive oil
  • Herb rub

For the Herb Rub

  • 1/4 cup of fresh rosemary, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup of fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • Zest of one lemon

Smoker Wood Recommendation: With a robust flavor that's not overpowering, we recommend using hickory for this cut of lamb.


The Night Before

  1. Trim the leg of lamb, leaving a layer of fat. Pat dry.
  2. In a bowl, mix the rub ingredients.
  3. Rub the lamb generously with olive oil, then coat evenly with the herb rub.
  4. Wrap the lamb in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The Day of

  1. Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
  2. Soak your wood chips in water for at least an hour.
  3. Place the lamb on the smoker's grate and add a handful of the drained wood chips to the coals.
  4. Smoke the lamb, maintaining a temperature of 225°F, until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F for medium-rare, about 4-5 hours.
  5. Rest the leg of lamb tented with foil for 20 minutes before slicing & serving.

Garlic and Rosemary Smoked Rack of Lamb

Another staple of lamb cuts, the rack of lamb is a tender and flavorful cut that can make for an impressive smoked dish. Our smoked rack of lamb adds a kick of garlic and rosemary to elevate the flavors in this classic cut.


  • 1 rack of lamb (about 8 ribs)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic rosemary rub

For the Garlic Rosemary Rub

  • 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Smoker Wood Recommendation: Bringing a subtle note of fruitiness, we recommend apple wood for this cut of lamb.


The Night Before

  1. Rub the rack of lamb all over with olive oil.
  2. Mix the rub ingredients together and apply generously over the lamb. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

The Day of

  1. Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
  2. Place the rack of lamb on the smoker, bone side down.
  3. Add soaked apple or cherry wood chips to your smoker.
  4. Smoke the lamb until it reaches an internal temperature of 135°F for medium rare, about 2 hours.
  5. Rest the lamb for 10 minutes before slicing between the ribs.

Planning Out the Rest of Your Meat Smoking Season?

Don’t forget your copy of our Smokin’ Ugly cookbook!

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