I followed the recipe


overshooting for the duration (2 hours) to aim for medium-well, but dispensed from using my (too slow to rise) thermometer. I ended up with


which is less than very appealing.

I know "individual ovens vary", etc... but this is off by a mile. Can you suggest how this might have happened?


Please comment on the use of 350F for roasting a leg of lamb. One might roast at 425F, and keep in the oven for 60-90 minutes. Alternatively, one might use 275F, and keep the roast overnight in the oven. But what kind of cooking would you be aiming for if you used 350F?

Update 2

Yes, yes, she's a goddess. We love her. She inspired and inspires us. Etc.

But I'm not looking for a defence of Julia's wisdom. Nor am I looking for variables in the recipe (after reading "individual oven varies" on a thousand recipes, it sinks in to take it with a grain of salt).

Would you care to critique the recipe? George M says to up the temperature. That's a good start. What else would you change to get a lot of flavor yet a perfectly tender roast?

  • 2
    How much did yours weigh? Had it ever been frozen (big joints take a long time to defrost right through)
    – Chris H
    Nov 29, 2018 at 20:27
  • 3
    was the meat too cold when you start cooking it ? in any cases, use a thermometer.
    – Max
    Nov 29, 2018 at 20:48
  • 1
    @Joe I wouldn't bank on 48h being enough for a turkey in a fridge either, but tend to defrost mine in a coolbox due to a lack of fridge space so it's been a few years
    – Chris H
    Dec 2, 2018 at 7:23
  • 1
    @ChrisH : sorry, didn't mean to say that a turkey would thaw in 2 days, just that you can't rely on the turkey charts for defrosting by weight: foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/turkeythawingchart.html . I'm assuming that a leg of lamb is somewhere around 3-5 lbs (which for a turkey of that size, should defrost within 48hrs, but most are much larger)
    – Joe
    Dec 3, 2018 at 1:03
  • 1
    @Joe yes, you could read it either way and the solidity makes a big difference. And of course, as you say, larger turkeys are more common. A big difference - and I think we converge on this warning - is that if a turkey is still icy inside you can switch to cold water defrosting, but if a solid lump of meat is still icy inside you won't even know.
    – Chris H
    Dec 3, 2018 at 8:10

3 Answers 3


There are a lot of variables here:

  • Oven temperature: As you mention, this definitely can be plenty off, but honestly most newer ovens are all right and meat isn't the most sensitive thing to baking temperature. You'd probably have had other issue before if it were the cause here.
  • Meat weight/shape: Bigger means longer cooking times. The weight is a good first approximation, but the shape matters too: if the recipe was based on a flatter piece of meat, it'd have cooked faster.
  • The starting temperature: If the recipe was based on room temperature meat, but yours was chilled or previously frozen, it'll certainly take longer.

I'd guess your issue was more than just oven temperature, but it's hard to guess whether it's weight/shape or starting temperature or both.

In any case, as everyone seems to already be aware, the only real way to be sure is a meat thermometer. You're never really going to be able to find recipes that match your exact situation well enough to avoid this kind of thing otherwise.

  • Great point about starting temp. Julia almost certainly had meat at room temp to start. Nov 30, 2018 at 19:22

I would say that being so far off is uncommon, but not especially unusual.

Ovens really vary that much. I have personally measured an oven to be 40 C off the dial temperature. And they are only a small source of variability in a sea of varying parameters. That would include things like the meat's starting temperature, the meat's geometry, the use of a rub, the cooking vessel's material and geometry, the density of the meat cut, the ratio of radiation to convection and conduction heating going on in your oven, and probably other things I am not thinking of now. It is the whole reason people use thermometers. If you don't, you will every now and then have occasions like this one.


What may be off is not so much the timing, as your perception of what 'cooked' means in this context. We're talking Julia Child, so we're talking French standards. Personally I'd prefer my lamb bleeding a bit less, but I assure you much of my family would consider your photo perfectly acceptable.

I'd up the temperature a bit though, as I'd think the outside should be a bit more crusty?

Yummm... is there enough garlic in there :-)?

  • You seem to not have read the recipe. She gives different time suggestions for example internal temperatures and doneness descriptions. The OP baked for quite a bit longer than the recommended time for "medium - pinky gray". No need to speculate about her standards.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 2, 2018 at 13:19

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