Smoked lamb neck cooked over hickory wood. This tender pull-apart meat is perfect for slow cooking and is taken to a new level with this easy smoking recipe.
Smoked lamb neck is an unusual meat cut, but its tender texture and rich lamb flavor make it perfect for cooking low and slow on your smoker or pellet grill.
Barbecue smoked lamb doesn’t have to be complicated, and simplicity is often the key with your smoker or grill. Discover how to smoke lamb neck from scratch, from wet brining to choosing the best wood chips. Let’s get smoking!
What is Lamb Neck?
Lamb neck is a tender and versatile cut. It’s not the most common piece of meat, but you can find lamb neck roasts or steaks at most butcher shops and meat counters, often commanding a lower price than other cuts.
Lamb neck can be slowly braised or cooked at low heat, just like smoked lamb shoulder, but can also be treated like a steak or chop and grilled at a high temperature or reverse seared. Since adult sheep are large animals, their neck meat is less bony and more multifaceted to cook with.
How to Buy Lamb Neck
While lamb neck isn’t as popular as classic barbecue cuts like pork shoulder, beef brisket, and even lamb shoulder, most butchers should be able to find you one. Many butcher shops and grocery chains will leave the neck attached to the shoulder when butchering but can separate them on request.
If anyone at your butcher shop has a penchant for home cooking, this is an obscure enough cut that they may want to take it home at the end of the day. This obscurity is also why they are often reasonably priced, so if there is one available, feel free to scoop it up before cooking it and freeze it for later use.
As with most smoked meats, preparation goes a long way! Smoking is a relatively hands-off process, so if you find prep work daunting, remember that you won’t need to do much once the smoker is fired up.
First, you’ll start with a wet brine consisting of 2 quarts of water and half a cup of kosher or sea salt, as it is the most foolproof way to prep your smoked lamb neck. The brine will guarantee muscles will break down when cooking, letting the fats that surround them permeate and moisturize your meat.
Submerge your lamb neck in a brining bucket with the wet brine solution, and refrigerate it overnight. Dry it off with a paper towel or rag, and sprinkle on some black pepper. A little garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne may be welcome, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple.
A simpler alternative to wet brine is a dry brine (or dry rub), applied 2 to 24 hours in advance depending on time constraints. This approach won’t break down as much of the lamb neck internally but will still permeate a little and provide ample seasoning.
A store-bought dry rub is one option, but try half a teaspoon of kosher or sea salt and a smaller portion of black pepper to simplify with at-home ingredients. Again, garlic powder, cumin, and fresh herbs can add to your dry brine if you feel like a variation.
Best Wood for Smoking Lamb Neck
Hickory best suits gamey meats like a smoked lamb neck. Its intense flavor compared to other woods complements similar qualities in lamb neck and shoulder and makes them a match made in heaven. Applewood tends to add a lighter flavor but is a solid substitute in a pinch.
Times and Temperatures
Now that you’ve done the prep smoking your lamb neck is the biggest but easiest part. Whether you’ve used dry or wet brine, remove your prepped neck from the refrigerator an hour to 2 hours before smoking it.
Place your uncovered lamb neck in a smoker set to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Uncovered cooking gives it time to develop a delicious bark, which adds texture to the meat.
Cook like this for 2.5 hours, then cover tightly with aluminum foil on a rimmed baking tray or hotel pan to capture any juices that might escape. Cook like this for another 2-3 hours until the meat falls off the bone and is easy to pull.
By now, you should have a good picture of how to smoke a lamb neck, but in case anything remains elusive, here are the answers to a few common questions.
How to Serve Smoked Lamb Neck
While you can slice the meat, a more common preparation is to ‘pull’ the meat like you would with pork. Use a knife to get tricky bits off the bone, then two forks to shred/pull the tender meat. Serve as is with sides, or place on a bun for a tasty sandwich!
How to Reheat Smoked Lamb Neck
If you’ve pulled your lamb neck before freezing, you can reheat it covered in a saucepan with a splash of water and your favorite BBQ sauce. Alternatively, break off chunks of lamb neck to add a smoky twist to soups and stews.
Smoked Lamb Neck
- Hickory wood
- 2 lbs lamb neck
- 2 quarts water
- ½ cup kosher salt
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- Pour the water and kosher salt into the brining bucket, stirring to dissolve the salt.
- Submerge the lamb neck in the brining bucket, ensuring the meat is completely covered by the brine solution. Place bucket in refrigerate and leave overnight.
Dry Rub Seasoning
- Remove lamb from brine solution and rinse with water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Slice neck roast into steaks, each at leasr ½-inch thick
- In a small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients. Use a fork to remove or crush any lumps that may form.
- Apply a generous amount of the dry rub to the lamb neck. Apply all sides and work into any crevices or folds in the meat.
- The next day, fire up your smoker to 250°F (120°C). If you are using a charcoal grill, ensure the grill is set up for 2-zone indirect grilling.
- Place lamb on smoker grates or on the indirect side of your charcoal grill. Add wood chips to coals or wood tray and close lid.
- Smoke for 2 ½ hours, or until internal temperature is 145°F (63°C)
- Remove lamb neck from the smoker and tent in fresh foil. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Serve as steaks or pull meat with forks