When you hear the word injection, you probably think of those horrible times at the doctor’s office when you had to roll up your sleeves and take a shot in your arm.
Even the bravest person will never have any good memory associated with injections. But what if you were told that injections could also be pleasant, especially when flavoring meat?
Wait, what? Using injections on meat to flavor them?
If your eyebrows are standing up right now, it’s perfectly reasonable because most people not familiar with the culinary world have never heard of meat injections.
But it is one of the most critical parts of the process in a barbecue. Every barbecue pro swears by the meat injector because there’s no more efficient way to flavor barbecued, smoked, or grilled food. In the simplest terms, injecting involves putting the marinade deep inside the meat instead of smearing it on the outside.
The device used for the purpose is called a meat injector. It is used to make a variety of chicken injection recipes. I wish everyone in my family had one.
How a meat injector works
A meat injector looks like the needle used at the doctor’s clinic, only much more significant in size. The injected comes with a syringe that is either made of stainless steel or plastic with a capacity of two to four ounces.
The regular meat injectors have a very thin syringe, meant for injecting liquids like juices, wine, molten butter, or other seasonings. There is a different kind of injector available for thicker seasonings like pesto. It is called a wide-mouthed injector that comes with a metal spike for making a hole in the meat.
All this talk about needles and syringes probably make you think that injecting meat is a complicated process.
But rest assured, injecting meat is nothing like giving shots to a living animal. It simply involves loading the injector with the marinade and pushing it into the center of the meat. It is a pretty easy process even for first-timers.
If you have difficulty finding a meat injector at a store around you simply look up online because that’s where they are most widely available. There are also different sizes available depending upon the size of the meat you are injecting.
Injectors that are designed for big meats are even shaped like a gun, complete with a pistol-grip handle and a plunger for shooting thick seasonings and marinades deep into the center of the meat.
For meats that are more than a 100 pounds heavy, the best option is a commercial injector system, because it not only saves time but also makes you use less force and prevents chances of a broken needle. Some of these injectors hold up to two gallons of liquid while some of these devices are designed with a terminal valve and a large container connected by tubes.
How to use meat injectors
Using a meat injector is not rocket science, but it does involve precision. If you are not careful with the process of injecting chicken, you may end up breaking the needle or squirting liquid all over the place.
You also need to make a proper hole in the meat, taking care that the needle does not get stuck anywhere when inserting it. For making a neat hole, a metal spike is the best tool. Make sure the hole reaches all the way down to the center of the meat.
Once you have made the hole in the meat, it’s time to load the syringe. The plunger should be fully depressed when putting the needle in the liquid. Make sure that the holes at the end or on the sides of the needle are completely dipped in the liquid.
To fill the syringe with the liquid, pull the plunger back. That’s it. You’re now ready to inject the meat.
Take your time and be slow and careful when injecting the meat. Make sure to plunge the needle deep into the center of the meat, and slowly and steadily depress the plunger.
Never try to plunge quickly, because this will only make streams of liquid squirt all over the place. Once all the liquid has been used to inject chicken, slowly pull out the needle.
If the meat is very big, you may need to make more than one hole and then take turns injecting into each of them. To minimize the time taken, you can make one big hole and then angle the needle in different directions as you inject in it. In this way, you can avoid making several holes in the meat.
You must continue to inject in every hole until all of them are filled to the top and leaking liquid. This will make sure that you have injected the meat with plenty of marinades.
Best meats for injecting
Large cuts of meat are usually the best for injecting, such as whole chicken, turkey, hams, hogs, and pork. There are some really dry meats like chicken, turkey, pork loin, lamb legs that are hard to make tender and juicy.
But with injections, they are completely transformed. You wouldn’t need to smear them with marinade anymore to add flavor or tenderize them.
With the use of injectors, dry meats with low-fat content like brisket, duck, turkey, and chicken get a whole new flavor. You can inject just about any meat you like, though.
What to inject into meat?
When using an injector to put marinade inside the meat, you cannot use anything with solid pieces in it. So your chopped herbs and crushed garlic are a strict no-no when injecting meat. Most meat injectors do not come with a needle that’s wide enough to pass solid pieces.
If you still want to inject marinade with bits of solid in it, you may want to consider an injector with an exceptionally wide needle.
So what can you inject with the device? Anything liquid or in the form of a gravy, from oils to juices to vinegar to soy sauce to honey to wine to molten butter to broth. The only solids that can pass through are things like onion powder, garlic salt, and finely ground spices.
