Beef brisket is one of the largest cuts of meat you can work with. It comes from the breast area of the animal and is present right below the ribs. One of the hardest working muscle it supports about 60% of the animal’s weight. In the absence of any collarbone in cattle this muscle supports about 1500 pounds or more during movement and standing. This makes them tough with well-developed connective tissue. The size, the toughness and the amount of connective tissue make it a tough meat to cook. It requires a fair amount of skill and time to cook a good brisket. It has a very pronounced grain. Thus carving the meat after cooking is another thing to pay attention. Always remember to carve against the grain for best results. Owing to all the connective tissue and the toughness a brisket takes a long time to cook. Making it an ideal slow cooking meat. But this poses a challenge to keep it moist after the long cook. The cut you will get at your local butcher will have two parts, the point and the flat. The point is a fat-rich part wider at one end and narrower at the other, a little like a triangle. Though you can cut and separate the two parts if you find it easier. Do not separate the cut before you cook, it will save you time and will let the fat gradually melt into the dry flat. But do cut out the excess, hard unwanted fat. Trimming the meat is necessary and you can do it pretty easily. Go about ¼ inch layer of fat throughout. Till you have an even square of meat.
- Why should you use a beef brisket injection?
- What to look for in a meat injector?
- How to inject a brisket?
- Easy and yummy beef injection recipes
Why should you use a beef brisket injection?
A beef brisket is best when it is slow cooked. But all the time spent on slow cooking raises the risk of dehydrating and drying out the meat. The flat has less fat content is the most vulnerable. Injecting the brisket is the easiest way to keep it moist and tender. It is an easy and fuss-free way to ensure that your brisket turns out flavorful and tender. It lets fat, flavor, and seasoning get beneath the surface. Allowing the brisket to stay moist all throughout the slow cook. A lot of your friends who have not tried beef brisket injection would certainly point to the benefits of marinading over injecting. Several purist also don’t vote for marinade injection recipes. But all those pitmasters are definitely up to something when they choose meat injection in those competitions.
While marinading does come with its own benefits but for me injecting the brisket trumps over marinading every time. With marinading, the outer surface or the skin is full of flavor. And unlike meat injections you do not have to worry about the texture of the marinade. If it is chunky or has pieces of herbs. Some of the biggest reasons to forgo marinading in favor of injection are:
- The marinade does not penetrate the meat enough to give it flavor or avoid dehydration. The salt in the marinade might reach deep enough but the spices and herbs don’t. It results in a great outer skin but when you bite into it the inner part tends to be devoid of the same level of flavor and moisture.
- The marinade can sometimes have ingredients with enzymes that break down the tissues real quick. These enzymes are mostly present in fruits like pineapple, orange and more. And instead of keeping the meat moist it impairs its ability to hold the moisture and juices. With the time required to cook a brisket the likelihood of this happening is high.
- It takes time, a fair amount. Anything from a day or two or a few hours.
A brisket injection recipe on the other hand ensures that:
- A wider area is covered and the flavors and moisture reach deep inside. You can infuse every bite with your favorite flavors.
- It takes far less time than marinading a couple of hour or even a few minutes can do the job. You can take out the meat from fridge and get it back in there real quick. Thus reducing the chance of giving bacteria time to develop and contaminate the meat.
- In case the injection marinades contain enzymes responsible for breaking down meat. They do not get enough time to make an impact. These enzymes break down the collagen and fibres only when they come in direct contact with the meat. Also, the area covered is large enough to avoid direct contact with the enzymes in the ingredients.
- The beef injector ensures that the flat with a lower amount of fat gets enough moisture and stays tender. While point has its own fat the marinade injector fills it up with flavor.
If you intend to use your marinade for the meat injection be careful to adjust the amount of citrus contents like vinegar and fruits like pineapple. They will not work well injected in the meat for a long time or overnight. These ingredients tend to break down the collagen in the meat. Raising the risk of your brisket losing the texture you desire.
What to look for in a meat injector?
- If you are using a meat injector for the first time, don’t freak out if it reminds you of your doctor. It does look like a hypodermic needle. There are several different sizes available all you got to do is pick the one based on your needs. If you are planning to get into competitions you might want to invest in a bigger injection.
- It is a good idea to go for 2 different needles one for marinade with chunky bits of spices and a thinner one for all liquid marinades.
