Injecting meat with marinade before grilling or smoking it is a great way to enhance its flavors to a whole new level. But which meat injector is up to the job? Here's my guide to the very best, and what to look out for.
While meat injectors might essentially just look like a syringe, there's actually a lot more to them than you think.
Capacity and durability are key on our agenda, and unfortunately not all injectors are up to the job. Some are cheap, difficult to use, and some are even unsafe.
Fortunately there are some really impressive models out there, but you just need to know what to look out for.
Here are my five tried-and-tested best meat injectors to help you choose the right one.
#1. Premiala Awesome Meat Injector
Awesome by name, awesome by nature. This sturdy injector is stainless steel all over, even in its barrel end and plunger disc. Basically, any part of the injector that comes in contact with food is stainless steel. This helps ensure durability, but also a clean surface that isn't prone to the kind of infections that cheaper materials are when they are in constant contact with food, particularly meat.
It comes with spare silicon rings to help combat any potential wear and tear with the product, but more importantly Premiala offer other spare parts like spare needles, o-rings and brushes, meaning that you don't have to chuck the whole needle out should any of its components break.
Further to this, it comes with three interchangeable needles to suit different meats. These come in different lengths and opening widths, all to help you marinate different sizes of meat.
What I particularly love about this one, and what really sets it apart, is that its widest needle is perfect for thicker marinades. So many other meat injectors aren’t as accommodating.
It comes with a lovely carry case, helping to make it all the more durable. This, combined with the spare parts that Permiala offers, make it a great long term investment.
What I like:
- Comes with 3 solid needles for different needs
- All food-facing surfaces and parts are stainless steel for durability and safety
- Spare parts are easily available to help the longevity of the needle
- Comes with spare silicon rings
- Wonderful eBook to help you get to grips with the basics
- The wide opening on one of the needles is perfect for thicker and chunkier marinades
#2. The SpitJack Magnum Meat Injector Gun
The magnum name on this injector from SpitJack isn’t the only thing that makes this meat injector stand apart. It looks completely different from all our other models. But is being eye-catching enough to warrant getting it?
The first thing to say is that it’s fantastically easy to use. In contrast to the problems that come with the Mr. Grill injector, this model instead requires very little pressure on it to use. Furthermore, it even allows you to control the flow of your marinade to an absurd level.
Its gun-like appearance also makes it easy to insert, point and shoot. So as much as its appearance might seem like a gimmick, it does actually have some practical benefits as well.
It comes with four needles, giving you much more choice than any of the other models on this list, and it also comes packed with a cleaning brush.
What I like
- A dream to use
- Fantastic quality
- Comes with 4 different needles
- Comes with a cleaning brush
What I don’t like
- A little more expensive than other models
#3. Grill Beast Stainless Steel Meat Injector Kit
On first impressions, this ticks my boxes. Firstly it’s stainless steel which, for purely aesthetic reasons, is precisely what I want for my meal preparation. Furthermore, it’s light and practical to use.
It is quite large, but if you’re planning on injecting whole chickens or turkeys then this large volume is actually perfect.
Part of its structure is actually partly composed of plastic, so pay extra care when washing and drying as you won’t be able to clean it in the dishwasher.
The extra value with this needle is that it comes as part of a kit. In this kit, you get 3 needles all of different sizes and hole compositions, allowing you to experiment with a range of different marinades.
As a nice little bonus, it also comes with a free eBook, which will not only walk you through how to use it but also offer up different techniques and tips for using it with different recipes.
What I like:
- Mostly made of stainless steel
- Comes with different needles to help you with different types of marinade
- Easily affordable
- Comes with spare parts
- Comes with free eBook
What I don’t like:
- Not 100% stainless steel
- Can’t wash it in the dishwasher
- Quite large (not a problem for me, but might be for people with smaller hands than mine)
#4. Bayou Classic Stainless Steel Seasoning Injector
This one is a little cheaper and while the quality of the needle itself is great, perhaps its lower value is evident in the fact that it only comes with 2 needles. This is a bit disappointing given that there’s no short needle for more modestly sized meat cuts, such as chicken breasts, and also there’s no wide needle to accommodate thick marinades.
It’s all negative however! This is a really sturdy and reliable injector, which is great considering its reasonable price. If you are new to meat injecting, then this is an excellent option to test out before upgrading to a more expensive injector.
