How to Brine Lamb

By A.J. Andrews

With lamb, less is more; strong flavor enhancers such as acidic marinades, aggressive seasonings and complicated sauces detract more from lamb's mild flavor than they contribute to it -- with the exception of brines. Brines comprise salt and water, and increase lamb's juiciness by helping prevent moisture loss during cooking. Brines also let you incorporate lamb-loving spices such as garlic, rosemary and thyme into the meat without the risk of overpowering it. Don't salt lamb after brining it or you'll negate the brine's moisture-retaining effects and over-season the meat.

Roast legs of lamb
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Rest brined lamb for 10 to 15 minutes after cooking it.

Step 1

Mix table salt with 1 gallon of water in a large stockpot or saucepan. Use 1/2 cup of salt per gallon when brining 1 to 2 pounds of lamb; use 3/4 cup of salt when brining 2 to 4 pounds of lamb; use 1 cup of salt per gallon when brining 4 pounds or more lamb.

Step 2

Heat the salted water on the stove over medium heat until the salt dissolves, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off and cover the brine to keep it warm.

Step 3

Add flavoring ingredients, herbs and spices to the brine, if desired. You can use any herbs and spices you like; classic lamb spices include garlic, rosemary, cumin, thyme and allspice.

Step 4

Bring the brine to a boil, stirring occasionally, then turn the heat off. Let the brine cool to room temperature, then transfer it to the refrigerator.

Step 5

Cool the brine in the refrigerator until it is cold, about 1 hour. Place the lamb in a plastic or glass container large enough to hold it and the brine.

Step 6

Pour the brine over the lamb and cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. Place the lamb in the refrigerator.

Step 7

Brine 1 to 2 pounds of lamb for 2 hours; brine 3 to 4 pounds of lamb for 4 hours; brine lamb that weighs 4 to 6 pounds for 6 hours. Brine lamb weighing 6 pounds or more for 12 hours.

Step 8

Take the lamb out of the brine 45 minutes to 1 hour before cooking it and let it reach room temperature. Wipe off the excess brine and any whole spices or other flavoring ingredients; they've already served their purpose, and cooking the lamb with them won't improve the taste.