Butterfly Leg of Lamb

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Eight


Appears in

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer

Craig Claiborne’s Kitchen Primer

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1969

  • About


  • A 6-pound leg of lamb
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Cut away the thin skin from the top of the lamb, leaving the pure meat exposed. Bone the lamb as shown or have it done by the butcher.

  2. Place the lamb in a large, flat container made of glass, enamel, or porcelain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub the garlic into the meat. Sprinkle with the remaining ingredients—except the melted butter and the lemon juice—and cover lightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Let stand in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Turn the meat occasionally in the marinade—that is to say, the liquid and seasonings.

  3. When ready to cook, remove the meat from the marinade. Dry the meat with paper toweling and reserve the marinade. The meat may now be cooked under the broiler or over charcoal.

To broil

Fifteen minutes before you are ready to cook the lamb under the broiler, set the heat control at its highest point. Before turning on the heat, however, remove the broiler rack.

When the broiler is thoroughly hot, place the meat, fat-side down, on the rack. Bring the liquid in which the lamb soaked to a boil on top of the stove. Slide the rack back under the broiler. The meat should be four or five inches below the heating element. Broil the meat for about 15 minutes or until well done and browned, then turn it, using a two-pronged fork. Spoon a little of the hot liquid over the lamb and continue broiling, this time from 10 to 15 minutes depending on how well cooked you want your lamb. Serve with the hot melted butter and the juice of 1 lemon.

To grill over charcoal

Prepare a hot charcoal fire. The charcoal should cover an area slightly larger than the meat to be cooked. The coals should have burned long enough to develop a white ash before the meat is cooked. When the coals are ready, place the meat on the grill. The coals should be four or five inches beneath the meat. Immediately start basting the meat with the marinade. Cook meat for 6 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for 6 minutes on the other side. As the meat cooks, continue basting with the marinade. The meat should be well charred at this point.

Lower the fire bed or carefully shift the coals around.

This will reduce the intensity of the heat. Continue cooking, turning once or twice. The total cooking time for medium-rare meat is 25 minutes. For well-done meat, cook for 25 minutes more. Serve with the hot melted butter blended with the juice of 1 lemon.