Slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone succulent meat with red wine gravy is the ultimate way to enjoy lamb shoulder. So whether you are looking for a delicious recipe for your Sunday roast, a festive centrepiece for your Easter table or tender pulled lamb to serve in a brioche bun, this Slow Cooker Lamb Shoulder recipe is definitely for you!
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Why Cook Lamb Shoulder In A Slow Cooker?
Slow cookers, like Crock Pots, are sweeping the word with popularity! And for many good reasons. There are so many benefits to slow-cooking your lamb in one of them, instead of slow roasting. And here are just a few reasons to consider:
- Very minimal effort and hands-on time are required. After studding the meat with garlic, you are free to leave your kitchen for the best part of the day and come back to the deliciously tender meat.
- Typically, slow cookers use just a fraction of electricity compared to most ovens, so it is a cheaper way to cook.
- Lamb shoulder itself is a cheaper cut of lamb, compared to a leg of lamb or rack of lamb.
- By cooking your lamb shoulder in a slow cooker you make a delicious gravy at the same time.
- Whilst the meat slow cooks, the gentle heat in the long cooking process turns tough muscle into tender lamb shoulder.
For this recipe, you will need:
- Slow cooker, like Crock Pot. We used a 3.5l Richard Morphy ceramic bowl slow cooker that is perfect for a 1.2 kg half lamb shoulder. You will need a larger slow cooker for big whole lamb shoulder joints.
- A sharp pointy knife to make small holes in the flesh for garlic and rosemary. We love Victorinox Knives.
- A roasting tray will be used to finish cooking your lamb roast in the oven.
- A carving knife or forks, depending on whether you want to slice or pull your lamb.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- lamb shoulder: we used lamb half shoulder joint. You will ideally want a bone-in lamb shoulder joint for the most succulent lamb roast. You can, however, substitute the shoulder with a similarly sized lamb leg. We used the half shoulder of lamb on this particular occasion.
- garlic cloves: peeled and cut into strips.
- fresh rosemary: can be substituted with fresh thyme sprigs if you prefer the flavour.
- brown onions: can be replaced with shallots, red onions or white onions.
- cornflour: also known as corn starch.
- stock/ broth: lamb or beef stock works best, in my opinion, but if you don’t have any, use chicken or vegetable stock.
- red wine: choose your favourite full-bodied red wine. We love Spanish Tempranillo or Argentinian Malbec wine with it, but just use a bottle that you are happy to drink too, as you will have lots left!
- you will also need some staples like olive oil, sea salt (kosher salt) and black pepper.
Start by trimming any excess fat off of your lamb shoulder. Using a sharp pointy knife, make small holes in the surface of the flesh. Then rub a tbsp of olive oil on top of the lamb, then season with salt and black pepper.
Poke a slice/ strip of garlic and a small sprig of rosemary into each of the holes.
Place the onion wedges in the bottom of the pot of your slow cooker. Sprinkle a heaped tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch) on top.
Place your prepared lamb roast on top. Then pour the stock and wine into the pot, avoiding the lamb, so you don’t wash away the seasoning from the top of the meat. The liquid should cover the meat halfway to 2/3 up. If your lamb shoulder is less flat, just add a bit more stock and wine.
Place a lid on top and set it to cook for 8-10 hours on low, 7-8 hours on medium or 5-6 hours on high. However, note that different slow cookers have different cook time suggestions, so I would recommend referring to the manual.
For Pulled Lamb Shoulder: Take the lamb out of the liquid and cover it with a sheet of foil to rest for 15-20 minutes. Take the rosemary sprigs out. Then using two forks, shred and pull the lamb shoulder into bite-sized pieces. Well-cooked lamb should tear very easily, coming straight off the bone.
To Serve Whole: When your lamb is cooked, preheat the oven to 180° C Fan. Take the lamb shoulder out of the liquid and place it onto a roasting tin. Take the rosemary sprigs out. Cook it in the oven for 15 minutes to brown the top. Then leave the meat to rest for 10-15 minutes, covered with tin foil.
Take it to the table and slice it with a carving knife.
How Long Should You Cook A Shoulder of Lamb?
It depends. Cooking time will depend on a few things:
- Low, high on medium. We recommend cooking your lamb on low or medium for more even cooking. It will take 8-10 hours on low, 7-8 hours on medium or 5-6 hours on high, depending on the type of slow cooker you’re using.
- The size of your lamb shoulder. Generally speaking, it is easy to undercook lamb shoulder, but relatively hard to overcook it. It’s one of the most forgiving cuts of lamb. Large lamb shoulders will take longer to cook, but I would always recommend going by how tender the meat is. If the meat is falling off the bone, and if the flesh pulls away easily, your lamb is cooked.
- Your individual slow cooker. Slow cookers differ so much. Generally, the ones with ceramic bowls take a lot longer compared with the ones with metal bowls.
Optional Red Wine Gravy
Whilst your meat rests, you can use the cooking juices to make a lovely red wine gravy! To do that, you need to let the liquid in the slow cooker settle, so that the fat separates from the rest of the juices and settles on top. Using a small ladle or a large serving spoon, scoop most of the fat off the top and into a container (do not pour the far into your sink. Instead, leave it to set and place the container in your bin).
Pour the remaining cooking juices through a fine sieve into a medium pan, add 1 tbsp dark or light brown sugar and set it over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of cornflour to a small bowl. Take a ladle of the cooking juices from the pan and add it to the cornflour. Mix well, then add it back to the pan and stir for 4-5 minutes, or until the gravy thickens to your preferred consistency.
