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Digital Thermometers:
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Gold BBQ AwardA good digital thermometer keeps me from serving dry overcooked food or dangerously undercooked food. You can get a professional grade, fast and precise splashproof thermometer like the Thermopop (above) for about $24. The Thermapen (below), the Ferrari of instant reads, is about $96. It's the one you see all the TV chefs and all the top competition pitmasters using. Click here to read more about types of thermometer and our ratings and reviews.

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Gold BBQ AwardGrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, produce great grill marks, keep small foods from committing suicide, kill hotspots, are easier to clean, flip over to make a fine griddle, smolder wood right below the meat, and can be easily removed and moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips or pellets or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke to whatever is above. Every gas grill and pellet smoker needs them.

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The Pit Barrel Cooker

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Best. Tongs. Ever.

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Gold BBQ AwardMo's Smoking Pouch is essential for gas grills. It is an envelope of mesh 304 stainless steel that holds wood chips or pellets. The airspaces in the mesh are small enough that they limit the amount of oxygen that gets in so the wood smokes and never bursts into flame. Put it on top of the cooking grate, on the burners, on the coals, or stand it on edge at the back of your grill. It holds enough wood for about 15 minutes for short cooks, so you need to refill it or buy a second pouch for long cooks like pork shoulder and brisket. Mine has survived more than 50 cooks. Click for more info.

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The Zen Of Injecting Meat: No Wait, No Waste, More Flavor

"I think everybody should have a great Wonderbra. There's so many ways to enhance [breasts]." Christina Aguilera

By Meathead Goldwyn

You don't need a Wonderbra to enhance bhicken and turkey breasts or any other meat for that matter. Rubs, mops, marinating, brining, and sauces can deliver a lot of flavor to the surface of meat, but if you really want to enhance meat, to get flavor deep into it, the solution is injecting (see my articles on marinating and brining).

Many meat processors routinely inject meats like turkey, chicken, and pork at the factory. Injecting, or enhancing as food processors call it, is a sure fire way to get the flavor and juiciness down deep. And it is the only way to get fats, herbs, spices and other large molecules deep into meat. You don't have to worry about oversalting, there's no waiting -- you can do it at the last minute, you have less waste, no huge containers are needed, there are no refrigerator space problems, and there are few safety issues.

The secret to injecting is to go easy. A good guideline is to shoot for 1 to 2% salt and skip the big flavors like garlic, pepper, and herbs that mask the natural flavor of the meat. I have judged pulled pork and brisket at barbecue competitions where the meat was gushing juice, but it didn't taste like meat. It tasted like apple juice and garlic. I want pork that tastes like pork, beef that tastes like beef, and turkey that tastes like turkey.

The best solutions are salt water, salted butter, or stock. And you don't need much. Muscle is 75% water and it is saturated. There isn't much room in there for more liquid. Your injection will go in between the muscle fibers and bundles, not within the fibers, so you won't need much.

To inject, you need a gizmo, and something to put in it.

Gizmos

There are a number of injection gizmos on the market ranging from simple hypodermics to pumps that look like something used by the Orkin man. For home use, a good sturdy specialty meat injector hypodermic will do.

The needles for this purpose are different than normal hypodermics. They aren't open at the tip because a large opening at the tip gets clogged with meat easily. Meat injectors have holes in the sides of the needles, and the tip is a sharp point.

A good injector has a really sharp tip, and a sturdy connection between the needle and the body, but the needle should be easy to remove. The plunger should have a sturdy connection to the body of the syringeand a good tight gasket between it and the interior of the syringe. I prefer a silicone gasket. It should be easy to break down and clean, and you should be able to store the needle inside the syringe. It should be at least two ounces capacity and made of stainless steel. The inexpensive plastic syringes I've owned lastic tended to crack with age or burst under pressure. Brass, copper, and aluminum are not good for this purpose since they can react with the salt.

