Injecting meat for smoking is not new, but it has become increasingly popular and easily accessible, not only within the realms of barbecue competitions but among backyard pitmasters and home cooks as well.
A meat injection is an easy and efficient way to infuse the meat with added flavors and make it juicier and tenderer when smoking it.
While it is a step that is not considered essential for cooking barbecue, it is a procedure that can help you achieve dramatically better results with your smoker when it comes to the taste, texture, and moisture of the meat.
If you are interested in incorporating meat injections for your BBQ sessions, then read on to find a detailed step-by-step guide on how to do it properly, what type of marinade to use for the infusion, and which meat injector to choose for your needs.
What makes injecting meat before smoking necessary?
As we noted in our introduction, a meat injection is not absolutely essential when smoking brisket or other meat, but it can help you cook even more tender, juicy, and flavorful meat. It is a method that will allow you to infuse the entire cut of meat from the inside, unlike rubs and traditional glazes and marinades, which sit on the surface and do not get permeated into the meat completely.
The closest alternative to a meat injection for barbecue is curing or brining the meat, but this is a lengthy process, requiring the meat to sit in the brining solution for at least one hour per pound. This means that you will need to brine or cure large meat cut like a whole pork tenderloin for about 12 hours prior to smoking it. This will take time, and if you are planning on curing the meat can be risky when it comes to the safety of the meat you will be cooking.
On the other hand, when using a meat injection, you can save time and minimize the risk of sitting the meat for long, as the process takes a few minutes and can be done right before the smoking.
At the same time, the results of the injection will be the same and, in many cases, even better than curing and brining it.
What to inject in the meat
The marinade that is used for the meat injection can vary depending on the preferences of the pitmaster. Some pros have secret ingredients which they guard tightly from the competitors. But there are ready-made marinades for injecting, which you can purchase too.
Best of all, you can easily prepare your own marinade at home, using simple and inexpensive ingredients. And furthermore, you can experiment with the solution and add liquids and other ingredients which you personally think will enhance the quality and taste of the meat too.
A rule of thumb for beginners is to refrain from overdoing it when it comes to strong salty, sweet, or other flavors that can end up overpowering the meat’s taste rather than enhancing it.
Here are some tips for making the best meat injection solution:
The marinade can include solid ingredients like herbs and spices, but you will need to grind them up well and mix them into the liquid components of the solution well.
You should use a suitable needle for injecting the meat, depending on the thickness of your solution. If your marinade is chunkier, then you should opt for a needle that has a larger opening. This will make the injection process easier and more efficient, as you will want the thick solution to actually be infused into the meat.
When injected into the meat, a simple water and salt brine solution can help it remain juicy and moist throughout the low and slow cooking.
Apart from water, some other liquids you can mix into the solution include beef or chicken stock, apple juice, and others.
It is a good idea to add 1-2 tablespoons of the BBQ rub you will be using for the meat in the meat injection solution. This will ensure that the flavors get infused deeper into the meat.
If you are a newbie, you can try out some pre-mixed meat injection solutions that are ready-made and offered on the market. There are various brands and types, and you can choose by flavor and the type of meat you will be cooking.
The process of injecting meat step-by-step
While it may sound like a complicated medical procedure, injecting the meat is a pretty straightforward task which anybody can do given that they have the right meat injector.
Here is a step-by-step guide on injecting your meat, as well as some included tips shared by experienced pitmasters which can help you achieve stunning results:
Choose the right needle
If you have a meat injector with several interchangeable needles, then make sure that you pick the right needle to use depending on the type of meat you will be cooking and the density of the injection solution.
Meat injection needles which have holes on the shafts are suitable for thinner marinades and injection solutions. They will ensure that the solution is dispersed evenly in the meat cut.
As for needles with one single large opening, these are used for chunkier and thicker solutions that contain larger pieces of ground spices, garlic, and other solid ingredients. Thicker needles with larger holes are suitable for injecting such thicker solutions without getting blocked in the process.
The needles are easy to screw on and off the injector and can be swapped during the injecting.
Set up the equipment
First of all, make sure that the needle and injector are properly cleaned from the last time you used them. This is essential if you want to prevent blockages and when it comes to the safety of your food because bacteria may start growing in needles where there are leftover residues from the meat.
Once you have the injector and needle ready, make sure that you have the bowl or other container you are using for your injector solution next to the tray where you will place the meat.
Make sure you wear an apron or otherwise protect your clothing because the process can be messy. Also, use a pan or tray which is large enough for the meat and to capture the solution which doesn’t make it into the meat to avoid making a mess and having to clean up.
Mix the injection solution
Always use a non-reactive container when mixing your injection solution, and then grind all the solid ingredients and mix everything well until all ingredients are completely combined.
A trick that some professional pitmasters use is to pour the solution into a water bottle and shake it intensively right before pouring it into the containers which will be used.
If you are cooking pork, then some of the most suitable ingredients for pork include apple juice, sugar, salt, water, and Worcestershire sauce.