- If you are looking for sturdier one that would last long pick stainless steel over plastic. They also do not retain smells and oils. The plunger too comes in various styles. You will find a simple one with a spring grip, a more fancy one with a two finger grip. The fanciest one is probably the one with the gun like design. Goes without saying that it gives the best grip and control. The size of the tank should be at least 2 ounces. Though you would not need a big tank for domestic use, it should not be too small either. A really small tank will lead to more refills and more holes in the meat too.
- A lot of injectors these days are dishwasher safe, pick one of them. It is less of a hassle and less daunting then having to clean it all by hand. Though take good care of the needle and clean it with a paper clip or wire even with a dishwash safe injector.
How to inject a brisket?
- Fill your injector marinade in a tall container so that you can easily fill the injector and do not damage the needle
- Put the trimmed brisket in a tray and start injecting parallel to the grain. This is important or else you risk unsavory streaking. A good idea is to put your other hand over the area you are injecting to contain some of the mess.
- Always put the needle in completely as most have holes along the length. The marinade is dispersed through these holes and not just from the one at the pointy end. Inject in a checkered pattern and about 1 inch apart. Start taking the needle out as you depress the plunger.
- Avoid using chunky ingredients like crushed garlic or other spices. If your recipe calls for such ingredients you can blend them before filling them in the injector.
- While you everyone has their choice of flavor profiles, it is a good rule of thumb to not overpower the meat with the marinade. Go for ingredients that help the meat to stay moist. And not mask the inherent flavor in the meat. I always stay from using too much fruit juice, cola, and spices that have a sweet flavor profile.
Easy and yummy beef injection recipes
The ingredients that work the best for a brisket injection marinade are beef broth, butter, and salt. You will never go wrong with these and will get the moist, succulent barbeque you crave for. Other basic seasonings that work best are garlic powder, pepper, and onion powder. You can go on adding your choice of ingredients and experiment with the flavors. Here are a few quick recipes that can be made easily at home.
Savory brisket injection marinade
This is a simple and quick recipe that works well without overpowering the brisket’s own flavor.
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
- 1-2 teaspoon Garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 cup beef stock or broth
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine together all the ingredients and mix them well. Once done, refrigerate them overnight.
This basic marinade can be personalized and tweaked based on your or your guests’ preferences. Some of the ingredients that will work well are thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and a seasoning with a sweet flavor profile like cardomom.
Umami beef injection recipe
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 cup white vinegar (distilled)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning or any other seasoning, a store bought rub can also work well
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or white pepper
- 1 tablespoon ketchup ( it will provide the sugar as well as the umami to the marinade)
Mix the butter, vinegar and the ketchup together and then add the seasonings. If you use pepper corns make sure that you crush them well.
The Creole brisket injection marinade
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup creole seasoning blend
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
Mix all the ingredient well. With this marinade recipe, the Creole seasoning can be used as a rub, which you can use the night before. You can also make a Creole seasoning at home with a Chef approved recipe these ingredients- onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, black pepper, white pepper, paprika, and salt.
Competition brisket injections differ from the ones we mostly use at home. At some point, you too might want to switch to these competition grade ones. They have some additional ingredients like phosphates and higher amounts of hydrolyzed vegetable proteins. Phosphates serve a lot of complex functions which I have not yet cared to understand in detail. But the apparent one is the assistance it provides to retain moisture longer. It is also known to act as an emulsifier that prevents the separation of fats. You can buy the competition brisket injections off the shelf. Don’t fret too much about selecting the perfect one, pick one and try it out. Using an injection marinade is anyway going to make your beef brisket turn out succulent and yum.
Keep in mind a few tips and you will be a pro at brisket injection recipes
For the marinade- Remember to balance the amount of salt, not use an injection marinade that clashes with the flavour of your rub, select ingredient that go well together as well as complement the inherent flavors of the meat. Go subtle and trust your palate.
For the meat- Do not separate the flat and the point, cut of the extra fat and trim the brisket well, always inject the marinade with the grain, once cooked carve against the grain.
Cooking a beef brisket takes time, skill and how it is prepared can make all the difference. With all the time and effort that goes in cooking it, it is a great disappointment if it turns out dry, leather-like. A beef brisket injection is your best bet. It doesn’t take time to prepare, can be administered a few hours or minutes before cooking and will give you competition worthy brisket.