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Out of the Roasting Pan: Grilled Leg of Lamb with Herb Pesto

I don’t understand how Easter is upon us already. I am still working on the To-Do List I made over the Christmas holiday (OK, I haven’t even started it). I use to roll my eyes when my father said, “The older you get, the faster time goes.” I totally get it now.

Of course, I always like when holidays roll around. Gives me a chance to do a big dinner with all the trimmings and invite¬† people over. But holidays are about the only time when two ovens just don’t seem to be enough, and using only one oven can be downright maddening. Luckily, in Florida I have the opportunity to roll out the grill and free up some much-coveted oven space on these big cooking days.

I decided to grill this on a whim a few years ago, and now it has become our standard Easter fare. I cannot believe how much easier it is to properly time getting side dishes and dessert in and out of the oven when you don’t have a big honking roast taking up most of the space in there.

Another bonus is the fact that all the prep work is done the day before. I’m big on planning ahead for big cooking holidays – I usually have the entire week mapped out with day-by-day cooking tasks (this will come as no surprise to the people in my life who already know I’m completely anal retentive), so this works out great for me. It’s important to let the lamb marinate in the herb pesto for a significant amount of time to let all of the flavors penetrate the meat. On Easter Sunday, once we get home from church, I just have to heat the grill and let it do the work.

And just a couple of quick grilling tips: I use a gas grill with 4 different burner zones, so I can turn off the middle burners and still have heat coming from both sides of the meat. If you do not have a setup like this and heat will only penetrate the left or right of the lamb, you will probably want to rotate the meat after 15 or 20 minutes on each side so the whole roast can have the opportunity to cook evenly. If you use a charcoal grill, simply mound up the briquets on one side, creating a hot side and a cool side for indirect cooking. And trust me on this, lamb contains so much fat that cooking over a direct flame is a sure way to end up with burned lamb (I speak from experience).

Open flames always make meat taste better. And as far as I’m concerned, lamb is one of the best things out there. Grilling a whole leg of lamb? There is nothing better – except maybe a good Argentine Malbec to pair with it. Happy Easter!

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Herb Pesto


Free up your oven space on the holidays with this springtime crowd pleaser.

  • 4-5 lb. boneless leg of lamb
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 C fresh mint leaves
  • 4 scallions
  • 1/2 C fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 lemon (zested and juiced)
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 1/3 C olive oil

The Night Before

  1. Rough chop garlic cloves, fresh herbs, and scallions, then add to bowl of food processor, along with lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. With processor running, drizzle in olive oil.
  3. Pour pesto into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Lay out leg of lamb, and spread open to a single layer. Use paper towels to pat dry.
  5. Trim any excess fat.
  6. Apply an even coating of pesto to all surfaces of the lamb.
  7. Fold lamb back up, place in a large pan, and cover with plastic wrap.
  8. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours and up to overnight.

The Day Of

  1. Remove lamb from refrigerator and let rest on counter (still covered and wrapped) for one hour to take the chill off.
  2. Preheat all burners of the grill on High for 15 or 20 minutes.
  3. The lamb will cook on indirect heat. Just before adding lamb, turn off appropriate burners and turn remaining burners to Low.
  4. Open lamb to a single layer and place, fat side up, on the indirect heat.
  5. Add probe thermometer to thickest part of the lamb.
  6. Grill for 30-40 minutes. Flip.
  7. Cook until probe thermometer reads 125 degrees F. (total cooking time should be 75-90 minutes)
  8. Remove from grill.
  9. Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
  10. Serves 8-10