Butterflied Leg of Lamb. The DIY Walkthrough.

Butterflied leg of lamb (2 of 3)DIY. Now there’s a subject that we men like to treat as our own. If there is a shelf to be put up or a picture to be hung, I’m your man. Your man, as long as you aren’t a perfectionist. So what if the shelf slopes slightly to the right and the picture hangs just a little down on the left? Perfection is boring. When I was a bit younger, I managed to saw through the corner of our kitchen table while preparing a plank for the garden shed. That self-build garden shed was another story altogether. To my credit, I have never driven a nail into a water pipe. Though to balance that I have managed to screw straight into a live wire while hanging a picture hook. In short, with most DIY, you should really do it yourself. Don’t let me near it.  But, when it comes to DIYing a Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Lemon, Thyme and Garlic, look no further – I really am your man.

They say that a bad workman blames his tools. A Christmas ago, the Wife gifted me a lovely boning knife. Now that summer has broken out here in Ireland, I get to put it to work. As I have a lovely boning knife (She reads this stuff!),  I have nobody to blame but myself.

Side note on boning knives: If you are lucky, like me, you can use your boning knife. If not, any small paring knife will still do the job. There is one proviso. The knife needs to be sharper than you. In fact, there is an inverse ratio between the keen edge of the blade and the sharpness of the one wielding the weapon. Remember that. 

As with so many of my recipes, there are very few ingredients. However, like so many of my recipes, we go for quality not quantity in this regard.

Butterflied leg of lamb (1 of 15)

Quality trumps quantity almost every time. It does this time for sure.

Ingredients for Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Lemon, Thyme and Garlic

  • One leg of Irish spring lamb
    (This is a rear, right leg from a female sheep from Carlow. I know my meat!)
  • Juice and zest of one and a half lemons
  • 4 single clove bulbs of garlic or a bulb of regular garlic
  • A big handful of thyme (light stalks included)
  • A little salt and pepper to season

Here’s the DIY walkthrough

Butterflied leg of lamb (2 of 15)

I don’t know the technical term. I call it the flappy bit..

Unwrap the flappy bit and cut it off.

Butterflied leg of lamb (3 of 15)

Most butchers leave the H bone in to add weight. Better for the profit margins, I hear.

Trim around the ‘H’ bone (H for hip) and remove it. It will come away easily. Next go to the front of the leg and identify the kneecap.

Butterflied leg of lamb (4 of 15)

Kneecap gone and shank removed. Keep them both.

Cut above and below it. Then slice around it and remove it too. Cut below the knee joint and remove the shank.

Side note on all the removed bits: Wrap everything you don’t use in cling film and put them in the freezer. They can be used to add additional flavour to roasts or to make stock. collect a few shanks and they are delicious slow roasted. They are not great in this dish.

Identify the top and bottom of the thigh bone (the one left in the meat) slice along the inside of the leg along the line of the bone. Carefully open out the flesh to expose the bone.

Butterflied leg of lamb (5 of 15)

Trim carefully. Any meat left on the bone is as good as wasted.

Side note on slicing inside a big joint of meat: Always, always cut away from your hand and fingers. If you slip (when, not if), you will only damage the meat. Your fingers will be needed later, so be careful.

Trim carefully around the bone and remove it. Lay the meat out, skin side down. It will not be of even thickness. Here’s where the butterflying happens. Slice horizontally across the thickest part of the meat and flatten it out.

Butterflied leg of lamb (6 of 15)

The meat doesn’t look like a butterfly at any stage of this process.

Repeat as necessary until you have an even (roughly even) thickness. The lamb will be long and, if you have used your knife well, still in one piece. Trim any raggy bits and any lumpy pieces of fat.

Butterflied leg of lamb (7 of 15)

It looks more like a bat than a butterfly.

Put the remaining ingredients into a blender and blitz them. I included all the stalks from the thyme except the woody ones. There is lots of flavour in the delicate shoots.

Butterflied leg of lamb (8 of 15)

There is lots and lots of flavour in this little lot.

Cut some slashes through the skin side of the meat. Don’t cut all the way through.

Butterflied leg of lamb (10 of 15)

It’s good to have a very sharp knife for this bit.

Rub the mixture all over the meat.

Butterflied leg of lamb (11 of 15)

The mixture is highly aromatic and slightly non traditional for lamb. Be brave. It works.

Cover the lamb and refrigerate for three to four hours. Fling it on a medium barbecue and cook until it is done. The meat should cook evenly as it is roughly the same thickness throughout.

Butterflied leg of lamb (13 of 15)

My meat covered the length of the barbecue, if that’s not too rude to say.

Remove the lamb and trim it to fit on your chopping board.

