Q & A: Roasting a whole lamb

Hi Perry,

I am cooking a 48 lb lamb on the caja china this weekend. Any suggestions on total cooking time, amount of charcoal, etc…? I’ve done a pig before, but I am concerned about cooking the lamb to medium-rare temperature.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!




Thanks for your post! Here’s the recipe from my cookbook, “La Caja China Cooking.”

Let me know if you have any further questions, and I hope the lamb turns out great!



Moroccan Whole Roast Lamb
Recipe by Dee Elhabbassi

1 – Grass-fed, three-month-old lamb around 36-40 pounds, skinned. As much surface fat removed as possible.

4 sweet onions, pureed 2 C fresh garlic, ground
2 C butter 2 C olive oil
Salt to taste 3 bunches cilantro, diced
¼ C cumin ½ C coriander
½ C paprika 2 Tbs fresh black pepper

Combine all chermoula ingredients and mix together over medium heat until it forms a paste. (Chermoula is a Moroccan marinade.)

Allow chermoula to set overnight.

Rub this mixture over the surface of the lamb making sure to get it evenly distributed, inside and out. Plan on allowing the chermoula to sit on the meat for 48 hours before you cook.

Place the lamb between the racks, tie using the 4 S-Hooks, and place inside the box, ribs side up. Connect the wired thermometer probe on the leg, be careful not to touch the bone.

Cover box with the ash pan and charcoal grid.

Add 16 lbs. of charcoal for Model #1 Box or 18lbs. for Model #2 Box and light up.

Once lit (20-25 minutes) spread the charcoal evenly over the charcoal grid. Cooking time starts right now.

After 1 hour (1st hour) open the box flip the Lamb over (ribs down) close the box and add 9 lbs. of charcoal.

After 1 hour (2nd hour) add 9 lbs. of charcoal.

Do not add any more charcoal; continue cooking the meat until you reach the desired temperature reading on the thermometer.

IMPORTANT: Do not open the box until you reach the desired temperature.

Cooking a whole lamb is as much an event, as it is a meal.

Want to take the hassle out of meal planning? For super-simple, healthy and delicious dinner recipes, check out our FREE weekly meal plans and shopping lists! Your free membership helps us teach valuable cooking skills to at-risk youth!

With a little planning and preparation, it’s no more complicated than cooking a whole pig. Call ahead to your local butcher (if possible, one that specializes in Greek or Middle Eastern meats,) to order your lamb.

Plan on about 4 pounds of raw weight for each guest.

Carving a whole lamb can be intimidating, so take it in sections. You’ll need a large area to work with and several serving dishes or big pans.

Cut away the hind legs, then the forelegs. From here you can start carving up the individual sections.

The meat will be very tender, so slicing should not be a problem.

Fresh Lamb: Rare 140, Medium Rare 145, Medium 160


Filed under Q & A, recipes

14 responses to “Q & A: Roasting a whole lamb

  1. Coby L

    Hi Perry,

    Thanks! I do have one question. Is 10 lbs the minimum amount of charcoal to get the box roasting (I think I read that in a previous post?) I’ve read on the internet that folks have been able to cook their lamb in about an hour (which is a big difference from the recommendation on the caja website) – so I don’t want to over do it. I will also use a digital thermometer for the lamb and interior temperature of the box.


  2. Coby,

    I wouldn’t go below the 16lbs for the amount of meat you’re cooking.

    A Caja China needs to hit a certain “critical mass” temp-wise to get the cooking going. I know that Roberto did dozens (if not hundreds) of experiments to get the right combination of initial # of coals, to added coals, to finished cooking time. It’s really a science!

    I once used just a few pounds too little charcoal in the past, by mistake, and it took exponentially longer for the meat to come to a finished temperature. (Like 8 hours instead of 3!)

    Also, I think 10 pounds might be the minimum for firing up the smaller Cajita China (Model #3), but I think you’d have a LONG wait, trying to start the bigger boxes with that.

    These have been some great questions and, if you don’t mind, I’m going to move this part of the thread out of the “Ask Perry” section, and make it a dedicated post in the Q&A folder.

    Anything else?

    Thanks again!


  3. Leslie

    Thanks for the post to my reply on Facebook.

    The lamb turned out great. The only issue is the internal temp. 163 after the first hour – but we let it go all the way to 194 and pulled at 3 hours exactly. It was perfect.

    Next one is going to be bigger.


    Lamb – 34.5#, reached 163 degrees after only one hour – flipped put more coals on was up to 194 after two hours, put a few more on maybe 4# and let it go another hour.

    Freaked out about internal temp of lamb but rationalized there is no way it could be done in an hour.

    Pulled exactly 3 hours after the coals were spread out. It was PERFECT!

  4. Pingback: How Long To Cook Lamb | | Public Product Reviews

  5. Pingback: La Caja China How To Posts |

  6. hi im roasting a 33 pound lamb in a #1 china box how much char n time

  7. Mike, same as the recipe above.

  8. Kevin Thierry

    Doing a lamb for Sunday. Your lamb was perfect at 194?? That seems high?? But it was perfect hu?? I’m figuring it taking around the 2 hr mark.

  9. My experience has been around 140 for rare, 145-150, for medium, and 165 for well done.

    Personally, I’m a 140-145 guy.

  10. Kevin

    Kinda nervous, 170 after 1st hour?? Not sure I’m going to leave it in much longer. Even checked it with my inst-a read thermometers. They say 163 after 1 hour. Only had 18# to start off?? I’m well past 140 that’s for sure.

  11. Wow, that’s fast. Where is the probe placed?

  12. Aj

    Any suggestions on ideal temp for a whole 30 pound goat? I have read 170.

  13. ChefPerry

    Aj, I got a little wordy, lol… http://burninlovebbq.com/2015/08/25/q-a-roasting-goat/

    Thanks for asking!

    Chef Perry

  14. Aj

    Thanks. Will let you know how it turns out next week when we do it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *