March 21, 2013

Lamb Skewers with Mint Yogurt

There’s something inherently fun about food on a stick. Skewered foods pop up in food culture all over the world: in yakitori bars in Japan; in the astounding variety of satay sold by Thai and Malaysian street vendors; in cotton candy, deep-fried ice cream, and corn dogs at the Minnesota State Fair; and in candy apples, popsicles (even “Spamsicles”), and crispy crickets on a stick.

In Modernist Cuisine at Home, we give some of our favorite skewers, such as Lamb with Mint Yogurt, a Modernist update by cooking the meat sous vide to the perfect temperature before skewering it. One benefit of this approach is that the skewers can be made in advance, vacuum sealed, and then refrigerated. When you’re ready to serve them, simply place the bag in a 55 °C / 131 °F water bath for 15-20 minutes to reheat it, and then sear them in a very hot pan, on a hot grill, under a blowtorch, or in hot oil.

Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

Recipe Tags

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Lamb Skewers with Mint Yogurt Recipe

Lamb Skewers, seal

Seal the cubes in a single layer so they cook evenly.

Lamb Skewers, cook sous vide

Cook the lamb sous vide for 3 hours.

Lamb Skewers, sear

If finishing with a blowtorch, be sure to use a metal skewer.

Tips & Substitutions

Steps 1 & 2
  • Although we call for lamb leg in this recipe, you can use other cuts of lamb, or even other varieties of meat.
  • This is just one skewer recipe featured in Modernist Cuisine at Home. Others include Tukune, Pesto Chicken Thighs, Korean Pork Belly, Yakitori, Chicken Breast Satay, Beef Short Ribs with Shiitake Marmalade, and Filet Mignon with Montpellier Butter.
  • Vacuum seal the cubes of lamb in a single layer in order to prevent uneven cooking.
  • If you don't have a vacuum sealer, you can use a zip-top bag. Use Archimedes's principle of water displacement to remove as much air as possible by slowly submerging it, unsealed, in a bowl of water or sous vide bath. Zip the bag closed before any water leaks in.
  • Lamb and other grass-fed meats should be seared only after cooking sous vide, not before, because presearing can trigger unwanted reactions that cause off-flavors and warmed-over flavors to form when the food is later cooked sous vide. For more on searing before and after cooking sous vide, see page 2·268 of Modernist Cuisine.
Steps 3 & 4
  • If you torch the lamb after threading the cubes onto a skewer, make sure to use a metal skewer. If you use a plastic or bamboo skewer, torch the cubes before threading them on said skewer.
  • Use extra mint leaves to garnish your lamb skewers before serving.
  • The mint yogurt will keep for about one week when refrigerated. The lamb will keep for about two days when refrigerated.
Step 5
  • Before you light your blowtorch, set your food on a thick roasting tray, and place the tray on the stove top. All surfaces should be heat-safe. Don't use thick baking sheets, and remember that the tray will be hot after torching, so don't touch it with bare hands.
  • When torching the meat, use the yellow part of the flame. When you first ignite the blowtorch, the flame may only be blue but will turn yellow once it comes into contact with the lamb.
  • The hazards of torching food are similar to those of oil spattering while deep-frying. Keep all flammable substances away from your blowtorch, and read and follow all manufacturer's instructions. If your lamb has a lot of fat on it, consider wearing safety goggles.
  • For more information on torching food, see pages 14–15 of Modernist Cuisine at Home or 2·21 and 2·274–275 of Modernist Cuisine.
  • There are many other options for finishing your lamb besides torching. You can deep-fry, grill, or use a hot pan to sear the lamb.


  1. David Dchtoo March 21, 2013 Reply

    Well Obviously the torch is way cooler.
    Btw, 300g for four servings? Are you serious?

    • Judy March 21, 2013 Reply

      Hi David,

      Some would definitely argue that this serves only 2 people. I guess it comes down to what you are serving it as. We felt that skewers are commonly served as an appetizer, or alongside several other small plates. If you wanted to serve this as a main dish, by all means, increase the amount of lamb used–or don’t invite any friends over to share!

  2. Amir March 21, 2013 Reply

    I have a technical question!
    why 56 degrees? Is there a science behind this value?
    I mean is it a rough choice or an optimum value?


    • Sam Fahey-Burke March 26, 2013 Reply

      Hi Amir,

      We like 56 °C for a firm, steak-like texture. Hotter temperatures, in the mid-sixties for instance, will yield a texture that’s closer to a traditionally braised product, but since this recipe has to stand up to being put on a skewer and finished, we felt 56 °C was the best choice.

  3. Matt May 9, 2013 Reply

    There are 2 sous vide lamb skewer recipes in MCAH, this one and one on page 203. Here you cook for 3 hours at 133F, the other you sous vide for only 25 minutes at 135F. Both use the same size and cut of meat, with the only difference being a marinade for the one not listed here. Why such a big range?
    Thank you!

    • Johnny Zhu May 10, 2013 Reply

      Hi Matt,

      Those recipes actually are for two different cuts. The one in the steak chapter is for lamb leg, which is a much tougher cut and thus takes longer.

      • Tom March 17, 2016 Reply

        This recipe gives sous vide cooking time for leg of lamb, and that’s the cut of meat mentioned in the Steps 1 & 2 section of “Tips and Substitutions”. However, in the recipe itself, it still says “Lamb loin”. (It looks like a copy/paste from MCAH.) That’s were the confusion is arising. It would be nice to get this corrected.

        • Tom March 17, 2016 Reply

          Of course, I meant, *where* the confusion is arising.

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