Smoked Lamb Shoulder is slow smoked to perfection, and then tenderly pulled making incredible smoked pulled lamb sliders.
Living here in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) gives us access to amazing meat. And one meat that stands out to is lamb. Often seen in Australia or New Zealand, lamb is common among PNW restaurants and is prepared in so many ways. Well, we had to put our own spin on it, so today we’re talking about pulled lamb shoulder.
You are familiar with using a pork shoulder, which is usually slowly smoked to perfection and then used to make delectable pulled pork sandwiches. But have you tried the same method with a lamb shoulder, and using that elegant, flavorful meat to make pulled lamb, then take that tender, juicy, delicious pulled lamb to make pulled lamb sliders?
And the results are fantastic.
You get that same tenderness and juiciness like you would with pulled pork, but with that incredible flavor that only lamb meat could provide.
Lamb shoulder is going to come from the same area of the animal as pork shoulder. The primary difference is that most lamb you buy is smaller, and I find it runs a little leaner than a pig. You can buy it bone-in, or you can ask for it boneless. It is easiest to just get boneless, it will cost a little more for the butchering, but it saves you time.
Going bone-in? It can come in many ways, commonly will have the rack on it, or the upper portion of the ribs. I will typically remove this along the rib line. It doesn’t add to the meat at all when cooking, you can salvage some of it for cooking like a lamb rib or lamb lollipop. Discard the rib rack, and focus on the meat that is remaining.
In these pictures, and in the video we have a bone-in. But if you want to see both examples you can see that on a previous post we did on pulled lamb using both boneless and bone-in.
How to Trim a Lamb Shoulder
Lamb is smaller and it’s leaner than pork, so I like to trim a fair amount of fat off, and to score the side of the meat that you will see when the rib bone is removed. This is the fat cap. Scoring will allow the fat to render more and I find it gets more flavor into the meat.
Boneless – For a boneless roast, remove any silver skin. If there are large fat pockets (and likely their won’t be), then remove them too with a sharp boning knife.
Bone-In – Gently remove the ribs by cutting along the underside of the rib bones, or the side where most of the meat is. Cut along the bone to get one large roast. Remove any cartilage that may be along the ribs.
Best Seasoning for Lamb Shoulder
I love the taste of lamb, so in our case we keep it simple with salt, pepper, and garlic powder in equal parts. The ole’ SPG rub. You can add dried herbs too, like sage, oregano, thyme or rosemary. Because of how long we are cooking this, I stay away from fresh herbs as I have found they turn bitter over five plus hours of cooking.
How to Smoke Lamb Shoulder
It’s a shoulder and I find I follow my pork shoulder method. Smoke – Spritz – Wrap – Rest – Pull. What we’re doing is getting smoke and the initial bark going, then we are spritzing to get liquid and acidity onto the exterior.
Place the seasoned shoulder on the smoker with the smoker set to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This is when you insert a Bluetooth remote temperature probe like the Thermoworks Smoke Unit. It will monitor the internal temperature remotely while it cooks. Close the lid and smoke for 90 minutes.
Next mix together apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a food safe spray bottle. After the first 90 minutes of smoking start to spray the lamb every 15 minutes. Contrary to what you hear, a quick lid open and then spray/close will not loose a lot of ambient heat.
That liquid helps in adding more smoke flavor as the smoke adheres to the liquid. Continue to spritz in 15 minute increments until the internal temperature of the shoulder is 165 – 170 degrees F. Remove the probe from the shoulder and in a large pan, pour the remaining spritz in the pan, and cover with foil. Return to smoker, insert the meat thermometer probe again into the thickest part of the meat and continue smoking.
The final step is to continue smoking until the internal temparature reaches 190 degrees F. At that point, use an instant read thermometer and probe the shoulder at a few points. If the probe easily goes into the meat like room temperature butter it’s time to remove the lamb. Lamb cuts will all vary in size and marbling, so the lamb may be done anywhere from 190 degrees F up to 205.
After removing the lamb, let it rest in a cooler with no ice for one hour. This allows the meat to slowly settle and retain its juices. Then remove and pull with a couple of forks.