Butterflied leg of lamb (1 of 3)

The DIYer has succeeded to make a delicious dish and retain his fingers.

Slice it and serve it with some nice white wine. It needs to be white as the lemon and thyme would play havoc with any red. This summer favourite is delicious with a nice crisp salad.

Butterflied leg of lamb (3 of 3)

For once, my DIY worked out well.

As long as I produce barbecue dishes like this, the Wife won’t notice the odd sloping picture, the missing corner of the kitchen table or the any of my other DIY failures. I can only encourage you to do it yourself.

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Latest comments
  • Summer still hanging on in Ireland, then…? We actually dipped below 15C for the first time this year today, suitably for the southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice. Even after tonight’s home made lasagne, you were able to get me drooling with this lovely bit of lamb…

    • We have had our first round of summer. We are expecting another any day now. Then we will live in hope of an Indian summer some time in September into October. Though, the chances of any ‘spring’ lamb from here on in is pretty slim. Glad you liked it and I hope you continue to improve as the weeks slowly creep by.

  • Beautiful looking lamb there Conor. Sadly I think all of my knives are sharper than I am

    • Not a bit of it Donna. This self deprecation may fool others but, I know you to be razor sharp and well up for a bit of slicing and dicing when the need arises.

  • Excellent DIY – that lamb looks delicious!

    • Thanks MD. You should see the shelves in the back room!

      • Perhaps your special touch relates best to DIY cooking 😉

  • I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer either but even my befuddled brain can work out how good that would taste. Good butchery skills, Mr B.

    • Thanks Linda,
      I remember the first time I tried to do this and made a complete mess of a lovely leg. Still, practice makes better, if not perfect.

      • Oh go on, you’re like Mary Poppins …prrrractically per-fect in e-ver-y way.

  • Love the words Conor, but meat doesn’t feature high on my menu at the moment. We do, however, share the same DIY skills. I have recently built a shed that lets water in from beneath, rather than through the roof, which is no mean feat:)

    • I admire your abilities Roger. My shed manages to let water in through the walls. The water doesn’t get a chance to make it to ground level. Though the roof (put on by a handyman other than myself) performs its function very well.

  • Or as we call it, Do Yourself In. Back in the dark ages when I was taught butchery at cooking school, I have to admit that it was never my strong point. I like the non-traditional flavour combo Conor. Your missus won’t notice the rest if you keep feeding her so well.

    • The obvious choice is rosemary led. I wanted to try something else and this worked remarkably well. So much so, that I used rosemary and lemon to marinade a big lump of pork before smoking it as my next experiment. That too was a great success. More to follow in a later post.
      I would rather feed the Wife and ignore the DIY any day. She is, as you suggest, happy with that arrangement.

  • Wish I’d had your pics to guide me when I first butterflied a leg of lamb! The first time I did it was very messy as I didn’t really have appropriate knives, but over the years I got better at it.
    The reason I did in the first place was that back in the mid 1980s we did a house-swap for 3 weeks – our house in London for a house in Santa Cruz California; in the kitchen there I found a wonderful recipe book that had a “Butterflied Lamb to cook on the BBQ” recipe; and it has become a family favourite – in winter I often cook it under the grill. The ‘Californian marinade’ is terrific, it sounds a strange combination but works really really well.

    Here it is in case you would like to try it some time:
    1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup red wine,1/4 cup cooking brandy, juice of one orange, juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons runny honey, 1 teaspoon mustard powder, 1 large ripe tomato cut in pieces, 3 cloves of garlic – crushed, 10 grinds black pepper.
    Put all the ingredients into a blender and whiz up for 2-3 mins. Put the lamb in a large shallow dish and pour over the marinade. Leave for 24 hrs, turning it over when you remember!
    Whilst grilling the lamb, boil down the marinade with a cup of stock til half original volume – sieve and serve as a thin gravy.

    I’m going to do my next butterfly with your lemon and thyme rub which sounds delicious.

    BTW – Lamb is not eaten much in the USA, at least not on the West coast; and so getting wonderfully tender sweet young lamb as you can in Ireland is not an option – perhaps that is why this marinade is so punchy.

    • Thanks for that gargantuan comment. The recipe is indeed a bit unusual. The amount of acids and the alcohols would certainly be more appropriate to a tougher, older (and often more flavoursome) piece of lamb. I was with you right up until the addition of tomatoes. Very interesting. I might give it a go on some older lamb / mutton later in the year.
      The lemon and thyme will not disappoint.

  • What a pretty salad and masterful butterfly!

    • Thanks Rosemary, Every bit of the salad bought in our local Lidl. I enjoyed the bit of butchery. Having the boning knife makes a difference.

