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Grilled Leg of Lamb With Garlic and Lemon



A butterflied grilled leg of lamb cut into slices on a platter with charred lemons.
Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Nathaniel James, Food Styling by Simon Andrews

No one needs to know how little time you spent actually cooking this grilled leg of lamb recipe. If your grocer only has bone-in leg of lamb, ask the butcher to butterfly it for you—or grab it and butterfly it yourself: A leg of lamb consists of two large sections with a few different muscles. Butterflying makes it a level grilling field; the meat will cook evenly but still be thick enough to get a good sear without overcooking. Pick either section and on the inner, rougher side (where the bone has been removed), cut horizontally into the muscle and open it as you would a book. Once you’ve laid that side of the leg flat, tackle the other in the same way.

The lamb can be prepped and dropped into the zesty Greek-inspired marinade up to 24 hours before you plan to cook it. Customize the mix by swapping the oregano for dried mint. Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary straight from your summer garden, or the grated lemon zest before you squeeze out its juice. To help the butterflied leg of lamb cook uniformly (and make it easier to turn on the grill), secure it by running three or four long metal skewers crosswise through the lamb.

If you’re using a gas or charcoal grill, keep close watch after the initial sear. You may need to rotate the lamb off high heat and toward the cooler side of the grill, using indirect heat to prevent overcooking and avoid flare-ups. Use an instant-read thermometer to guarantee it’s perfectly juicy, then take it off the grates and let the cooked lamb rest for a full 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with Greek-style lemon potatoes and a green salad, plus lightly chilled red wine or verjus. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.

Note: If you aren’t able to grill outdoors, lamb can be cooked in a hot, lightly oiled, well-seasoned large (2-burner) ridged grill pan, uncovered, turning over once, 12–14 minutes per side.

Recipe information

  • Total Time

    30 minutes plus marinating

  • Yield

    8 servings


½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice plus more lemons, halved, for serving
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 (4½–5 lb.) butterflied boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat
Special Equipment: A large (2-gallon) heavy-duty sealable plastic bag; 3 or 4 (10–12-inch) metal skewers


  1. Step 1

    Combine ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, 1 Tbsp. dried oregano, 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, and 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper in sealable plastic bag. Add 1 (4½–5 lb.) butterflied boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat, and seal bag, pressing out air. Turn bag to coat lamb, then put bag in a shallow baking pan and marinate, chilled, turning bag occasionally, at least 8 hours and up to 24.

    Step 2

    Remove lamb from refrigerator about 1 hour before grilling. Prepare grill for cooking over direct heat with medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas); see Grilling Procedure.

    Step 3

    Remove lamb from marinade (discard marinade) and run 3 or 4 skewers lengthwise through lamb about 2 inches apart. Grill on a lightly oiled grill rack, covered only if using gas grill, turning over occasionally and, if necessary, moving around on grill to avoid flare-ups, until thermometer registers 125–128°F, 8–14 minutes total for medium-rare, or to your desired doneness.

    Step 4

    Transfer lamb to a cutting board and remove skewers. Let lamb stand, loosely covered with foil, 20 minutes. (Internal temperature will rise to 135°F while meat stands.)

    Step 5

    Grill extra lemons, halved, cut side down, over direct heat until lightly charred and juices start to caramelize about 4 minutes.

    Step 6

    Cut lamb across the grain into slices and serve with grilled lemons for squeezing.

    Do ahead: Lamb can be marinated up to 24 hours ahead; keep chilled.

    Editor’s note: This recipe for grilled leg of lamb was first printed in the May 2006 issue of ‘Gourmet’ as ‘Grilled Marinated Leg of Lamb.’ Head this way for more of our best recipes for the grill

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  • this looks like I would like to try it. What is the purpose of the skewers? I am going to assume it is to prevent the lamb from curling up but I would like to verify that.

    • jane

    • T. O.

    • 5/17/2006

  • I have not made this, but it is similar to one that I do make....suggest that you use more garlic, puncture lamb with a knife and place slivers of garlic in the lamb, add 3/4 cup red wine and replace oregano with bruised mint leaves. Marinate overnight or at least 6 hours, turning. Skewers is a new one, but it probably does help to keep the curling to a minimum although I have never had a problem with that...long tongs make the flipping easy. Bon Appetit all.....

    • TheHipster

    • 5/17/2006

  • I have made the dish but with dijon mustard added. It takes away the "lambiness" that some people dislike. A great crowd pleaser, even with the kids.

    • elisam

    • Toronto, Ontario

    • 5/24/2006

  • No rating because I, too, have not made this, but have made many similiar ones which are very good. Julia Child always put the skewers in, because the kept them from curling and it was easier to turn. I always trusted Julia's methods over the years and never went wrong. She was the best.

    • ARLYNE

    • Tennessee

    • 5/24/2006

  • Careful: don't overcook the lamb! And a surprising and delicious accompaniment to this lamb is big crescent slices of a cool, succulent, perfect naturel. The flavors and textures compliment each other fantastically. We had it cooked on a simple charcoal grill outside one summer's eve, and there wasn't a morsel of melon or lamb left. Memorable. I didn't use skewers, though, and had no trouble with curling.

    • pbonefirst

    • millerton, ny

    • 5/24/2006

  • Made this dish but substituted boned and skinned turkey thighs for the lamb. Also used fresh oregano from the garden.It was totally delicious and affordable. Served sliced for sandwiches on grilled garlic ciabattas and it was great.

    • Anonymous

    • Israel

    • 6/6/2006

  • Made marinade as directed, did not use skewers to grill. Delicious! Would also be good with fresh oregano or rosemary, Served with orzo/artichoke/pine nut salad (from this site) & greek salad. I found the butterflied cut much easier to work with than a boned rolled & tied leg.

    • Anonymous

    • South of Boston

    • 6/21/2006

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