Beef brisket is the ultimate smoking meat.
It stands for everything beautiful about barbecue. Cooking a large slab of meat for hours at a low temperature, slowly bringing it to temperature, allowing its fat and connective tissues to slowly render and fill the meat with flavor.
It perfectly encapsulates everything we hold dear in barbecue.
With any meat prep recipe, you often see advice on marinades and brines.
And with this you might see advice on injecting your smoked brisket.
A closely guarded secret among a lot of pitmasters and competition experts is their go-to brisket injection recipes.
A lot of these guys have perfected their recipes over years, so it’s no surprise they’re often so tight lipped about what goes into their prize injection method.
Why inject brisket?
Injecting meat prior to smoking it is a great way to add more flavor, and also to ensure that it retains its moisture as much as possible.
While a lot of people might turn to a good BBQ beef rub to add flavor, this only enhances the outside of the meat. Marinade injection helps us work from the inside out instead.
Good moisture retention is key to smoked meat. With it being exposed to warm temperatures for hour after hour, it can be vulnerable to turning dry.
This is especially true with brisket. When smoking, the flat of the brisket will lose moisture. Marinating helps us compensate for this.
Injecting it with a good marinade will give the flavor and texture of your BBQ brisket the level up you need.
So why not marinate brisket conventionally?
Injecting beef brisket is much easier, cleaner, and time efficient. It lets you get deep into the flesh of the beef quickly, and is able to spread quickly through the meat.
With just a few mixed ingredients and a meat injector, you’re able to take your home smoked brisket to the next level.
So let’s get into it.
Brisket injection recipe
Injection recipes tend to vary wildly between thin water-like mixes, to heavier sauces.
My recipe below is my tried and tested mix that has always served me well.
It keeps things simple. We don’t want to overpower the natural flavors of the brisket, but simply elevate it. Oh, and we don’t want to clog up our injector!
I use these simple ingredients:
- 1 heaped teaspoon of beef base
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of accent
- 2 cups of water
Simply heat the water in a small sauce pan. Don’t allow it to boil, or even simmer. Just allow it to warm so that it can dissolve the other ingredients.
Add the beef base, and whisk it in. Follow up with the rest.
Store bought brisket injections
Alternatively, if you’re not comfortable making your own there are some store bought options here.
In most cases they come in powder form and just require you to mix them in hot water before adding to your meat injector.
What you will need
The key to all of this. Meat injectors are able to easily work their way into the deepest part of meat to apply marinade.
There are a few varieties out there, but I urge you to get a stainless steel one. They’re easy to clean, robust, and don’t depreciate as quickly as plastic models.
Also look out for injectors that come with a choice of needles. At the very least you want a needle with a single hole at the end, and then another needle with holes along its sides. This will allow greater distribution of your marinade through the flesh of the brisket, and ensure that it retains its moisture evenly throughout the cut of beef.
Also, needles will come with a choice of hole width. Narrow holes will suit thin marinades, and wide will suit thick. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people mix them up.
Cooking tray or pan
It should come as no surprise that when meat handling and injecting collide, there’ll be mess.
Placing your brisket in a deep pan or cooking tray will help to collect any excess juice or marinade while you work.
Small mixing bowl
A small bowl will allow easy transfer for your marinade to your injector. You can only fill up your injector a bit at a time, so a bowl will help hold the mixture as you apply it.
Should you inject marinade the night before?
Traditional marinades often require you to submerge meat overnight in the refrigerator, so it stands to reason that people might have the same question about injecting brisket.
The good news though is that you don’t have to.
Traditional marinades are left overnight partly so that they can work their way through the meat, and get into the fibers of the beef.
In the case of injecting, we’ve already done the hard work by cutting straight through.
As a result, it’s not important to do this so long in advance.
I like to do it just half an hour before smoking, just to give the marinade a bit of time to do a little extra work.
How to inject brisket
Follow this quick step-by-step guide to injecting brisket, and you’ll be on the road to competition-worthy beef in no time.
Trim your brisket
Cut your beef brisket as you normally would. Trim the fat on all sides to your desired thickness.
Once you’ve done this, transfer the remaining cut of beef to the deep pan or cooking tray.
Prepare your marinade
Mix your injection liquid in hot water, and allow all ingredients to dissolve. As a rough guide, you’ll need about 1 ounce of liquid per pound of meat. Transfer the mix to a small mixing bowl.
Load your meat injector with marinade carefully. If the needle has holes along its sides then be sure to submerge the entire needle in your mix.
Feed the brisket
Identify the grain direction in your beef. I like to inject with the grain (as opposed to against it) as I find it tends to distribute better in the brisket.
Insert the needle into the brisket, ensuring that all holes of your needles are in the flesh.
Very slowly, start to pull the needle out while simultaneously pushing the plunger to release the liquid.
Repeat this process across the meat every couple of inches in a grid-like pattern.
Pour any excess marinade over the brisket before transferring to your smoker.