To calculate how much solution you should prepare, keep in mind that you will need about 2 cups of injection solution if you are infusing a pork butt which is 8 to 12 pounds.
Fill the syringe
Filling the meat injection syringe is easy. Dip the needle in the bowl which contains the solution, and start pulling the plunger upwards towards you. If the injector chamber is clear, you should start seeing how the fluid begins filling it up.
If you are going to be using a thinner needle with holes up the shaft, then you may want to tilt the bowl slightly to avoid drawing in too much air while filling the syringe.
If you can’t seem to manage to fill the syringe using this method, then you can try the following:
Pour the solution into a plastic water bottle.
Screw the lid tightly on the bottle.
Heat the meat injection needle, and use it to pierce the lid.
Then stick some electrical tape on the lid.
Pull the plunger of the syringe so that the chamber is filled with air.
Then pierce through the electrical tape and lid with the needle.
Push the plunger so that some of the air is injected into the water bottle, which will cause it to pressurize and will make drawing up the injection solution easier.
Turn the bottle upside down and start drawing the solution in your meat injector.
Pick the right place
Always start at the thickest part of the cut when injecting the meat.
If the cut includes a bone, remember to inject the solution around the bone as well as into the meat.
When injecting meat, try to aim for the muscle fibers from the side of the cut rather than starting to inject it straight from the top.
If you manage to reach the muscles, the solution will be injected in between the fibers, which will ensure that more of your solution is infused in the meat. You will even be able to see how the muscles start to puff up once you start injecting them with the liquid.
Begin the injection at a 45-degree angle and a depth of 2-3 inches or more, depending on the size and thickness of the cut. Start injecting the liquid by pushing the plunger as you slowly pull the needle out.
If you are using a needle with multiple holes, make sure that all of the holes are beneath the surface of the meat before starting to inject it.
Repeat the process by injecting the entire cut at a distance of about 1-2 inches in between injections.
Remember to turn the meat over and inject it from the other side as well for the best results and complete coverage.
Finishing the injection process
Once you are done, dry the excess liquid from the surface of the meat with a paper towel. Then you can season the meat and proceed to cook it as intended.
It is recommended that you clean the meat injector and needle immediately after using it. This can be done by filling the syringe with water and pushing it out of the needle until any meat particles and other residues are removed. You can then use the cleaning brush which comes with the injector to ensure it is completely clean and safe to use next time around.
Best meat injectors
Now that you know how easy it is to inject the meat, it is time to find the best meat injector for your needs.
There are many injectors available, but here are our two top favorites for 2021:
This may look like a kit that Dexter uses in the popular TV series of the same name, but in actuality, the SpitJack Magnum injector kit is one of the best meat injectors money can buy on the market right now.
First of all, this is a premium set, so be prepared to spend more money than you probably expected for a meat injector if you choose this set.
But at the same time, if you choose to invest in this kit, you will be adding professional gear to your barbecue and kitchen, which is commonly preferred and used by BBQ competitors.
In the kit, you will get a professional meat injector gun with four commercial-grade needles, three cleaning brushes, all conveniently arranged and stored in a flip-open carry case.
The injection gun is easy to use, precise, and the injection dose can be adjusted from 1 to 5 ml.
- A premium quality construction
- It is made in the USA and is backed by a 1-year full guarantee
- The kit comes with everything you need to inject all types of meat and use all types of injection solutions – thick or thin
- There are four pro-grade needles and cleaning brushes included
- You can use the injector to penetrate meat up to 5.5 inches in depth
- It is a top preferred option by professional BBQ competitors
- The instruments come in convenient storage and carry bag
- It is quite expensive, especially when compared to other meat injectors for home kitchen use
- You will need to take the injection gun apart to wash it after each use
- No extra seals are included in the kit
It costs a fraction of what our top choice costs and yet include everything you will need for injecting meat for smoking and for cooking.
The set contains a food safe 304 stainless steel 2-oz syringe barrel, four stainless steel needles of different sizes and types, four cleaning brushes for each of the needles, and six food-safe silicone O-ring seals, all packed in a convenient EVA carry and travel bag.
All of the components are safe and durable and can be used for smoking, barbecuing, grilling, roasting, and cooking all types of meat, including your Thanksgiving turkey. They are dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.
You will also receive an e-book and a paper user manual with the kit.
- It is an affordable complete meat injector kit that offers the best bang for the buck
- You can use it for all types of indoor and outdoor cooking
- All components are made of food-safe stainless steel and other materials which are dishwasher safe
- You get cleaning brushes and seals for all needles
- The capacity of the injector is 2-oz. and its plunger is ergonomic and comfortable
- The set comes with a safe and durable travel and storage case
- You will receive detailed paper and digital instructions for use
- It is backed by an unconditional 60-day after-sale policy
- While the kit is designed in the USA, it is made in China
We hope that we have helped you understand how easy of process meat injecting is and how many advantages it provides when barbecuing or otherwise cooking meat.
Once you get started with your meat injector, you will find the procedure easy and fun, and you can start experimenting with your own recipes and flavors to achieve the best results, which will have your guests coming back for more.