One of the best ways to cook beautiful chicken and turkey is to use a good marinade that gets right under the skin of your poultry. Here are 5 of the best turkey and chicken injection recipes for you to take your meat prep to the next level.
One of the best ways to prepare meat is by adding flavor to it. I love BBQ because it allows you a lot of different ways to do this. One is by applying a rub to the outside layer of the meat, and one is applying an injected marinade to it on the inside.
Rubs, sauces and marinades are a great way to apply flavor to the outer layers of your meat to really complement the inherent flavor of the meat. On the other hand, injector recipes allow you to really permeate the flesh of the meat and impart a rich flavor in it.
Both have their merits, but today I really wanted to talk about using marinades to infuse flavor in your meat, while also helping adding moisture (an all important part of good grilling and smoking).
Be sure to check out some of my favorite BBQ chicken rub recipe here.
I love injector recipes, but I think a lot of people are put off by the thought of injecting meat. Perhaps they think it’s too much work, or too difficult to do. The truth though is that nothing could be further from the truth.
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A good meat injector is really affordable (about $20). Take a look at my review on the Premiala meat injector to see how easy to use and affordable a meat injector can really be.
So if you’re new to injecting meat, then this guide is here to show you just how easy it can be. I’m going to show you just how easy it is, and what kind of meat and flavor pairings work best for your next injector recipe.
Here are some quick tips on how to use your marinade injector.
Line up the holes
In the case of a lot of injector needles, the holes tend to be aligned along the side of the needle itself, rather than the end (although this isn’t always the case). This can make sucking the marinade liquid up into the barrel of your injector difficult if you’re using a shallow dish, so instead make sure that your marinade is sitting in a deep dish. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to produce gallons of the stuff, but instead try to use a long thin glass like a champagne flute so that your needle can get plenty of purchase as you try to withdraw the liquid.
Opt for stainless steel
Because your injector is going to be exposed to not just your marinade, but also the meat, it’s important that it’s easy to clean. You don’t want to discover long out of date pieces of food, particularly meat, inside the chamber of your injector several months down the line.
While I will always recommend thorough cleaning, the next best thing you can do to ensure good food safety is by getting a stainless steel injector. Stainless steel is really easy to clean, and helps reduce the risk of any little bits of food staining the material of the injector.
Referring back to my favored Premiala injector, this is a stainless steel model which boasts great longevity largely owing to the fact that its steel composition. It’s also machine washable, which means you can quickly disassemble it, and place it in the dishwasher to allow thorough cleaning.
Go for the choice of different needles
A lot of modern models of injector have different needles, which allow for use of different kinds of meat and marinades. These needles differ in hole placement, as well as different size of holes. This is great as different marinades vary greatly in thickness as well as herbs or spices in, and thinner cuts of meat won’t suit needles that have holes along the side.
A close-up of one of the Premiala’s large needles
Try to distribute evenly
Once you have loaded the barrel of your injector with marinade, you want to apply it to your bird at multiple different points across the surface of the bird.
How often you do this is completely up to you, but at the very least try to make sure that the thickest parts of the bird has been done as this will be the area most prone to being bland or dry (Source).
Also keep in mind that we want the marinade to permeate the meat evenly, so try to distribute the holes as uniformly and generously as possible. I try to aim for one-inch gaps across the surface of the bird in each direction. Plot a grid in your head and try to stick to that, ensuring that you get each breast, thigh, and leg.
Check out: How to inject meat for smoking
Pay attention to depth
This is one of the easiest things to get wrong. If you inject too close to the surface of your bird then the marinade will just come right back out, making the bird dry. However if you go the other way and go too deep then your needle risks going out the other end. When you apply your first bit of marinade, pay attention to how deep you go and then once you find that sweet spot, apply that across the whole of the bird.
Now onto the recipes.
Here are 5 of the best chicken and turkey injector recipes out there. In truth, these can be used interchangeably with chicken and turkey. The only difference is that turkey requires slightly more marinade than chicken, owing to how easily it can dry out.
Beer n’ Butter Poultry Injection
Photo: Countryside Cravings
½ lb butter
½ can beer
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Tabasco
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
This injector recipe is great for getting right in deep into the flesh of the bird, and goes particularly well with turkey.
It’s really important that this recipe is kept warm, otherwise the butter content won’t stay liquid-like for long enough. As a result, this recipe needs to be prepared in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir over heat until the sauce is combined well and runny, and the salt has completely dissolved. Inject while warm, but not too hot.
Savory Turkey Injection
1/4 cup light oil
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
This recipe makes great use of herbs and Worcestershire sauce to create a beautifully savory marinade that still remains rich in flavor. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir continuously until well combined, and allow to simmer. Once combined, filly the barrel of your injector with it and you’re good to go!
Cajun Turkey Injection
Photo: Frontier Co-Op
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup liquid crab boil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
I love Cajun favors and spices so putting this recipe on this list was a no brainer. I add Tabasco to pretty much everything, so any marinade containing that has my vote.
The ingredients listed here are sometimes listed for rubs, but what’s particularly great with a marinade for injecting is that the ingredients won’t be at risk of washing off.
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, and heat until the butter has melted and combined. Inject while still warm enough that the butter is a liquid, but not too hot.
Hot and Spicy Injection
1 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce
3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
I love taking the opportunity to add any level of heat to BBQ, and this recipe is perfect for doing just that. It lets you add spice under the skin of your bird, meaning your poultry retains heat to a much greater extent than it would with a rub. Combine all in pan, hot or cold.
Italian Herb Injection
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Italian Seasonings
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried sage
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons savory
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper
I couldn’t possibly have a list of marinades without something in strong Italian influence in it. This recipes matches together a mass of beautiful herbs to give you a really flavor-rich marinade.
The trick with this one is to make sure that your herbs are as finely ground as possible so that they can fit through your injector needle without a problem. A herb mill or spice grinder can work really for this.
Another thing to be aware of is that the marinade will settle, and the herbs might gather at the top or bottom of it. To try to avoid this, mix the marinade well between uses.