Lamb Slider Toppings
After pulling we make the sliders. We strongly encourage a brioche bun for the buttery soft flavor. But any bun you like will do.
You may hear that mint and lamb are a thing….but frankly I am not a mint fan with my lamb, so we use a simple rosemary aioli with a little garlic. For the aioli, we simply take a cup of mayo, add one finely diced garlic clove, and add ½ tablespoon of finely diced fresh rosemary, and then squeeze a little lemon in there. That easy.
Want a variation for the topping? Try our jalapeno chimichurri.
Then add a simple coleslaw. Either buy a premade mix, or try your own homemade version.
Chef’s Tip: If you don’t have a sharp knife, mince the garlic using a fine mesh grader.
Wine Pairing for Pulled Lamb Sliders
Lamb has so many amazing wine pairing options. This is one where you should go with your gut. It’s great with Rhone style wines, but it’s also fantastic with Italian wines like Chianti. One of my favorites is Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero in Spain. My default is usually a bigger style Pinot Noir (the obvious reason for that is that I live in Oregon’s Pinot country). But try to find something that can show some fun fruit characteristics mixed with some earthy notes to match the gamey flavors of the lamb, with a touch of herbal notes. Stay away from the big heavies like Cab or Zin as they will overpower the gorgeous flavor of that meat.
The Products We Used
In the video and some of these photos you’ll find a few of our favorite products such as the:
There are a lot of wifi and blue tooth thermometers out there. First, we are huge fans of the durability and craftsmanship of all ThermoWorks products. This one has great range and most importantly connects with an app for your phone so you can track and save your cook.
Durable gloves for cooking are key, you are grabbing meat off the smoker that may be 200 degrees or more. So these insulated gloves are great because they are dishwasher safe. I made the mistake of using a pair that was not, and the interior of gloves gets mildewy and gross after a few uses. One downfall is that they’re pretty bulky so you don’t have a lot of fine motor skills to do detailed work, but they’re good for the price.
Great for open fire. I can physically touch a burning log and move it to an appropriate place in the fire chamber. I can also touch a scolding hot cast iron pan and wouldn’t feel it. They’re no good for directly touching food, but pretty awesome for everything else that’s hot.
More Smoked Lamb Recipes
Like lamb? You’ll love these additional lamb recipes.
- Smoked Lamb Burgers with Rosemary Aioli and Pickled Onions
- Bone-in Leg of Lamb Roast with Garlic Butter
- Smoked Lamb Meatballs
- Boneless Leg of Lamb with Herb Crust
- Smoked Lamb Shoulder and What to do with it
- Smoked Lamb Chops
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Smoked Lamb Sliders
To Smoke the Lamb Shoulder:
- 4-5 lb boneless lamb shoulder or 6-7 lb bone-in lamb shoulder
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup beef rub The beef rub is equal parts kosher salt, granulated garlic, and coarse black pepper.
- 10 ounces spritz
For the Spritz:
- 4 ounces Worcestershire sauce
- 6 ounces apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 clove minced garlic
- ½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice About ½ a lemon.
- Preheat smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, we use oak wood for lamb. Add a water bath for moisture in the smoker.
- Trim excess fat off of the lamb. Coat with olive oil and dry rub. Place lamb on smoker uncovered for 90 minutes.
- After 90 minutes of smoking begin spritzing with a spray bottle every 30 minutes until the internal temperature of the lamb shoulder is 165 degrees. This could take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours.
- At 165 degrees place the lamb shoulder in a foil pan, with the rest of the spritz liquid and then cover tightly with foil.
- Place back into smoker until the internal temperature of the lamb reads 200 – 205 degrees F, or your meat thermometer goes into the lamb like soft butter. This will take roughly 2-3 more hours (but remember, cook to temperature not time).
- Remove from smoker and let rest for 30 minutes, it is best to place into a cooler (that does NOT have ice) for an hour allowing the meat to rest and the liquified fat to redistribute within the meat.
- Pull lamb and serve with slaw, rosemary aioli and your favorite bun, we go brioche for the bun.
Easy Rosemary Aioli
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to incorporate.