A Quick Guide: Injections for Beginners
The BBQ world is full of smoke and mirrors (pun intended). Indeed, there comes a point in time where you start asking yourself what’s really good, and what’s just aesthetically fun to watch.
Questioning how to do things and why doing them, and even testing everything out for yourself is something that I feel is very healthy to do as you expand your interest towards meat, smoke, and BBQing.
For a long time, I felt like injecting was one of these trends that sounded good on paper, but that didn’t have much substance in real life. I would see people injecting just about anything in everything for the sake of it. It was only when I started to give some thought into the process and the intent behind it that I realized that there were specific contexts that really do benefit from injections.
One technique, multiple intents
Truly, injections can serve multiple purposes depending on what you are injecting with, and what you are injecting in.
The easiest (and most “basic”) way to inject something is to use a simple injector. That’s it. That said, if you like to smoke big cuts of meat, a competition-style injector will make your life a whole lot easier and will have cost you just a few bucks more.
Injecting should be done in a cross-like pattern, always working at an equal distance from each injection holes. That said, you have to keep in mind that some meat can hold more liquids than others when you’re injecting. Pork and beef, for example, will retain more, while poultry will tend to saturate faster.
In any case, there is only one universal truth to remember when you plan on injecting: never inject a liquid that’s cold or hot into meat. Always make sure that your injection liquid is at room temperature or as close to the meat’s temperature as possible before injecting it. Indeed, injecting a cold liquid will slow down the cooking process of your meat, while injecting a hot one will likely cook the meat from the inside and prevent the injection from seeping into its muscle fiber.
All in all, injections are best used when they elevate one of the following three aspects: moisture, flavor, or fat. Every now and then, you’ll be lucky enough to nail down an injection that can benefit all three aspects, but those occasions don’t come by so often. Learn to appreciate them.
Classic low and slow smoking sessions are one of the best BBQing methods to pair with injections. This approach works especially well whenever you find yourself taking on a large piece of meat, like a beef brisket, a pork shoulder, or a leg of lamb, for example. As the meat will cook for an extended period of time, you will want to make sure that it cooks evenly and that its outer edge does not dry out. Working with injections will then help you add moisture in the meat and keep it juicy throughout the cooking process (even if it takes more than 10 hours).
Classic homemade injections for these low and slow cooking sessions can be made with various liquids such as chicken and/or beef broth, apple juice, water, and apple cider vinegar. Professional grade injections, on the other hand, will contain additives, such as phosphates or nitrate, to keep your food fresh for a longer amount of time, even after it’s been frozen.
When used for this aspect, the intent of the injection is then really to add moisture in the meat and to preserve its texture without tempering with its flavor.
If not to add moisture, chances are that you want to leverage this process to add more flavor to whatever you are cooking.
Rather than just adding flavor to the outer edge of the meat like a marinade would do, injections allow you to evenly distribute flavor throughout the meat for a more consistent flavor in every bite.
While some injections will be designed to enhance the natural flavor of the meat, such as Butcher BBQ’s Prime Dust, some others will really add flavors to the mix.
That said, you can also create your own mix. Combining ready-made injections with rubs, for example, is a common thing on the competition scene. This is done in order to achieve consistent results while crafting specific flavor profiles. Honestly, I can only encourage you to try and mix some of Butcher BBQ’s Liquid Pork with Oakridge’s Beef and Pork Rub for your next pulled pork recipe. The result will be amazing!
For the last aspect, it is important to note that injections don’t all have to come under liquid form. Surely, this method can be a very clever way to add tenderness and richness to traditionally dry/lean cuts of meat such as filet mignon, pork loins or even, scallops.
The easiest way to go about this is to work with melted butter and herbs, or bacon fat. For the more adventurous, I strongly recommend working with a mix of beef tallow (if you ever find the time to make your own) and some of Butcher BBQ’s Grilling Addiction dry rub. The natural flavor and texture of beef fat will add a creaminess that is second to none in your blend.
As mentioned earlier, in this case, just like the others, you’ll always want to make sure that the injection “liquid” is not hot and has chilled to room temperature before using it.
Now that we’ve covered all three aspects, you can see that injecting is a very easy technique to keep in your back pocket for whenever you feel like doing something different. With the right mixture and intent, you can pull amazing results. Keep in mind, however, that moderation is key.
While we don’t want the injection to be the highlight of any meals, it should act as the unsung hero in your next BBQ party. Make this the “little something” that wins you an edge with your in-laws and reaffirms your position as the true king of the grill.
Now… have a great BBQ and enjoy injecting!