How we break down a lamb for bbq

There are no baaaaad cuts

Receiving a whole animal and breaking it down for barbecue is one of my favorite things on the planet. Taking what was once this grass-to-meat conversion machine that comes to us as a completed puzzle, and we have to figure out how to take it apart and put it back together again in a delicious way. Here’s how we think about breaking down a lamb for barbecue.

We’ll cut the neck off the shoulder, separate the shanks from the legs, and take the shoulder off the the rest of the carcass to cook all these items low and slow. We rubbed these with Ras el Hanout and smoked them for 4–6 hrs until they got a nice crust. Then we confit’d them in the ground and rendered kidney fat from the lamb. The pulled meat was all mixed together and served at the truck by the pound and on sandwiches.

The real value on any lamb/beef/pork carcass is in the “steak” cuts. Ribeye, pork chop, lamb rack. These cuts are grilled or seared and cooked to temperature to avoid drying out. Non-locomotive muscles means these are tender and delicate. On this lamb we cut out the racks, tenderloins, and saddle (sirloin) and cut them into chops. The handheld electric saw works wonders on cutting the dense lamb bones into clean, even pieces that grilled up nicely. The best preparation for the rack and individual chops was a simple Dalmatian rub seasoning, a low temp smoke to 120 internal, and a quick sear to develop a crust.

We use the legs of most animals we break down for sausage. They’re full of lean meat that has a few tough sinewy pieces running through it. We also use they lamb belly for sausage as well because it has a thick piece of cartilage running through it and can be difficult to carve around when cooked. We also like to put some organ meat in our sausages as well. A full liver may throw off the ratio of a sausage but kidneys are typically small enough to blend smoothly into a sausage without altering the flavor.

Since there are only two small racks of ribs on a lamb, I usually just cook them up for a pit snack. Salt and pepper, cooked over direct coals for about three hours until the bones have started to peek out and the meat is tender to the touch but not falling apart. The cartilage is tough to cut through on the carving block, but this is a great cut of lamb if it’s done right.

Of course this is not the only way to break and cook a lamb but a general guideline of how to mentally separate pieces of the lamb into categories for the best usage on the barbecue pit. The same can be done for goats and hogs. To see the lamb breakdown and new bbq videos every week, subscribe to our Patreon.

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