Crown Roast of Lamb With Couscous Stuffing and Pistachio-Mint Sauce Recipe

The reverse-sear method produces a roast that's evenly cooked and a showstopping centerpiece for a holiday meal.

A roasted rack of lamb topped with couscous stuffing.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why This Recipe Works

  • Cooking the roast at a low temperature, then finishing it with high heat, delivers more consistent results and reduces the chances of overcooking the roast.
  • Precooking the stuffing and adding it to the already-cooked crown roast allows you to focus on what's most important: getting perfectly cooked lamb that's browned all over.

Regal. I think that may be the best word for a crown roast of lamb—lamb racks that are tied together end-to-end into the shape of a crown. And just like the crowns that grace the heads of monarchs, a crown roast of lamb is all about presentation.

That may sound like an argument against making a crown roast—I mean, why cook something just for its looks?—but it's not. Presentation is important, especially at the holiday table, and few roasts are as impressive as a crown roast.

I make this point because it explains how I approached this recipe. I started with a few basic premises:

  • Racks of lamb are expensive, so even if we decide to cook them in a way that prioritizes presentation, the single most important thing is still to not risk ruining the meat.
  • Presentation aside, don't ruin the meat.
  • Don't ruin the meat.

The presentation, though, presents a small problem: The crown roast's form makes it a less-than-ideal way to cook a rack of lamb. Searing it, for instance, is a pretty big challenge—the meaty, fat-capped face of the rack is on the inner wall of the crown, and that's the part we want to sear!

Let's take a step back and look at the anatomy of a crown roast.

Forging the Crown in the Heat of Butchery!

An uncooked, seasoned crown roast of lamb on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

As I wrote above, a lamb crown roast is formed by connecting at least two racks, usually with seven or eight bones each, end to end. The racks themselves come from the loins that run on either side of the lamb's spine, with the rib bones attached. (For presentation, those rib bones are frenched, or cleaned of meat and sinew.) To get the normally straight racks into a curved shape, the butcher makes slits between the rib bones on the back sides of the racks (the sides that form the outer wall of the crown roast), allowing them to be flexed like an accordion.

Close-up of lamb ribs that have been bent into a round shape and tied with twine to form a crown roast of lamb.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

The racks are then sewn together using a butcher's needle and twine, with the ribs on the outside of the crown and the loins on the inside. Another piece of twine is often also looped around the whole thing to help hold its shape.

This is something you could do yourself, but it's honestly just as easy to ask the butcher to do it for you—if you're taking the trouble to make a crown roast, you might as well go to a good butcher to get some great lamb and have them take care of that step at the same time.

The crown roast pictured here is a two-rack roast, but you can also have a triple crown roast made with three racks, or theoretically even a quadruple one, though I've never seen that (I have to assume it'd be kind of unwieldy to handle). Unwieldiness aside, the only theoretical limit I can think of is how big your oven is,* since the crown's circumference will grow as racks are added to it. Cooking times, however, should remain fairly constant, since the thickness of the ring of racks doesn't change as the crown grows.

*Well, that and how deep your pockets are.

Approaches to Cooking a Crown Roast

My goal here is to offer a solid method for cooking a crown roast of lamb, with the highest priority being that we don't risk ruining the meat. That objective forced me to make some fundamental decisions about how I was going to cook and serve it, and the first is whether or not to stuff it before roasting.

See, crown roast recipes often call for stuffing or adding a crust before cooking. They look more grand that way, which is a bonus as far as presentation is concerned. But stuffings and crusts also introduce variables that make creating a master crown-roast recipe difficult, since different crusts and stuffings have different moisture levels and densities, and therefore different cooking times. Some have raw meat or eggs and require higher cooking temperatures to be fully cooked.

That doesn't mean it's not possible to cook a stuffed crown roast successfully; it just adds a variable that increases the chance of things going wrong. It's exactly like a turkey: Yes, you can stuff it, but if your goal is perfectly cooked meat, the easiest thing is to take that stuffing out of the equation by cooking it separately.

