Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Embrace the Popularity of Lamb

Embrace the Popularity of Lamb

Quick: What’s the world’s most popular grilled/barbecued meat?

If you named beef or pork, guess again. On any given evening, probably more fires  around Planet Barbecue are lit to cook lamb (or mutton) than any other animal protein. You could start eating grilled lamb in Mauritania and Morocco and feast your way east through North Africa, southern Europe, the Greek Islands, Turkey, the Middle and Near East, and Central Asia, continuing on to the Indian subcontinent to Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Think of some of the world’s most iconic barbecue dishes: mechouie, scottadito, souvlaki, sate, lula kebab, seekh kebab, shish kebab. All start with lamb.

Despite its popularity elsewhere in the world, lamb consumption in the U.S. has dwindled to less than 1 pound per person per year—about half of what it was in the 1990s when I started writing The Barbecue! Bible series. (In contrast, Icelanders eat an impressive 55 pounds per year.) Clearly, many Americans don’t eat lamb much. Some have never even tried it.

If there were ever a time a time to add lamb to your grilling repertory, it’s the month of April. Lamb is associated with at least two of the world’s celebrated holidays: Easter and Passover. Jesus is likened to a lamb and, in many Christian households, lamb graces the Easter table. Lamb is the preferred Passover food of Sephardic Jews and a roasted lamb shank is part of the Seder platter. It doesn’t hurt that lambs are traditionally born in the springtime, and so are in ready supply come holiday time.

Well, the Raichlen household doesn’t wait for a holiday to enjoy this robust tasting meat, which turns any meal a special occasion. How do we love lamb? Let me count the ways.

  • As lamb chops grilled with garlic and served with mint chimichurri.
  • As lamb ribs or shanks, seasoned with barbecue rub and slow-smoked over hickory.
  • As rack of lamb slathered with mustard, crusted with breadcrumbs and indirect grilled.

But for my money, nothing beats a whole leg of lamb slow-roasted on a rotisserie. The slow rotation of the spit bastes the lamb internally and on the outside. Sizzling dark crisp crust. Moist rosy center. Now that’s what I call a perfect hunk of meat.

Learn to love lamb with these recipes:

Join the Discussion

  • Wes Berry

    We Kentuckians love us some lamb/mutton–probably eat more of the delicious creatures than many other US states. I’m eating it tonight. Thanks for the recipes, BBQ guru!

  • JJ

    I think in America it’s more of a price issue :) Personally my husband and I love lamb, but save it for special occasions because of the cost!

  • relosrios82@gmail.com

    Here in santa barbara myself and most of my friends love lamb and its very distinct flavor.