  • A butterflied leg of lamb cooked on the BBQ, or in the kettle BBQ is wonderful and a firm favourite here too. I use a similar marinade but rosemary is my herb of choice. I like to buy large joints on the bone. Having the skill to debone gives me options.

    • Thanks Sandra. The rosemary would be my go-to for lamb also. But, I have posted it here before and need to mix it up. This is worth a whirl.

  • Ok, I am impressed. I prepare the same similar lamb…however, I let the butcher do the first steps…wish I could take credit for the whole shebang like you. Now I need to do this. Love the post

    • Thanks indeed. Once one gives the geography of the leg a bit of thought, the rest is pretty straightforward. But, it is easy to get it wrong and just as easy to slice a finger or two. The butcher is paid to do it….

  • Such an accomplished butcher! Love the rub ingredients. Such a great dish! 🙂

    • Thanks Ronit. It makes me look good, I know. I have had my share of disasters with the carving knife too.

  • Good job on the deboning. I’ve become pretty apt at filleting fish, but these types of jobs I usually leave to my butcher. I like the combination with lemon and thyme, which is used in some Italian lamb recipes as well. I think this would also be great with a deboned chicken. The only part I’d prefer to change is where it says “cook until done”; I’d go for “cook until medium rare”.
    Definitely agree on the white wine!

  • I’m with you on the medium rare. It’s interesting how the marinade brings the red meat over to white wine. A red would be wasted here.

  • Seeing as legs of lamb are far and few between in the nether reaches of Central Oregon, my filleting skills have been crafted to a fresh caught salmon or steelhead. I must brag when I caught my first whopper salmon (39-inches long, not my first fish mind you, I am a great trout and kokanee fisherwoman too), I filleted it in the dusk after a 90-minute ordeal of trying to bring it in with the help of hubby, broke the damn fishing pole and all!

    Hubby caught the next salmon (only 4-inches smaller) 2 weeks later and he friggin’ butchered half of it, I tell you! Barely fit for smoking it was so hacked up. He had me fillet the other half, lol!

    Long story short, steady hand, super sharp knife, and be the sharpest knife in the box. It appears you are with your leg of lamb carving skills, kudos to you! xo

  • Enter local butcher! Smile your biggest smile! Flutter eyelashes just a tad! Buy his best leg of lamb without complaining about price! ‘Oh you would not mind deboning that for me . . . oh, thanks 😀 !! . . . . and may I have the bones for my pup: oh thanks . . . lovely!!’ Go onto your recipe . . .

  • Now isn’t this a coincidence. I was just mentioning how much I loved grilled butterflied leg of lamb in a comment to another blog post! Very impresses that you do your own boning, by the way…

  • Now this is some excellent DIY. Lemon and thyme is a great flavour combo.

  • Impressive knife work!

  • Nice work Conor, looks delicious! I just did something extremely similar except I then rolled it up and gave it a low and slow smoke bath. A friends’s dog received the bone for a prize that night but I was then kicking myself when I went to make a lamb curry stew with the leftovers and did not have the bone to make some stock. https://tonymeetsmeat.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/smoked-boneless-leg-of-lamb/

    • We have a hound in the house. The poor thing never, ever gets a bone. They go into the freezer for stock making. I do that every three months or so and make highly concentrated stock. I plan on doing a pig’s head this weekend. It is worth the trouble as the resulting stock is incredibly tasty.
      I left a comment over on your lamb post. Fantastic stuff.

      • We have a lot of pig bones and chicken carcasses so the dog lives on these, but he rarely gets lamb bones. If it wouldn’t look weird I would send you a pigs head in the post – I love the stock from them, but we have more heads than I consume pork stock!

      • Nice. I hope to see a pig’s head post then soon. 🙂

  • That looks magnificent. Thank you for showing how to do the boning and butterflying. I am rubbish at boning meat, but will give it a go and try and learn something.

  • Hello! Just followed yesterday and am looking forward to having a read of your posts, I am very new to all of this and have uploaded my first two posts on my blog and only started yesterday so I don’t know if you might be able to check them out and leave a comment and tell me if you like it or not as I would welcome any help? Thank you, Yours,

    • Hi Sian,
      Thanks so much for the kind comment. I will pop over to your site right now and see what you are up to.

  • Like Eha, your post has inspired me to ask my local butcher to do it. However, I remembered I didn’t have a local butcher. Then I remembered that I know where you live. Or at least where you work, anyway. Are you allowed to bring knives to work?

    • I’m allowed to bring knives to work. You, however, are not allowed to bring knives to my work. Sure, your tongue is sharp enough anyway!

  • A beautiful meal and great tutorial. Still wish the photos were taken from over your shoulder, and there were more of them. Maybe next time?!!

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