There's another problem with stuffing. On a crown roast, there's a cap of fat that covers the loin on the inner wall of the crown. If we were cooking the racks separately, we'd sear that fat cap, rendering some of the fat while crisping its surface to a delicious crust. But when it's hidden on the inner wall of the roast, there's no easy way to sear it. (I even tried a blowtorch—it's possible, but a little awkward.)

A cooked crown roast of lamb sitting on a plate on a rimmed baking sheet, bones covered in foil, with a blowtorch searing the inner fat cap.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Considering all of this, I decided that the best method is to cook the crown roast by itself so that the focus is on getting the meat just right and the surface as browned as possible. Then, as an optional step, we can stuff it afterward with a premade dressing.

In the photos here, I'm using warm couscous with dried fruits and pistachios, but really you can do almost any kind of dressing or stuffing. If it seems like too much of a pain to stuff the crown roast after cooking solely for presentation's sake, you can absolutely skip it and serve whatever you want on the side.

Cooking the Crown Roast

Lamb chops from a crown roast of lamb, on a plate with couscous stuffing, next to a small white crock of pistachio-mint sauce.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Because of its shape, there's a limited number of ways to cook a crown roast. Sous vide—a method we've recommended for regular lamb racks—is pretty challenging due to the shape of a crown roast. Pan-roasting is basically impossible, since the most critical surface on a crown roast—the fat-capped loin—is unable to come into contact with the pan.

We're basically left with the oven, and then the main choice is between a low-and-slow roast followed by a short browning step at the end (the reverse sear, as Kenji has dubbed it), or a high-heat approach.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Using high heat is significantly faster than the low-and-slow approach. At 450°F (230°C), it took 35 minutes for a three-and-a-half-pound crown roast to reach about 130°F (54°C), which is about medium-rare. But high heat also gives you a smaller margin of error—forget it for even a few minutes, and you may have just gone past your desired level of doneness.

High heat can also cook a roast unevenly. It's a bigger problem on larger roasts, like leg of lamb, where the exterior portions of meat come out much more cooked than the meat at the center. But it has an effect on the racks in a crown roast, too: Because the thicknesses of the loins in a crown roast can vary slightly along their lengths, a high-heat approach is more likely to overcook the thinner portions of loin and undercook the thicker portions.

In my 450°F test roast, I recorded internal temps at the center of the loins as high as 135°F (57°C) and as low as 110°F (43°C), depending on where I inserted the thermometer. If you have guests with different doneness preferences, this may be a good thing, but in most cases I'd rather have a little more consistency.

Side-by-side photos of lamb chops roasted at high heat (left) and using the reverse-sear method (right). High-heat chops cook more quickly, but are easier to overcook and cook less evenly compared with those cooked using the reverse-sear approach.

Serious Eats / Daniel Gritzer

The reverse sear's low-and-slow approach, on the other hand, takes a lot longer, but makes it harder to overcook the lamb, while yielding more even results. It also creates a more even temperature gradient from the edge to the center of the roast, meaning your lamb ends up cooked more evenly. In my tests, it took about one and a half hours for the meat to reach 115°F (46°C) in a 200°F (90°C) oven. This is my preferred method, assuming I have the time to do it.

Covering the exposed bones in a crown roast of lamb with foil.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

To brown the roast, I remove it from the oven and then crank the oven to its highest temperature—in mine, that means setting it to broil. Once the oven is blazing-hot, I put the roast back in, this time with the exposed bones covered with foil to prevent burning, and cook the roast until it's 130°F (54°C) on the inside and browned outside.

You need to pay close attention during the browning step, since the racks are small enough that they can overcook in this short window. I'd check the temperature every five minutes or so, checking more and more frequently as it gets close to the final temperature.

A plate of lamb chops from a crown roast of lamb, with couscous stuffing.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Once the roast is done, I rest it for about 15 minutes. In all of my tests, I didn't get enough drippings from the crown roast to make a pan sauce, so I recommend serving it with a mint-and-pistachio pesto instead.

All told, it's incredibly simple to make, quite a sight to behold, and freaking delicious. The roast itself is easy to carve by slicing between the rib bones to break it down into beautiful chops that are not overcooked.

