Barbacoa (Chile-Rubbed Smoked Lamb)

  • Serves

    serves 8-10


Lamb shoulder is the ideal cut for this Pueblan-style barbecue. We love this version, which is adapted from Steven Raichlen's The Barbecue Bible (Workman, 1998), and is served with a refreshing tomatillo salsa. This recipe first appeared in our June/July 2011 BBQ issue along with Molly O'Neill's story Sunday After Church.


For the Lamb Shoulder

  • ¼ cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp. dried Oregano
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 dried guajillo or chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice berries
  • ¼ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 8-10-lb. square-cut, bone-in lamb shoulder
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Tomatillo Salsa

  • ¼ lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 jalapeños, stemmed
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stemmed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Step 1

Puree vinegar, salt, Oregano, cinnamon, chiles, garlic, cloves, allspice, and onion in a blender. Season lamb with salt and pepper on a baking sheet, and rub all over with the chile puree. Let sit a room temperature or refrigerate overnight.

Step 2

Meanwhile, make the tomatillo salsa: Place tomatillos, garlic, onions, and jalapeños in a 4-qt. saucepan and cover with water by 1″. Bring to a boil over high heat; cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Drain vegetables; reserve 1 cup cooking liquid. Puree boiled vegetables, reserved liquid, sugar, cilantro, salt and pepper in a blender. Set salsa aside.

Step 3

Prepare your grill using the kettle grill, bullet smoker, or gas grill method, (see links for instructions) using apple wood chunks or chips (see Fuel and Flavor). Place lamb, fat side up, on grill grate. Maintaining a temperature of 225°-250° (if using a kettle grill or bullet smoker, replenish fire with unlit coals, as needed, to maintain temperature; see instructions), cook until a thermometer inserted in the meat reads 190°, 4-6 hours. Shred lamb, discard bone, and serve with salsa and warm corn tortillas.

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