Before loading the injector, it is recommended that you gently heat the ingredients while stirring well, and then let them cool. Once cool, load the syringe barrel and inject your meat with your favorite marinade.
Why choose to inject?
Those new to injecting might wonder why to choose this method above the tried and tested options like marinating, salting, and brining. Of course, there is nothing wrong about using marinades, sauces, or rubs. My father loves to use a rub.
The all add flavor and taste to any kind of meat. Marinating is often the go-to flavoring method for most people, and while it’s good enough for most occasions, there are times when you need something more. I wish my father used a meat injector back in the day, but at least he does now.
Meat injecting is not a household method yet, but professionals regularly use it. If you want to achieve professional-level quality and flavor for your meat right at home, injecting is the way to go.
For a beginner in meat injection, there are three main reasons why this is a much better method than any other:
Let’s admit it: all other flavoring methods take an inordinate amount of time. Take marinating, for instance. For the meat to be nice and soft and flavored, it needs to be marinated for at least 8 hours, sometimes even overnight.
When the marinade is applied on the surface of the meat, it takes hours for the seasoning to seep in and make the meat moist and flavored from inside. When you want to cook your meat in a hurry, marinating for 8 hours or more is not an option. This is when injecting does the job in an instant.
When it comes to curing and brining, it takes even longer sometimes days and weeks and months. And even after all that time, the marinade or the seasoning does not reach the center of the meat.
Most types of meat are thick and coarse from the outside, and when something is applied on the surface it hardly ever touches the inside, which is the most important part of the meat. If the inside is not flavored and moist, the meat is not up to the mark.
Compared to all these methods, injecting takes no time at all. You can begin to cook the meat right after injecting the marinade into it. There is no wait time whatsoever. If you have never liked the time marinating takes, injecting is probably for you.
The flavor from the inside
When comes to meet the taste is Deep Inside. No matter how much you marinate the surface, the real flavor is what you get from within when you bite into the meat.
Unfortunately, regardless of the number of layers of marinade you smear your meat with, the center of the meat never truly becomes moist or flavored. Instead of applying marinade where it does not matter, meet injectors put the sauce where it counts.
When you dip the meat in the marinade, you have to throw away the rest of the mixture because it gets contaminated and cannot be used for anything else. You might have felt a lot of times that this is a precious waste of ingredients, and it is.
You can apply the marinade on the meat with a brush or with your hands, but it is not as great as dipping the meat in the mixture. The only downside is that the rest of the mixture has to be thrown away.
A meat injector solves this problem of wastage. With the injector, the whole mixture is used up efficiently without any wastage. This means you can use less quantity because you know the entire marinade is going to go inside the meat.
Using an injector is also a very neat and clean process; you do not have to use your hands to apply the marinade on the meat. The injector does all the work and in a pretty neat and hygienic manner.
How to choose a meat injector
For a beginner, the process of choosing a meat injector is indeed tough. It’s not like there are not enough varieties in the market; the difficult part is knowing what to look for.
Meat injectors are of different kinds. Some are very simple, with only one or two needles. These are best for those starting out. There are others that are complete kits, with four or five different types of needles and cleaning brushes. These kits are more expensive, priced at a few hundred dollars.
There are three main factors to consider when buying a meat injector for the first time.
The capacity of a standard injector barrel is two ounces. If you fill less than 2 ounces, you have to go several times. If you fill more than 2 ounces, the excess pressure can damage the needle. If you have a very big piece of meat, it’s better to use an injector with a higher barrel capacity.
All standard meat injectors come with two needles. Out of the two, one has holes, and the other does not. Use the one without holes for thicker marinades, and the one with holes for liquids. It is best to use a needle with a wide opening for thick marinades with bits of solid in it.
Cheaper meat injectors are made of plastic. They do not have the same longevity as stainless steel. If you want a durable meat injector that lasts a long time, make sure to choose stainless steel.
One piece of advice
Aa meat injector comes with a needle and needles are famous going dull. To prevent the needle from going dull, make sure to put on the needle guard it came with whenever it is not in use. Meat injectors are best hand-washed because dishwashers can dull the needle.
Meat injectors may not be household items yet, but if you use them once, you will realize the authentic flavor of meat when used to make meat injector recipes. Although it requires precision, a meat injector can make barbecues easier and less time-consuming.