A spoon drizzling pistachio-mint sauce over lamb chops on a plate.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

If anyone is curious about the frilly little paper hats that people traditionally put on the ribs for decoration, I'll be frank: I think they're frumpy and dated-looking. Skip 'em.

Spooning pistachio-mint sauce over lamb chops from a crown roast of lamb.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Special thanks to Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors for donating the great lamb used for these recipe tests.

December 2014

This recipe was cross-tested in 2022 and lightly updated to guarantee best results. We added a touch of lemon juice to give the sauce some brightness.

Recipe Details

Crown Roast of Lamb With Couscous Stuffing and Pistachio-Mint Sauce Recipe

Prep 60 mins
Cook 70 mins
Active 40 mins
Resting Time: 15 mins
Total 2 hrs 25 mins
Serves 4 to 5 servings

The reverse-sear method produces a roast that's evenly cooked and a showstopping centerpiece for a holiday meal.


  • 1 (3- or 4-pound; 1.4- to 1.8kg) crown roast of lamb, prepared by the butcher

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Stuffing (see note):

  • 1 cup (240ml) boiling chicken stock, low-sodium broth, or water

  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, diced (90g; 3.2 ounces)

  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, diced (100g; 3.5 ounces)

  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (70g, 2.5 ounces)

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (165ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1 medium onion, minced (260g; 9 ounces)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 4 cups warm cooked Israeli couscous (from about 2 cups; 305g dry), fluffed

  • 3/4 cup minced parsley

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce (see note):

  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves (1 ounce; 28g)

  • 1/2 cup packed parsley leaves and tender stems (1/2 ounce; 15g)

  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios (35g; 1.2 ounce)

  • 1 cup (237ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Fresh lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 200°F (90°C) and position oven rack low enough to fit crown roast in oven. Generously season crown roast all over with salt and pepper. Place roast on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and roast until lamb registers 115°F (46°C) on an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loin, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

    Seasoning a crown roast of lamb with salt.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  2. Meanwhile, for the Stuffing: In a heatproof bowl, pour boiling stock or water over apricots, prunes, and pistachios and let steep until softened and plump, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat 3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and coriander, lower heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until golden and soft, about 8 minutes. Drain dried fruit and pistachios of any excess liquid. In a large bowl, toss together Israeli couscous, apricots, prunes, pistachios, cooked onions, parsley, and remaining 1/2 cup (120ml) olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the couscous mixture to keep warm.

  3. For the Sauce: Using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor, pulse mint, parsley, and pistachios until roughly chopped. Add 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil and pulse until herbs and nuts are finely chopped. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup (180ml) olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Set aside.

  4. When lamb reaches 115°F (46°C), remove from oven. Increase oven to highest possible temperature (broil setting on some ovens, or about 500°F/260°C on others) and allow to heat fully. Cover lamb rib bones with foil. Roast lamb, checking temperature every 5 minutes and then more frequently as it approaches doneness, until lamb is browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of lamb registers 125 to 130°F (52 to 54°C) for medium-rare, or 130 to 135°F (54 to 57°C) for medium, about 10 minutes. Let lamb rest for 15 minutes.

  5. Stuff with warm couscous and serve, passing sauce at the table. To carve lamb, slice lamb between rib bones into chops.

    Close-up of finished crown roast of lamb with couscous stuffing, on a plate.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment

Rimmed baking sheet; wire rack; instant-read thermometer; immersion blender, blender, or food processor


The method used here for cooking the crown roast works no matter what the stuffing and sauce are. In fact, the stuffing and sauce in this recipe are entirely optional. Feel free to precook any stuffing you like, then stuff it into the finished roast right before serving. Or, skip the stuffing altogether.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1349 Calories
111g Fat
42g Carbs
48g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 5
Amount per serving
Calories 1349
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 111g 143%
Saturated Fat 26g 128%
Cholesterol 168mg 56%
Sodium 715mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 48g
Vitamin C 40mg 200%
Calcium 109mg 8%
Iron 7mg 41%
Potassium 1078mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)