To inject, or not to inject. That is the question. OK that might be getting a bit too philosophical, but it’s a valid question. And if you watch a lot of TV shows like BBQ Pitmasters you could be excused for thinking that injecting your meat is an essential part of cooking barbecue.
And that’s definitely not the case. If you’re not cooking in barbecue competitions you could never inject your meat before smoking and still do just fine.
But you would be missing out on an opportunity to enhance the flavor and texture of your barbecue.
So, let’s cut to the chase and dive into the details when and how to inject meat in preparation for smoking.
Click to jump straight to each topic
Why Injecting Meat for Smoking?
While you do not have to inject to get a moist, tender result, it is a great option if you want intense flavor permeating the entire cut of meat.
Marinating, while it has its place of course, will only deliver the flavor a couple of millimeters deep at best. Rubs and glazes will merely sit on the surface of the meat.
Another option is to sit your meat in a brining or curing solution, but this will take time. As a rule of thumb, it can take around 1 hours per pound to brine your meat.
So a whole pork tenderloin, for instance, will need to sit in the fridge for around 12 hrs while brining. That’s a lot of time, and space in the fridge, to sacrifice. It also should be mentioned that if you choose to cure your meat, there are some safety considerations you will need to bear in mind.
Injecting your meat, on the other hand, can be done in a matter of minutes, and will deliver the moisture and flavour straight to the heart of your cut of meat.
We have an in-depth guide on how to inject later on, but if you want to see how the pros do it this video from HowToBBQRight does a good job of explaining it.
The best types of meat to inject
This is where everything is up for debate. Some people inject pork butt every time, while others would never dream of it.
On the other hand Aaron Franklin of Franklin barbecue fame keeps his brisket super simple and doesn’t use any injections.
We’ve pulled together some general advice on what to inject, but you’ll need to experiment and find out what works best for your taste buds.
Large pieces of meat:
- Whole hogs
- Whole poultry
- Pork shoulders
The benefits of injecting are most significant when smoking large, bland, or naturally dry cuts of meat. This is when an added shot of flavor and moisture, right to the center of the cut, will have the biggest impact.
Examples of meats that are naturally dry include:
- Pork loin
- Lamb leg
- Beef round roast
- Double thick pork chops
What should you inject into your meat
An amazing injection recipe is a very tightly guarded secret for some pitmasters. But the biggest “secret” is this – the solution you inject into your meat need not be complicated at all, and can still produce mouth watering results.
If you do come up with something spectacular, however, you may still want to keep it under wraps (or let us know in the comments below if you feel generous!)’
Don’t go too crazy with the amount of the salt, sweetness or distinctive flavors when making your solution – the idea is to enhance, not to overpower, the flavor of the meat itself.
Here are a couple of tips for what to inject
- You can add spices or other solid ingredients like garlic to your injection recipe. Just make sure you grind up the ingredients to a fine powder or paste.
- Use the appropriate needle for chunky solutions. You will need one with a thicker opening otherwise it will prove to be difficult to get the solution through the needle and into the meat.
- One of our favorite injection recipes is called Madeira Injector Sauce and works great on turkey.
- Perhaps you would like a bit of insight into what a world championship level injection involves? Check out Chris Lilly’s Six Time World Championship Pork Shoulder Injection
If you are after some more inspiration, there is an excellent rundown over at AmazingRibs of different injections you could use for various types of meat, along with some more in depth details about ratios to consider when making up your solution.
How to Inject your Meat – Step by Step Tutorial
Don’t worry, it’s not going to take 7 years at medical school. Injecting meat is very quick and easy.
We have put together a step by step tutorial that addresses and included some tips and tricks that seasoned pitmasters use to deliver stunning results every time.
1) Before you start, choose which needle is appropriate
If your injector has interchangeable needles, take the time to think about which one you will need to use to suit the size and cut of meat you are preparing, as well as what you are planning to inject into it.
For example, a needle with holes up the shaft is made for thinner injection solutions such as marinades. This type of needle will disperse the liquid evenly throughout the meat. A needle with a single, thicker opening is suited to recipes that may have chunks of garlic, or ground up spices in it.
The thicker needle should be able to deliver this solution without getting blocked. Once you know what needle you need to use, you can swap the needle by unscrewing it at the base of the barrel. Replace it with the needle you wish to use by screwing that needle on.
2) Prepare your equipment
Make sure your injection needle is clean, and there is no residue left inside the needle from the last time it was used. Not only could this block the flow of the solution, it is also an important food safety consideration, as bacteria can grow in any meat residue left in the needle.
Make sure you have a container for your solution on hand as well as a tray to sit your meat in while you are injecting it.
You may want to wear something over your clothes, as it can get messy!
3) Prepare your injection solution
Make sure you mix and store your injection solution in a non reactive container The solution you prepare need not be overly complicated.
For example, a great pork injection recipe includes:
- apple juice
- worcestershire sauce.
