Smoked lamb neck cooked on walnut wood. Perfect for slow cooking, this tender, shredded meat is taken to a new level with this easy smoking recipe.
Smoked lamb neck is an unusual cut of meat, but its tender texture and rich lamb flavor make it perfect for slow, low cooking in your smoker or pellet grill.
Smoked BBQ lamb doesn’t have to be complicated, and simplicity is often the key to your smoker or grill. Find out how to smoke lamb neck from scratch, from wet brine to choosing the best wood chips. Let’s grill!
What is the lamb neck?
Lamb neck is a delicate and versatile cut. It’s not the most common cut of meat, but you can find racks of lamb or steaks at most butcher shops and meat counters, often cheaper than other cuts.
Lamb neck can be slow braised or slow cooked, like smoked lamb shoulder , but similarly can be treated like a steak or chop and grilled over high heat or seared upside down. Since adult sheep are large animals, their neck meat is less bony and more versatile for cooking.
How do I buy lamb neck?
While lamb neck isn’t as popular as classic grilled cuts like pork shoulder, brisket, and even lamb shoulder. Many butchers and supermarket chains leave the neck attached to the shoulder when slaughtering, but can separate it if desired.
If someone at your butcher shop has a penchant for comfort food, this is a cut so obscure they’ll want to take it home at the end of the day. This obscurity is also the reason why they are often reasonably priced. If one is also available, SHE can pick it up before cooking and freeze it for later use.
As with most smoked meats, the preparation goes a long way! Grilling is a relatively uncomplicated process. If you also find the prep work daunting, remember that once the grill is on, there isn’t much you need to do.
First, start with a wet brine consisting of 2 liters of water and 1/2 cup of sea salt or kosher salt, as this is the safest way to prepare smoked lamb neck. The brine causes the muscles to break down as they cook, allowing the surrounding fats to permeate and protect the meat with moisture.
Dip the lamb neck in a brine bucket with the wet brine and refrigerate overnight. Pat dry with a paper towel or rag and sprinkle some black pepper on top. A little garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper might be welcome, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple.
A simpler alternative to wet saline is a dry saline solution(or dry rub) applied 2 to 24 hours in advance, depending on time constraints. This approach doesn’t break down the lamb neck as much internally, but it still penetrates a bit and you get plenty of flavor.
A store-bought dry rub is an option, but try using 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt and a smaller serving of black pepper to make it easier with homemade ingredients. Again, garlic powder, cumin, and fresh herbs can be added to your dry brine if you want a variation.
The best wood for smoking lamb neck
Hickory works best with game meats like a smoked lamb neck. Its intense flavor compared to other complementary woods has characteristics of lamb’s neck and back, making it a perfect match. Applewood tends to add a lighter flavor but is a solid substitute in a pinch.
Times and temperatures
Now that YOU have the preparations in place, roasting YOUR lamb neck is the biggest but easiest part. Whether you used dry sea or wet sea, remove the prepared neck from the refrigerator an hour to two hours before grilling.
Place the lamb neck, uncovered, in a smoker set at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking uncovered gives it time to develop a delicious crust that adds texture to the meat.
So cook for 2.5 hours, then cover tightly with aluminum foil on a rimmed baking tray or hotel tray to catch any juice that may escape. Cook for a further 2-3 hours until the meat falls off the bone and can be easily detached.
Frequently asked questions
By now you should have a good idea of how to smoke a lamb neck, but in case you missed something, here are the answers to some common questions.
How to serve smoked lamb neck
While you can slice the meat, a more common preparation is to “season” the meat like pork. Use a knife to remove tough bits from the bone and then two forks to shred/pull the tender meat. Serve as is with side dishes or place on a bun for a delicious sandwich!
How to reheat smoked lamb neck
If you have the lamb neck before freezing, you can toss it in a saucepan topped with a splash of water and your favorite BBQ sauce. Alternatively, break off lamb necks to add a smoky note to soups and stews.