Smoked Pulled Lamb Shawarma

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This smoked pulled lamb shawarma is super tender & full of flavour! Cooked low & slow on a barbecue, this lamb makes for the best kebabs ever.

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smoked pulled lamb shawarma

Traditional lamb shawarma tends be made by cooking slices of marinated lamb on a vertical, charcoal spit before it is thinly sliced, to serve. Unfortunately, I don’t have a spit at home, so I’ve made use of a charcoal barbecue, to cook a whole lamb shoulder. This smoked & pulled lamb shawarma isn’t entirely traditional but it sure is tasty & makes for the most amazing homemade kebabs!

To make our shawarma, we’re marinating a whole bone-in lamb shoulder with a flavourful homemade shawarma paste then cooking it low & slow over charcoal for several hours before braising it in lamb stock, until it is incredibly tender.

This stuff melts in your mouth & is absolutely jam packed full of flavour. It’s also incredibly easy to make & can even be cooked in an oven if you haven’t got a barbecue (or if it’s raining!).

If you’ve ever wondered where the “smoke” part of this blog’s name comes from, it’s from this style of cooking! Cooking outside, over a live fire is easily one of my absolute favourite ways to cook & it doesn’t get much better than this barbecue lamb shawarma…

What You’ll Need

  • Lamb Shoulder – For maximum flavour, it’s best to use a whole lamb shoulder, with the bone left in. A 2.5kg shoulder will make at least 10 generous portions of shawarma.
  • Marinade – We’re making a classic shawarma marinade with toasted seeds, fresh garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper & plenty of dried spices (we’re talking paprika, sumac, cloves, turmeric & ginger).
  • Charcoal – Using a really good hardwood charcoal is key to cooking great barbecue! I used charcoal made from hornbeam which imparts a sweet, smokey flavour but feel free to experiment with different varieties. Ash or birch would be some other good options.
  • Lamb Stock – We’re using stock to braise the meat once it has been smoked. A stock cube dissolved in hot water will work well or you can use homemade.
  • Vinegar Spritz – This is used to spray the meat as it smokes, which makes the lamb take on more smoke & colour. We’re making our spritz with 1 part apple cider vinegar & 3 parts water.

A Note On Barbecues

I cooked my lamb shawarma on a Weber smokey mountain but this recipe can be cooked on any barbecue, as long as you can cook on it indirectly. If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, I’d recommend cooking over a really good hardwood charcoal, for the best flavour!

weber smoker
smoked lamb shoulder

How To Make Smoked Pulled Lamb Shawarma

The full, printable recipe card for this shawarma can found at the bottom of this post! Here’s a quick rundown of the recipe…

  1. Making The Marinade
    To make the marinade, we grind toasted coriander, cumin & fennel seeds into a coarse powder (in a pestle & mortar) then mix in salt, pepper, paprika, sumac, turmeric, ground ginger, ground cloves, grated garlic, lemon juice & olive oil.
  2. Marinating The Lamb
    Next, we lightly score the lamb’s fat in a criss-cross pattern then coat the entire lamb shoulder with the marinade. This then gets left in the fridge overnight.
  3. Light Your Barbecue
    The next day, we light our barbecue with charcoal or wood (depending on the type of smoker you’re using), set it up for indirect cooking then leave to preheat to 275°f/135°c.
  4. Smoking The Lamb
    Once the barbecue is fully up to temperature, we add in the lamb (fat side up) then leave it to smoke for 3 hours, undisturbed. After 3 hours have passed, we continue smoking the meat but we’ll be spraying the lamb with a vinegar spritz every hour, until it has taken on a decent amount of colour & the internal temperature is at least 165°f/74°c. This will roughly take another 2-3 hours.
  5. Braising In Lamb Stock
    Next, we transfer the smoked lamb to a large roasting tin, add in a litre of warm lamb stock then wrap in foil. We then continue cooking the lamb (at the same temperature) until it is tender, either in the smoker or in an oven. This will take another 2-3 hours (roughly). You’ll know when the lamb is cooked when it probes soft, like butter.
  6. Resting
    Once cooked, we let the meat rest for at least an hour, loosely covered in foil. This lets the meat relax & the juices redistribute which makes the lamb more tender & juicier once pulled.
  7. Pulling The Lamb
    Finally, we pull the lamb (either with two forks or with gloved hands) then mix it up with plenty of the lamb stock then serve!

Pulled Lamb Shawarma Kebabs

This is my favourite way to serve pulled lamb shawarma! There’s fluffy homemade flatbreads, sweet pickled cabbage, tahini garlic sauce, a fresh veggie salad & a sprinkle of sumac. It’s proper tasty! The recipe for this is included in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

What You’ll Need

pulled lamb shawarma kebab

How To Reheat Leftover Lamb Shawarma

Any leftover lamb shawarma should be stored in the fridge & will keep for up to 3 days. If you have a vacuum packer, vacuum sealing the lamb will extend the shelf life by a couple of days.

