Forget Marinating – Inject Instead
You don’t need a Wonderbra to enhance chicken and turkey breasts. Or, for that matter, beef brisket, pork butt. The truth is that rubs, mops, marinating, brining, and sauces can deliver a lot of flavor to the surface of meat, but if you really want to get salt or flavor deep into meat, the solution is injecting (see my articles on marinating and brining and curing). Having an injector also opens up other fun possibilities: stuffing jam into donuts, syrup into ice-cream, and melted butter into squash.
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. It is like brining and the salt helps retain moisture as well as enhances flavor. I 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. Check out my recipes here.
Many competition cooks like to inject with a product called Butcher BBQ Brisket Marinade, both moisturizers, tenderizers, and flavor enhancers. Another popular injection, Fab B, contains hydrolyzed soy protein, vegetable oil, sodium phosphates, monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast extract, xanthan gum, disodium inosinate, and guanylate. Butcher contains hydrolyzed vegetable protein (hydrolyzed soy and corn protein and salt, with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil [cottonseed, soybean] added), monosodium glutamate, sodium phosphate, and xanthan gum. Some traditionalists think this is way too Barry Bonds and are repulsed by the idea. The results speak for themselves. They are winning. A lot.
To inject, you need a gizmo, and something to put in it. Click here for our reviews of injection gizmos.