Nobody wakes up in the morning and just decides to cook a whole lamb on the barbeque, because this kind of meal takes a fair amount of planning. You will need a whole lamb, which often means calling and placing an order unless you are a farmer or friends with a farmer. Your whole lamb should weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, and it will need to be dressed, which means ready to go on the grill with the head and legs removed, and all the organs except the kidneys taken out. The lamb is then cooked on a spit and it will offer so much flavor, not only tasting of the seasonings you stuff inside it but also the smoke flavors from the fire.

What Will You Need?

You will need some seasonings to enhance your braai-cooked meat. Lamb does not require a lot of seasoning but adding flavors like mint, basil, garlic, oregano, rosemary, lemon, and olive oil can really bring out its true beauty. You will also need some twine and a big needle to stitch the lamb cavity closed once you have stuffed your seasonings inside, to stop them falling back out. As well as the lamb itself and the ingredients for the stuffing, you will need 3 bags of charcoal briquettes and a bag of hardwood, a rotisserie spit, some plastic trash bags to cover your table or work surface, and a surgical clamp or small needle-nosed pliers to help secure the lamb to the spit.

Cotton twice, a large-eyed needle, an instant-read thermometer, a paring knife, barbeque tongs, and some disinfecting wipes are also worth having to hand. Because this dish requires an expensive piece of meat and quite a bit of work, it is worth planning ahead, to ensure you have all the items you will need. Then you can work out who to invite, since this recipe makes a fabulous meal for about 25 people.

What is a Braai Anyway?

‘Braai’ is the South African word for barbeque, and it comes from the word ‘braaivleis’ which is South African (or ‘Afrikaans’) for barbequed meat. This is a social custom not only in South African but in other African countries like Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Although a barbeque and a braai are very similar, we might have a backyard barbeque just because the weather is nice and we want to make burgers for a family dinner, whereas a braai usually involves some kind of party or celebration, and more often than not a lot of people too.

September 24th is ‘Braai Day’ in South Africa, and the wonderful smoky smell of barbeques permeates the air just like on July 4th in the United States. Although in America burgers, steaks and chicken are more commonly found on the barbeque than whole lamb, it is worth knowing how to spit-roast a whole baby lamb on the barbeque in case you are ever considering feeding a whole crowd and making something extra-special for them. The following recipe requires a fair amount of effort and you will need help flipping the lamb over to ensure it is seasoned all over, and then you will also require help securing it to the spit, since it is heavy. Once it is on there though, you only have to keep the fire medium-hot and keep basting it to keep it moist. In a few hours you will have a whole cooked lamb to carve and share out.

Cooking a Whole Lamb on the Barbeque
Summary: Braai is the South African word for barbequed meat. Few dishes are as special as this spit-roast lamb oozing with the incredible flavors of garlic, lemon, wine, and aromatic cherbs.
Cuisine: South African
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 25
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 whole dressed lamb, weighing 25 lbs lamb
  • 10 lemons
  • 1 loaf sliced white bread
  • 1 bottle balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 4 garlic bulbs
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • Dried parsley, oregano and rosemary
  • 4 bunches each fresh parsley, basil and rosemary
  • Salt and black pepper, as needed
  1. Light a bag of charcoal in the center of your spit.
  2. These will take about half an hour to become very hot.
  3. Squeeze the juice out of 8 lemons and put it in a bowl.
  4. Keep the lemon rinds.
  5. Put half the parsley, basil and rosemary in a food processor with the peeled cloves from 2 garlic bulbs.
  6. Puree until you get a paste.
  7. Mix this herb paste into the lemon juice using a wire whisk, then add a cup each of wine and olive oil.
  8. Stir in the bottle of balsamic vinaigrette.
  9. This will be the basting liquid.
  10. Press the rest of the fresh herbs down into this sauce, and set the bowl to one side.
  11. Line a work surface with plastic trash bags.
  12. Put the lamb on its side on the bags.
  13. Slice the remaining 2 lemons in half and use these to rub the lamb inside and out.
  14. Brush one side of the lamb with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, dried oregano, rosemary, and parsley.
  15. Peel another garlic bulb and peel the cloves, then cut them into slivers.
  16. Make small incisions every 3 inches in the skin and then insert slices of slivered garlic in there.
  17. Flip the lamb over to the other side and repeat the same thing on that side.
  18. Use olive oil to brush the inside of the lamb and then season with salt and pepper.
  19. Skewer and secure the lamb on the spit.
  20. To do this, use a couple of U-clamps or wrap wires around the skewer.
  21. Stuff the marinated herbs into the lamb, as well as cloves from the remaining garlic bulb.
  22. Add the rinds from the lemons you squeezed earlier too.
  23. Stuff the bread slices into the cavity as well.
  24. Pour the remaining wine over the bread and then use twine to stitch the cavity closed.
  25. Distribute the coals under the lamb so you have 4 piles in total.
  26. piles should be on either side of the lamb at the hind legs and shoulders.
  27. /3 of the coals should be distributed by the lamb’s hind quarters.
  28. Place the lamb at the level nearest the coals and turn on the rotisserie.
  29. Tie a slip knot and let the twine wrap itself around the skewer tying the lamb to the skewer.
  30. Secure it with a knot and cook like this for half an hour.
  31. Raise the lamb to a higher level and start to baste every 15 minutes, repeating whenever the skin stops looking moist.
  32. Add more charcoal, 6 briquettes at a time, to each pile the whole time you are cooking.
  33. Ignite the hardwood and then put the smoking wood under the lamb where there is no charcoal.
  34. Aim to have a steady stream of smoke the whole time.
  35. Lower the lamb nearer to the coals after about 3 hours of cooking or when a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees F.
  36. The total barbequing time should be about 4½ hours.
  37. When the leg and shoulder meat temperature is 170 degrees F the lamb is cooked.
  38. If you prefer it medium-rare, you can remove it at 155 degrees F.
  39. Let the lamb rest for 15 minutes before you carve it, so the juices can redistribute.
  40. The meat will stay hot during resting – no need to cover it.

Photo Description:

A whole lamb is not something you see on the barbeque every day but learn how to spit-roast a whole lamb and your will be a star in your community and suddenly find you have lots of hungry friends dropping by around dinner time. This recipe makes use of garlic, lemon, red wine, and fresh herbs, and you will also need to pre-order a whole lamb and ensure your spit-roasting rig is up to scratch. After 4 and a half hours of basting and inhaling the incredible aromas, this lamb is ready to carve, and the meat will be unbelievably juicy and rich-flavored.


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Christine Szalay-Kudra

My name is Christine and I am delighted to welcome you here. Easy Barbeque Recipes aims to demystify the world of barbequing and turn anyone into a brilliant backyard chef regardless of culinary knowledge or past cooking experience. Cooking with fire is not only an easy cooking method but it is the original cooking method. An open fire was used to cook before there were such things as ovens, microwaves or crockpots. Barbequing is not just a cooking method either. It is a social event. Inviting friends over and grilling food for them is always fun and adding home-cooked food to any party is a surefire way to please a crowd. Nothing beats the incredible flavor of flame-grilled food, and you can barbeque all kinds of ingredients and recipes, including meat, poultry, fish, seafood, veggies, and even pizza.


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