What I like:
- A great entry point for beginners
- Great value for money
- Stainless steel
- Comes with 2 needles
What I don’t like:
- Limited width of holes make it unsuitable for thick marinades
- Doesn’t come with a short needle
#5. Mr. Grill 2 Ounce Stainless Steel Meat Injector
I have to say, anything by a brand named Mr. Grill is after my own heart. However, its overall quality is a little disappointing.
Yes, it’s very affordable and is stainless steel, but with plastic handles and awkward handling, I don’t expect this injector to last very long.
Normally with more budget models I’d say that it makes for a good entry point, but the plunger is extremely difficult to pull back and drive in, so I’m not sure I can even say that.
So what does this have going for it other than just price? The two needles it comes with give you good options for flexibility with your marinating. Not only this, but its wider-mouthed needles allows for very thick juices to go through it, which isn’t something that all budget injectors can say.
What I like:
- Comes with two needles
- Wider needle mouth offers use of thick marinades
- Excellent value
- Very affordable
- Stainless steel
What I don’t like:
- Plastic handle seems like a cheap addition
- No third needle option
- Really awkward to use
What does a meat injector do?
Meat injectors are intimidating-looking pieces of kitchenware that look pretty much exactly how you’d imagine: A big syringe with a needle.
That’s pretty much where the similarity with the medical variety ends however, as we fill the meat injector with marinade to then inject chicken or turkey. Although we’re pumping, what we’re essentially doing is marinating our meat on the inside.
This is particularly useful for long-form cooking methods, like barbecuing or smoking, where meats are exposed to high temperatures for a long time. This can dry out the flesh, so injecting it with marinade helps it retains its moisture and keep its shape, while also keeping it infused with flavor.
What’s the Difference Between Marinating and Injecting?
Injecting works differently to other forms of meat preparation, so to help give you a clearer idea of how it works let’s compare it to simple marinating.
In its purest form, marinating is the process of soaking meat in a seasoned liquid. Leaving it soaked over several hours will help the flesh of the meat absorb the liquids, infusing it with flavors.
Quite often this is done with chicken breasts, as they’re relatively small and can be totally submerged in marinade. It can be done with larger cuts of meat, but it can be a little bit awkward and will only allow the surfaces of the meat to absorb the marinade. This can then lead to dry and bland meat on the inside, hence the need for a meat injector.
Not only does injecting offer us a surefire way of preparing the inside of our meat, but it also gives us a bit of a shortcut to quickly preparing our meat. While you do still need to marinate it on the outside, injecting it straight into the flesh helps shorten the amount of time you need to wait before putting it on your grill or smoker.
It’s the fastest and most practical way of infusing our meat with flavor.
Types Of Meat Injectors
A good meat injector is fairly large in size and will be made of either stainless steel or plastic. They vary in their number of holes, with some only having one at the tip of the needle and others having several holes evenly distributed along the needle. They can also vary in needle width, with some having fairly thin needles for simple fluids, and others being much wider to inject thicker liquids or marinades into your meat.
Industrial or commercial models use a 1-gallon food-safe jug that is armed with a pump and sometimes up to 4 needles on the injector. This goes far beyond your needs in your household, so try not to be tempted by these, frankly, metal models.
How to use a meat injector
When preparing your marinade, try to rid it of any large chunks or pieces of leaf. This is largely depending on the size of your needle, but particularly if you’re using a thin needle designed for simple liquids, you risk clogging up the injector.
Fill up your syringe and then, depending on the type of needle you have, you can inject the meat in one of two ways. You use the syringe to inject small amounts marinade inside the flesh, across several points, which in turns lets the meat absorb it evenly.
If you have a simple single opening, you gently insert the needle and inject across several points of the meat. For each position, you will need to insert the needle 3 or 4 times in different directions to ensure good coverage.
However, if you have a needle featuring several openings across its surface then there is no need to do this. Just insert it at several points across the meat, without reinserting it in different directions.
Once you have done all of this, leave your meat for a couple of hours in the fridge to fully absorb the flavor.
After use, as with anything, it’s essential that you clean the injector thoroughly. Rather than use a dishwasher, I recommend just doing it by hand with a brush, detergent, and warm water. Using a dishwasher is risky as it can melt some of the plastics in the syringe, and may even damage the needle.
After washing it, be sure to leave it to dry completely before putting it away. Any leftover liquid can be prone to leading to mold or bacteria. Then line its inside with a bit of vegetable oil to help keep it lubricated, and so the injector’s plunger doesn’t dry out and become stiff.