The best way to reheat pulled lamb is to place it in an ovenproof dish with a splash of water, cover with foil then bake in a 180°c/356°f oven until nice & hot. This way, the meat will still be tender & juicy. Alternatively, place the lamb into a saucepan then warm up on the stove.

Smoked Lamb Shawarma Tips & Tricks

  • Use A Bone In Lamb Shoulder – For the best flavour, use a bone in lamb shoulder! Make sure to score the fat, to let more marinade in.
  • Marinade Overnight – For maximum flavour, let the lamb marinade in the fridge overnight.
  • Use Good Charcoal – Using a really good charcoal is best for smoking meat. Hardwood charcoals like oak, hornbeam, birch or ash are best for lamb, as they will impart a sweet smokey flavour that won’t overpower the meat.
  • Maintain A Consistent Temperature – One of the most important parts of cooking in a smoker/barbecue, is maintaining a consistent low temperature throughout the entire cook. Temperature fluctuations will affect how long the meat takes to cook.
  • Leave To Smoke Undisturbed – As the saying goes, if you’re looking you ain’t cooking! Try to open your smoker as little as possible as this brings the temperature down, increasing the cook time.
  • Spritz The Meat – Spritzing the lamb as it smokes, helps the meat take on more smoke & colour.
  • Braise In Lamb Stock – Braising the lamb after smoking, makes the meat super tender & keeps it moist & juicy, as well as adding extra lamb flavour.
  • Use A Temperature Probe – A digital food probe is a crucial bit of kit when cooking barbecue. This allows us to cook the meat to perfection!
  • Rest well – Once cooked, it’s best to rest the smoked lamb for at least an hour before shredding. This lets the meat relax & the juices redistribute which makes the lamb more tender & juicier once pulled.
hornbeam charcoal

Frequently Asked Questions

Can pulled lamb shawarma be cooked in the oven instead of a barbecue?

Absolutely! To cook in an oven, place the marinated lamb into a roasting tin with the lamb stock, cover with a piece of baking parchment then wrap the tin in foil. Cook at 150°c/300°f until tender (this will take around 4-6 hours). Next, increase the oven temperature to 180°c/356°f, remove the foil & parchment, baste the lamb with the stock then roast for 20-30 minutes, to give the meat some colour.

What type of charcoal is best for smoking lamb?

A good quality lumpwood charcoal is ideal for smoking lamb. It’s best to treat charcoal like an ingredient (as it flavours the meat) so choose one that is made from a specific type of wood. I used hornbeam charcoal, which imparts a mild, smokey flavour but other hardwood charcoals, like oak, ash or birch will work as well.

Should I add a chunk of wood to the smoker?

Lamb has a quite a delicate flavour so it’s best to just use charcoal in your smoker, so we don’t overpower the lamb & make it taste too smoky.

What cut of lamb is best for shawarma?

As we’re cooking the lamb low & slow in a barbecue, it’s best to use a lamb shoulder as it contains plenty of fat. For the best flavour, a bone in lamb shoulder is best!

How will I know when my smoked lamb shoulder is ready?

The best way to tell when your smoked lamb shoulder is done, is by feel. When you insert a probe into the lamb, it will feel soft, like butter. The probe should go into the meat with little to no resistance. If you were to take the internal temperature, it should be between 195°f-205°f (90°c/96°c). When you shred the lamb, the bone will come out clean as well.

What is pulled lamb shawarma best served with?

Lamb shawarma is super versatile & can be served with almost anything! I like to use the pulled lamb to make homemade kebabs but it would also be great served with a couscous salad, with chips or in a sandwich.

How long will leftover shawarma keep for?

Kept in the fridge, smoked lamb shawarma will keep for up to 3 days. Alternatively, the lamb can be stored in the freezer for several months.

How long does a smoked lamb shoulder need to rest for?

Once cooked, the smoked lamb should be left to rest for at least an hour before being pulled. This lets the meat relax & the juices redistribute which makes the lamb more tender & juicier once pulled.

Equipment Used

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What’s For Dessert?

