Roast leg of lamb is the only meat we have ever used to teach a Passover Seder.
The following recipe for cooking roast lamb has been used for over 30 years without change to cook over 7,000 pounds of lamb. Our Passover Seders started with 12 in attendance the first year, the second year we had 125 in attendance. The next year it increased to 185 and then because of seating space it leveled off at 250 for about six years. After finding a new hall with an excellent kitchen we went to 325 and then leveled off at 350 for the remaining years.
We find most people have never eaten lamb and of those who have, many have had a bad experience. There are at least two reasons for this. First, they have eaten mutton, an older sheep. Having purchased thousands of pounds of legs of lamb, only two were mutton. To the average American they would say mutton really stinks and I can see how the people would not like it. Second, lamb must be served very hot for the best flavor.
When we first started serving full meals fro the Passover Seder we purchased the full legs which included the fat and shank bone. By purchasing lamb this way it increased the preparation time by over an hour. If you use the full legs it will be necessary to purchase .65 pounds per person. After about five years we found a butcher that provided lamb that had been trimmed, boned and rolled. If you purchase lamb like this expect to purchase .50 pounds per person.
Boneless, trimmed leg of lamb for Passover Seder
Trimmed, boneless leg of lamb can be purchased at Costco or Sam’s Club in the meat department. It will be boneless New Zealand lamb and will weigh about 6 pounds per leg. The lamb is a good quality and for this is the only lamb we purchase now. It is consistent in quality and price. Remove the strings before cooking they will get in the way when it is time to chop the cooked lamb. We always cook the lamb quite well done and the string will burn into the meat causing some meat loss. We fill the deep roasting pans with a solid layer of lamb so the tie strings are not necessary. Cook the lamb fat side up.
When cooking for a large crowd it is best to purchase disposable aluminium pans. This will greatly reduce the clean up time. Double the pans because each pan can hold about 42 pounds of lamb. The dark outer coating on these legs of lamb is only a thin crust on the fat caused by basting with honey and butter. This will be discarded.
The lamb will cook much like a roast. We cook it without being covered and baste it every half hour with honey and butter and the drippings from the pan.
175+ pounds (always weigh heavy rather than light)
6:00 pm service, the lamb will be eaten around 7:00pm.
You will need to start preparing the lamb at 8:00 am.
The lamb needs to be in the preheated ovens or electric portable roasters no later than 9:00 am. By 1:30 they should be done. Those cooked in the ovens will have a black burnt covering on top. This will not cause a problem as this will be the fat side up and the honey and butter baste will cause it to turn black. The legs cooked in large white roasters will not darken.
At about 1:30 take the most tender meat from the oven first and lay out on large cooking sheets to partially cool. Do not wait for it to completely cool. Remove as much fat as possible with a sharp knife then chop the large hunks of cooked meat with an Ulu or meat cleaver.
Start pulling the meat apart like “pulled pork BBQ” and remove all the fat and gristle. It is very important to remove all the fat and gristle because people who have never eaten roast lamb will be very disappointed if they find any in their meat.
Put the cleaned lamb in large pans and sprinkle over the top of the meat drippings from the roasting pans and water. Cover with aluminum foil and put back in a 200-degree oven until ready to be served.
Use one serving plate for a table that will sit eight people. When serving, have the proper number of plates to be filled set out on a large table and put an equal amount of lamb in each plate. Cover each of these plates with a Styrofoam plate to keep the meat hot. Try to do this as quickly as possible because it is important to keep the meat hot.
Leg of Lamb Boneless leg of lamb: Purchase .50 pound of meat per person.
With bone: .65 pounds per person
Purchase a little more than needed.
Wash the meat and remove any string netting. Liberally season with salt and garlic salt. Place several legs in a deep pan and place in a 350-degree oven.
Butter 2 pounds
Honey 2/3 quart
When cooking real good Continue to baste every 20 to 30 minutes until the meat is tender. By this time, the meat will be black on the outside, but this won’t hurt anything. You can cover the lamb with aluminum foil if it gets to burnt. Be careful to never turn a basting bulb up on end as this will cause the hot liquid to squirt out the top and could burn someone. Always hold it with the end down.
If you are cooking for a much smaller group of people, make adjustments according to the size of the crowd.