In my experience lamb is a polarizing meat, people either love it or hate it. Some don’t like it because they find it too gamey and strongly flavored, others find the prospect of cooking lamb stressful knowing that its taste and texture deteriorate quickly when overdone. Even those who love the flavor of the meat, shy away from cooking it at home and enjoy it only as a restaurant meal due to its relatively higher cost, and a fear that they might screw up an expensive piece of meat when cooking it at home.
I’ve ALWAYS loved the taste of lamb, but totally relate to the anxiety many feel about cooking the meat at home. Long cooked dishes like stews and tagines are a piece of cake, but quicker cooking methods where the goal is meat served up a perfect medium-rare always made me sweat a little. Happily, my years of experience with these cuts have helped me to overcome my anxieties, and I now cook lamb legs, racks, chops, and kebabs without a second thought.
If you count yourself among those anxious about cooking lamb, then I offer up this recipe as one to help you move toward a life of Zen-like peace when it comes to this delicious meat. Cooking lamb to medium-rare to medium is pretty key as it quickly loses flavor and takes on a shoe-leather texture if cooked beyond medium (unless that is, you’re cooking it low and slow in a stew or tagine). While not required for this recipe, a good instant read thermometer will immediately transform you into a Jedi-Master of meat cookery and take all guess work out nailing a perfect degree of doneness for your tastes. If you don’t have one, spend a few and get the model we use everyday in the Test Kitchen (and that I use at home) by clicking here. Cook the meat to 125 F for medium-rare, 130F for medium and you’ll be SO happy! The 1″ chunks on the kebabs will cook quickly, so don’t just drop these on the grill and walk away, 6-8 minutes is all it should take.
The Middle Eastern flavors brought by the dry rub and yogurt sauce are a natural fit for the lamb. The kebabs would be delicious with my Carrot and Wheat Berry Salad and some fresh, warm lavash or pita breads.
Cheers – Steve
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper - to taste
Lamb And Assembly
- 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns or 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Vegetable oil (for grill)
- 1 1/4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper - to taste
- Finely grated lemon zest (for serving)
- Stir garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice into yogurt in a small bowl to combine; season with salt and pepper.
Lamb and Assembly
- Coarsely grind cumin seeds, peppercorns, caraway seeds, red pepper flakes, and sugar in spice mill or with mortar and pestle until only a few whole spices remain.
- Prepare a grill for medium-high, indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off). Oil grates. Thread lamb onto 6–8 skewers, leaving a small gap between each piece of meat. Season with salt, then sprinkle generously with spice blend, pressing it onto the meat with your hands to help it adhere if needed.
- Grill lamb over direct heat, turning every minute or so, until browned and beginning to char in spots, about 4 minutes. Move to cooler side of grill and continue to grill until lamb is cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes longer for medium-rare.
- Top garlic yogurt with cracked black pepper and a little lemon zest. Serve alongside lamb.