Mexican Barbecued Lamb

009/18: Mexican Barbecued Lamb – Barbacoa

009/18 – Mexican Barbecued Lamb – Barbacoa:

Another cook from the Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen, such a great book that has provided a lot of recipes to my “To cook” list! Up this time: Mexican Barbecued Lamb – Barbacoa.

Steven mentions that Barbacoa traditionally is served as two courses: A soup flavoured with lamb drippings then the lamb. A bit different to my usual barbecue cooks, looking forward to it!

The Meat:

As I mentioned in a previous post I bought a whole Shetland lamb from Richard Briggs last year. It’s a great quality product available at a decent price and Richard delivers direct also. 

BBQ122/17: Rack on Black

This was the 2nd leg from that order, the first one was cooked a few weeks ago, another great recipe by Steven Raichlen:

BBQ23/17: Hay Smoked Lamb Rumps

The Prep:

I started off by making the soup: Onion, carrots, courgette, butternut squash, cabbage, tomato, potato, corn, chipotle pepper, salt, pepper, chopped coriander and a wrap of muslin containing bay leaves and coriander. All of this went into a large pan with enough water to cover the contents.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

Next up I prepared the lamb, it needed minimal trimming as always. The spice paste was made from Guajillo chillies, garlic, onion, oregano, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon stick, salt and distilled white vinegar. This was blitzed in a mini chopper then rubbed all over the lamb. I put some gloves on before I started rubbing but also pierced the skin all over with a knife then pushed the rub into the holes. It looked cracking all covered! I covered it in cling film and left it in the fridge for 6 hours.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

The Guajillo Chillies were from Cool Chile – £2.95 for a bag which had 7 in. The recipe calls for 6 which seems a lot before you even see how big they are, they are massive! Looking at the colour of the paste the chillies are mostly responsible for that deep red shade. 

Guajillio Chilli

Next up – Avocado leaves. Another new one for me but I got these from Cool Chile as well. £2.40 for 10g which doesn’t sound a lot but the leaves are light and 10g was more than enough for this cook. I placed the leaves over a cooling rack making sure the base was large enough to hold the lamb leg.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

A nice fit! Love the colour of that rub. I then covered the top and sides of the meat with more leaves. You can soak them which might make them easier to apply, I didn’t soak them but would do next time.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

The Cook:

I set the smoker up for a 4 hour cook at 300F. A single bag of heat beads, hollowed in the centre and half a chimney of lit lumpwood poured in. I gave it 10 minutes for the heat beads to take then put the smoker together, half a bucket of hot water in the water pan then left it half an hour to settle at 300F. Top vent fully open, bottom 3 vents fully opened with 2 of the vents slowly half shut as the pit temp approached 300F.

Once at temperature I placed the soup pan in the lower grill and placed the lamb right above it. You are meant to put the rack holding the lamb on top of the pan but it wouldn’t fit on the top rack and if I put it in the bottom rack my photos wouldn’t have been as good! This method worked, any lamb drippings would go right into the pan below. I added a couple of chunks of Hickory from Smokewood Shack and left it a few hours.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

I checked the internal temperature of the meat after 3 hours and it was around 70c with a target of 85c ish so I left it another hour (4 hours cook time). The leaves had gone brown and it did look a bit like the autumn leaves had blown in my smoker somehow but it was smelling fantastic. I resisted temptation to pick at it and left it alone!

At this point I made a Salsa Mexicana: Tomatoes, onion, jalapeno peppers, coriander, lime juice and salt.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

After 4 hours cooking time it was close enough to target temperature so I took it off. You can see the soup below in this shot. I left the soup in whilst the meat rested and I added some wraps to the top shelf of the smoker to warm up.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

Time to Eat:

Oh my! It was smelling so good! I picked all the leaves off. 

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

The red of the rub was peeking through the black bark in places.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb


Mexican Barbecued Lamb

I had a bit of a prod at it, not soft enough to pull (as expected at this temp). It was going to need slicing.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

I pulled the soup out, it doesn’t look too appealing in this shot but trust me – it was good!

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

I sliced the lamb working the knife around the bone. Once all the meat was off I cut it into smaller parts and with gloves on I mixed it all together so the rub worked it’s way onto every surface of the meat.

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

We had the soup to start, it probably doesn’t look much but it had a nice taste to it. Some of the rub and lamb fat had obviously dripped down and it gave the soup a bit of a kick but the hickory smoke had added some flavour also. First time I have cooked/smoked soup!

Mexican Barbecued Lamb

After the soup we took the wraps, applied some salsa, added some lab then rolled them up and enjoyed the dish!

Mexican Barbecued Lamb


I really enjoyed this recipe and the tasty food it produced. I haven’t cooked with guajillo chillies or avocado leaves before so it was good to source new ingredients and learn how to use them. The rub was fantastic, smelt and tasted great but also had a wonderful colour. I have thought of a few other dishes this would work well with so I will be contacting Cool Chile for more guajillo chillies soon!

It was a fairly simple dish to prepare and cook, nice and relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. It did taste fantastic and the spice from the salsa left a nice tingle!

Highly recommend this dish as something a bit different to try.

Cook Difficulty: 2/5 
Cook Duration: Short: 2/5
Cook Equipment: Weber Smokey Mountain
Cook Method: Smoker
Charcoal: Heat Beads – 1 bag
Smoking Wood: Smokewood Shack Hickory
Cook temperature: 300f
Cook time: 4 hours
Internal temperature: 85c
Notes: 1: Wet the avocado leaves in advance next time. 


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