The problem everyone has with injectors is filling them. Most of us mix the injection and stick the needle into it and suck it up. But the position of the holes in the needle insures you don't get it all, and this can be aggravating when you are using just a half stick of butter for a turkey breast.

injector system

My friend, social media consultant Alex Hambrick, of Ngage Inc. (a barbecue competitor and a very inventive problem solver), sent me this solution: Make the injection and pour it into a plastic water bottle. Shake it all up to mix it. Take a lighter, heat up the end of the injector needle, and slide it through the cap of the water bottle. Pull the plunger on the injector all the way back so the injector is filled with air. Put a piece of electrical tape over the hole and poke the needle through the tape into the hole. The tape acts like a gasket. Push the plunger down injecting air into the bottle. This pressurizes the bottle slightly and counteracts the vacuum effect making it much easier to withdraw liquid. Now turn it upside down, and withdraw the liquid, just like the nurse did when she gave you your flu shot. This bit of cleverness lets you pull all the fluid out.

What to put in them

Many BBQ champs use commercial products such as Butcher BBQ Brisket Marinade whose ingredient lists include flavor enhancers monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast extract, disodium inosinate, and guanylate. Papaya extract tenderizes, sodium phosphate is good at improving the ability of proteins to hold water during heat stress, and xanthan gum is added as an emulsifier to hold them all together for injecting uniformity. Some traditionalists think this is way too Barry Bonds. But Butcher's Blends win trophies, and I've tasted the product and been impressed.

When I inject I use a brine that no more than 2% salt by weight. It will diffuse to a lower concentration within the meat, enough to enhance flavor and bind water, but not enough to give the meat a cured flavor. If I add flavor, I try not to go crazy. You can add oils, herbs, spices, sweetners, syrups, sauces, stocks, broths, colorings, pretty much anything. But be thoughtful. Do you really want your turkey to taste like Dr. Pepper? If you use herbs or spices, grind them fine. Don't use dark liquids like soy sauce or Worcestershire on light colored meats like chicken or turkey. Don't go crazy with sweeteners. Here are the recipes I use.

Makes. About 1 quart
Serves. This makes enough to inject about 30 pounds of meat

Pork Brine Injection
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 cup apple juice or low sodium pork, chicken, or beef stock
3 cups water

Beef or Venison Brine Injection
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
4 cups water or low sodium beef stock, or a mix of both

Poultry Brine Injection
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups water or low sodium chicken stock, or a mix of both

About the salt. If you use Morton's kosher salt, double the quantity.

Add smoke. Smoke the salt.

Add umami. You can add 1/2 teaspoon of MSG such as Ac'cent.

Add herbs and spices. You can add herbs and spices such as garlic and pepper, but they can overwhelm the meat's natural flavor.

Add oil. After you have used a brine injection, if you want you can go back and inject a small amount of oil. You can't mix the oil with the brine since it floats to the top. If you don't have canola you can use another neutral flavored oil like corn oil. Olive oil can be strong flavored. You can try butter, but it tends to coagulate and gather in blobs. The blobs disperse somewhat during cooking, however.

Method
1) Mix all the ingredients in a bottle and shake vigorously before injecting. Pour into a narrow container so you can suck fluid in through the needle. In a wide bowl it is hard to get the holes below the water line and you then need to unscrew the top, pour it into the syrings, spill it everywhere, screw on the top, inject, and repeat. I bought a V-shaped flower vase for the job.

2) Insert the needle parallel to the grain and go all the way to the center. Press the plunger slowly and ease the needle out. Insert the needle about every 1.5" apart and leave behind about 1 ounce per pound. A little liquid will follow the needle out of the hole, but if it comes spurting out, use less pressure. We want to avoid pockets of liquid.

3) You can cook right away, but if you let the meat rest for an hour or more, even overnight, the injecton will disperse more evenly through the meat. Then dry the surface with a paper towel and apply your rub and cook.

This page was revised on 1/1/2014


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About this website. AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, spareribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best buying guide to barbecue smokers, grills, accessories, and thermometers, edited by Meathead.

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