In our article Crank up the Flavour, we discussed different ways of getting flavour into your meat. Essentially, rubs and seasoning is applied to the outer surface of the meat, this creates 'bark' and seals in moisture, as well as flavouring the outside of your meat.
The next level is marinading, the process of covering your meat in a marinade and leaving it to soak a few millimetres into the meat.
Beyond that is brining and curing, this takes a lot of time, but flavour does get all the way into your meat.
Injecting however, is very quick and get’s flavour and moisture all the way through the meat, right to the centre. It’s like marinading, but from the inside out, it tenderises, moisturises and enhances flavour.
Usually, you inject larger pieces of meat, like hams, pork shoulders, whole chickens, beef briskets, lamb leg etc. But you can also inject meat as small as a sausage if you choose to!
What to use
You will need a Marinade Injector, you can get one of these from a specialist Barbecue Retailer or most DIY stores have them.
If you're planning on injecting large sides of meat, make sure the needle is a decent length and that it has a good capacity (around 120ml). Also ensure it has a nice sharp end. If you're intending to inject thicker bastes, you may want a slightly wider needle diameter. If the needle clogs, you may need to sieve your marinade to get larger particles out.
There are some pretty fancy Meat Injector Guns out there, and if you're going to smoke whole pigs, this may be a good idea, but not necessary if you're an average enthusiast.
How to do it
Most injection solutions are a mix of stock and butter. You want to aim for 1 – 2% salt, this enhances flavour and retains moisture in the meat. If you're using salted butter, then use a reduced salt stock, as too much salt could overwhelm the meat.
Submerge your Injector needle fully in the marinade you've made, ensure the needle is fully covered as some needles have holes down the sides. It may be easier to put your marinade into a long tall glass.
Fill the syringe with liquid. Inject the needle deep into your meat, then slowly inject (otherwise it may come back at you). You can use the same entry hole at several different angles, so you don't need a massive amount of holes in your meat for moisture to escape out of.
You can inject every 5 cm, to ensure a good amount goes in. It’s a good idea to leave the meat for an hour after injecting to let the marinade settle in.
Remember to hand wash your needle afterwards, dishwashers can be unkind to Injectors.
What marinade injection with what meat?
Subtlety is key – you don't want a chicken that oozes black soy sauce or a smoked pork that weeps apple cider! You want to enhance flavours, not overtake them. Remember 1 – 2% salt is about right, so keep that in mind.
Here is a rough guide of what goes with what (makes about 1 litre):
2 Tbsp Salt + 1 Tbsp Sugar + 4 cups reduced salt chicken stock
2 Tbsp salt + 1 Tbsp Sugar + 2 tsp Worchestershire Sauce + 4 cups reduced salt Beef Stock
2 Tbsp Salt + 1 Tbsp Sugar/1Tbsp Maple syrup + 1 Tbsp Worchestershire Sauce + 2 Tbsp Rice/Cider Vinegar + 1 cup reduced salt chicken / pork / beef stock or apple juice/cider + 3 cups water
You can mix your marinade injector ingredients in an empty and clean plastic milk container. Put all the ingredients in and swirl or shake up until sugar and salt has dissolved. You may want to warm up the stock a little (just warm, not hot) to aid in the dissolving process.