A trick to make sure the solution is mixed well is to combine all the ingredients in a water bottle and shake it up before pouring it into the bowl you will be using to draw it up from. As a rough guide, you can expect to inject around 2 cups of solution into a 8-12 pound pork butt.
4) Fill your syringe with the injection solution
Dip the needle into the solution while steadily drawing the syringe plunger back up towards you. If you have a injector with a clear body, you will see the fluid filling up the barrel of the syringe. You may need to tilt the bowl if you are using a needle with holes up the shaft to avoid drawing up air.
If you are having trouble getting that solution up you here are some steps to try:
- Pour your injecting solution into a plastic water bottle.
- Screw the lid on the bottle.
- Heat the needle of your injector and pierce the lid.
- Place some electrical tape over the lid.
- Pull back the handle of your injector and fill the barrel with air.
- Pierce through the electrical tape with your needle – the idea is to make a “gasket”.
- Inject some air from your injector into bottle to pressurise it, this will make it easier to draw up the fluid.
- Tip the bottle upside down and draw the fluid into your injector.
5) Choose a place to inject your solution
If your meat has a bone, don’t forget to inject in and around the bone. Another tip is to inject from the side, aiming for the muscles instead of injecting straight into the top of the meat. By doing this, you will not lose excessive amounts of fluid as you are delivering it right in between the muscle fibres, plumping up the meat. You should be able to visibly see the meat puffing up as the liquid is delivered.
6) Inject the solution into the meat
This is done by simply pushing down on the plunger of the syringe. Try to push down with steady even pressure, and make sure that the needle is deep down in the meat so that you don’t lose too much liquid.
If you are using a needle with holes up the shaft, make sure all the holes are in the meat, otherwise the liquid will end up either in your eyes or on your clothes!
7) Keep injecting until you have spread the liquid evenly throughout the meat
If you are using a smaller needle, you can move it around in the same spot to deliver the solution evenly within that area. Don’t forget to turn the cut of meat around and inject from both sides.
You can still inject from the top, but you will likely achieve the most effective coverage by injecting from the sides.
If you want to get really technical, becoming familiar with the anatomy of the beast you are working with will help, as you will understand where the best spots to inject are in order to get maximum coverage.
The best meat injectors
So you’re all clued up and ready to start injecting. You’re obviously going to need an injector. We’ve compared two of the best meat injectors out there. The more affordable Grill Beast 304 and the impressive SpitJack Magnum.
Grill Beast 304 Stainless Steel Meat Injector Kit
Shipping with a pair of Kevlar fiber grilling gloves and a couple of recipes e-books, the Grill Beast injector is a quality injector at a mid price point.
Made from high grade stainless steel. It is strong and should last a long time.
You get 3 different injection needles to handle a variety of cuts and types of marinade solutions.
What we like:
- Large capacity – Can deliver ¼ cup of liquid with each delivery, cutting down on injecting time, especially for bigger pieces of meat.
- Affordably priced – Compared to the SpitJack Injector Gun this injector is going to appeal to a lot more casual cooks.
- This injector has a 6-inch needle, which is great for getting to the middle of bigger cuts of meat.
- Money back guarantee and lifetime warranty.
- Dishwasher safe for easy cleanup after use.
What we don’t like:
- Not made in the USA.
- After cleanup, some cooking oil may need to be applied to the gasket and threaded end of the needles, otherwise it can become stiff and difficult to use.
- A little large if you are dealing with small cuts of meat which may require some precision when injecting.
Get the latest price on Amazon.
Will your friends and family think you’ve gone crazy when they see this kit sitting in your kitchen? Probably.
Is it smart to spend this much on a meat injector? Almost certainly not.
With that said if you want to cook like the pros it helps to have the best gear. And the SpitJack Magnum is definitely the best meat injector around.
The kit includes 4 needles, and 3 brushes for cleaning, so it really has everything you need in the one set. The needles that are included cater to the different cuts of meat and solutions you may be using.
What we like:
- Made in USA – high quality, sturdy construction.
- Adjustable injection dose. You can dial up how much you want to inject in one go (from 1 to 5 mL).
- One year guarantee, with replacement parts available.
- Can penetrate meat up to depth of 5.5 inches.
- This injector is commercial quality, and regularly used by pitmasters when barbecuing competitively.
What we don’t like:
- This is an expensive purchase. You may want to consider if you require such an advanced piece of gear if you don’t BBQ frequently or take your smoking seriously.
- There may be some issues with the bolt that holds the handle in place, as if it works loose, it is too short to tighten yourself.
- Does not come with any extra seals.
- The injector must be dismantled after every use in order to be washed properly.
Get the latest price on Amazon.
Wrapping it up
I hope you have enjoyed this guide to m,at injection, and found the tutorial practical and easy to follow.
Mastering this aspect of barbecuing is a great way to personalize your cook, with flavors that will have your friends coming back for more.
Think we’ve missed something or want to share your favorite injection recipe? Please leave your feedback in the comment sections below.