Pulled Lamb Shoulder

This pulled lamb is an homage to the barbecued mutton of Western Kentucky. Smoke the meat over charcoal and wood, not gas. It’s bonkers delicious. Or at least make the dry rub that covers the meat and use it to cook something else.



  • 1 bone-in lamb shoulder, approximately 8 to 10 pounds
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup ground espresso beans
  • 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  •  Potato rolls or hamburger buns, for serving


  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup stout, porter or other dark beer
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder


  1. Place the lamb on a rimmed sheet pan and set aside.
  2. For the dry rub, combine the sugar, salt, ground espresso beans, black pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne in a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. You should have approximately 2 cups.
  3. Use half of the dry rub to coat all sides of the lamb, making sure to rub it into all the cracks and crevices in the meat. Reserve the remaining dry rub.
  4. Heat a smoker to 225 degrees, or set up a grill for smoking, leaving half of the grill area free of coals for wood, or one of the burners off for gas.
  5. Place the lamb into the smoker or onto the grill and cook, maintaining a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees, replenishing wood chips or chunks as needed.
  6. After approximately 4 hours, begin to check on the lamb every 20 minutes or so. You’re looking to be able to tear off a chunk of the meat easily, beneath a thick crust of what’s called “bark.” The interior temperature of the meat, measured in a thick part not touching bone, will be approximately 185 degrees. The process can take up to 6 hours.
  7. Remove the lamb to a clean rimmed sheet pan and set aside to rest.
  8. Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, combine 1 1/2 cups of water with the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine. Allow the sauce to come to a boil, then reduce heat and let thicken slightly, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  9. Using tongs or two forks, begin to pull the lamb apart into pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. When all the lamb has been pulled, taste it, add extra dry rub to taste, and stir to combine. Serve with potato rolls or hamburger buns, with the sauce on the side.