Slow-cooked lamb shoulder should be tender enough to pull the flesh away with a form without much resistance. It should also be just about falling off the bone, so the best way to check is to simply stick a fork in it and see how soft and tender the meat is.
Cook it on low if you have the time. Low and slow is definitely the best way to cook lamb shoulder. As this cut of lamb is relatively fatty, it takes some time to turn the marbling in the muscle into the tender meat. The muscle itself is also a touch one due to heavy use of it, so gentle long heat treatment is required to soften it.
The most likely reason is it is undercooked. Leave it in the slow cooked for another hour or two, and it will turn soft. It is also possible that there is not enough liquid in your slow cooker, so the lamb (especially the top) has dried out too much and turned tough. Make sure the lamb is covered at least halfway up. You can baste it after 6 hours of cooking on low as well.
It’s not an easy task to overcook lamb shoulder. If you have enough liquid in your slow cooker, and cook it on low, it won’t dry out for hours.
No, you want the seasoned top studded with rosemary and garlic to be out of any liquid. But make sure it is covered at least halfway up to start with. Whilst the lamb cooks, it will release its juices too, so the amount of liquid will increase overall, as it cooks.
If you have time and don’t mind extra pans to wash up (or have one of those slow cookers that you can sear the meat in), definitely brown the meat first. However you will need to add the garlic and rosemary to the slow cooker separately, and the flesh won’t infuse with those flavours as much. However, you will definitely gain more flavour from the Maillard reaction, when you brown the meat!
Storage And Reheating
If you have some slow-cooked lamb left over, you can place it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Alternatively, freeze the meat for up to 3 months. Thaw it before reheating.
To reheat, wrap the pulled or sliced lamb in a sheet of tin foil, making sure the parcel is airtight. This will prevent the moisture from escaping and the meat from drying out. Reheat the lamb in the oven at 180C for 10-15 minutes.
How To Serve Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder?
Slow cooked lamb shoulder is a wonderful and versatile recipe that produces extremely tender meat. You can serve it as:
- a centrepiece on your Sunday Roast Dinner table or to celebrate special occasions (hint: Easter)
- at a garden party as Pulled Lamb Sandwiches (we highly recommend brioche buns for them)
- on a bed of creamy parmesan polenta or mashed potatoes
- any leftovers can be mixed with your favourite curry sauce
- or you can roll leftover lamb pieces in cornflour, fry them to crisp up and top your favourite salad with it.
What To Serve With Slow-Cooked Lamb?
If you are serving this lamb shoulder roast recipe as a centrepiece on your festive table, here are some of the side dishes that we think go particularly well with it:
- Ultimate Beetroot and Feta Salad
- Green Beans
- Pan-Fried Tenderstem Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic
- Food Mill Mashed Potatoes
- Baby Hasselback Potatoes | Alternative to Roast Potatoes
And if you are wondering what sauce goes well with this slow cooker lamb recipe, we highly recommend making the red wine gravy, using the liquid the lamb was cooked in. See the recipe in the notes on the recipe card. Some traditional mint sauce goes beautifully with it too.
Other Lamb Recipes To Try
If you love lamb, especially around Easter time, we have a bunch of recipes for you to try.
And if you have some pulled lamb shoulder left, why not make a delicious Leftover Lamb Salad With Harissa Dressing?
Slow Cooker Lamb Shoulder
- Sharp Pointy Knife
- 1.2 kg bone-in lamb shoulder excess fat trimmed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 springs rosemary
- 2 garlic cloves cut into thin strips
- 1 -2 brown onions cut into wedges
- 1 heaped tbsp cornflour
- 350 ml beef or lamb stock
- 200 ml red wine
- Start by trimming any excess fat off of your lamb shoulder. Using a sharp pointy knife, make small holes in the surface of the flesh. Then Rub a tbsp of olive oil on top of the lamb, then season with salt and black pepper.
- Poke a slice/ strip of garlic and a small sprig or rosemary into each of the holes.
- Place the onion wedges in the bottom of the pot of your slow cooker. Sprinkle a heaped tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch) on top. You may skip the cornflour if you do not intend to make gravy out of the cooking juices.
- Place your prepared lamb roast on top. Then pour the stock and wine into the pot, avoiding the lamb, so you don’t wash away the seasoning from the top of the meat. The liquid should cover the meat halfway to 2/3 up. If your lamb shoulder is less flat, just add a bit more stock and wine.
- Place a lid on top and set it to cook for 8-10 hours on low, 7-8 hours on medium or 5-6 hours on high. However, note that different slow cookers have different cook time suggestions, so I would recommend referring to the manual.
- For Pulled Lamb Shoulder: Take the lamb out of the liquid and cover it with a sheet of foil to rest for 15-20 minutes. Then using two forks, shred and pull the lamb shoulder into bite-sized pieces. Well-cooked lamb should tear very easily, coming straight off the bone.
- To Serve Whole: When your lamb is cooked, preheat the oven to 180° C Fan. Take the lamb shoulder out of the liquid and place it onto a roasting tin. Cook it in the oven for 15 minutes to brown the top. Then leave the meat to rest for 10-15 minutes, covered with tin foil.
- Take it to the table and slice it with a carving knife.
- Cooking Juices The Lamb Cooked In
- 1 tbsp brown sugar, dark or light
- 2 tbsp cornflour