Want to finish your meal with a next level, homemade dessert? Here’s what we’d recommend…

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Smoked Pulled Lamb Shawarma

This smoked pulled lamb shawarma is super tender & full of flavour! Cooked low & slow on a barbecue, this lamb makes for the best kebabs ever.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time9 hours
Marinating Time12 hours
Total Time21 hours 20 minutes
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Turkish
Servings: 10 Portions
Author: Ben Racey

Equipment

  • Barbecue/Smoker
  • Digital Food Probe
  • Pestle & Mortar
  • Microplane/Grater
  • Small Frying Pan
  • Spray Bottle
  • Large Roasting Tin

Ingredients

  • 2.5 kg Bone In Lamb Shoulder

Shawarma Marinade

  • 2 tsp Coriander Seeds
  • 2 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 2 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 4 Garlic Cloves Grated
  • 2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
  • 2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Coarse Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Sumac
  • ½ tsp Turmeric
  • ½ tsp Ground Ginger
  • ¼ tsp Ground Cloves
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice

To Spritz

  • 50 ml Vinegar See Notes
  • 150 ml Cold Water

To Braise

  • 1 Litre Warm Lamb Stock

To Serve (For 4 Kebabs)

  • 1 Red Onion
  • ½ Cucumber
  • 2 Large Vine Tomatoes
  • A Small Handful Flat Leaf Parsley (Picked)
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 4 Flatbreads See Notes
  • Tahini Garlic Sauce See Notes
  • 200 g Pickled Red Cabbage See Notes
  • Sumac

Instructions

Marinade

  • Place the coriander, cumin & fennel seeds into a small frying pan then set over a medium-low heat & toast for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Once toasted, transfer the seeds to a bowl & leave to cool slightly.
  • Place the seeds into a pestle & mortar, grind into a coarse powder then add in the remaining marinade ingredients. Stir to combine then set aside.
  • Lightly score the lamb's fat in a criss-cross pattern then coat the entire shoulder with the marinade, massaging it into the meat with your hands (wear gloves!).
  • Place the lamb into a container, cover with clingfilm then refrigerate overnight.

Smoking

  • The next day, light your smoker/barbecue & leave to preheat to 275°f/135°c. Make sure that your barbecue is set up for indirect cooking.
  • Once up to temperature, place the lamb shoulder fat side up in the barbecue then leave to cook undisturbed for 3 hours. Make sure to maintain a consistent barbecue temperature throughout the whole cook!
  • In the meantime, add the vinegar & water into a spray bottle then set aside. We'll be using this to spritz the lamb.
  • After 3 hours have passed, continue cooking but spray the lamb with the vinegar spritz every hour, until the lamb has taken on a decent amount of colour & the internal temperature is at least 165°f/74°c. This will roughly take another 2-3 hours.

Braising

  • Next, transfer the lamb to a large roasting tin then pour in the warm lamb stock.
  • Lay a sheet of baking parchment over the lamb then cover the tray with foil. Place the lamb back into the smoker (or in an oven) & continue cooking at 275°f/135°c until the meat probes like butter. This will take around 2-3 hours.
    You'll know when the lamb is ready when a food probe slides into the meat with little to no resistance.
  • Let the lamb rest (still wrapped in the foil) for at least an hour then shred the meat by hand, discarding the bone (it should pull out clean). Mix the meat with some of the lamb's juices then serve!

Lamb Shawarma Kebabs

  • Thinly slice the onion, cucumber & tomatoes then place into a mixing bowl. Add in the parsley leaves & olive oil then season with salt & pepper. Mix, to combine.
  • To assemble the kebabs, lay flatbreads on plates then top each with a generous amount of pulled lamb, salad & pickled cabbage. Drizzle the lamb with the tahini garlic sauce then sprinkle each kebab lightly with sumac.

Notes

1. Lamb – For this shawarma, you’ll need a 2.5 kg lamb shoulder with the bone left in. For the best flavour, I’d recommend letting the meat marinade for at least 12 hours or up to 24, before cooking.
2. Smoker/Barbecue – You can use any barbecue to cook the lamb as long as you can cook indirectly on it. If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, I’d recommend not adding in any extra wood as this could overpower the flavour of the lamb – we don’t want it too smokey! 
3. To Cook Without A Smoker – This lamb shawarma can also be cooked in an oven. To cook in an oven, place the marinated lamb into a roasting tin with the lamb stock, cover with a piece of baking parchment then wrap the tin in foil. Cook at 150°c/300°f until tender (this will take around 4-6 hours). Next, increase the oven temperature to 180°c/356°f, remove the foil & parchment, baste the lamb with the stock then roast for 20-30 minutes, to give the meat some colour.
4. Leftovers – Any leftover shawarma should be stored in the fridge & will keep for up to 3 days. To reheat, place shawarma into an ovenproof dish then cook in a 180°c/356°f oven. Alternatively, warm the lamb on the stove, in a saucepan.
5. Kebabs – I’ve included ingredients in the recipe card to make four lamb shawarma kebabs. Feel free to use the pulled lamb for whatever you like though! To make the kebabs from scratch, you’ll need homemade flatbreadstahini garlic sauce & pickled red cabbage.

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