Slow-smoked brisket is undoubtedly one of the kings of the BBQ meat world. Perfectly cooked brisket results in tender, juicy, and flavorful bites. This can quickly make it easy to forget that this cut of meat actually comes from one of the most muscular, weight-bearing areas of the cattle. This lower chest area is responsible for carrying roughly 60% of a steer’s total weight. Thus making it a challenge to slow cook it properly without drying it out. Preparation of the meat is key and keeping it moist is critical. One way to do this is by injecting brisket.
Many competition pitmasters swear by using injections when it comes to cooking great BBQ brisket. The process of how to inject brisket is easier than you may think. It will help ensure you end up tender, juicy meat that is packed with flavor.
In this article, we’ll go over why you should try injecting brisket, and some tips on how to do it the right way.
When a marinade or rub is used on meat, it will only impart flavor to the surface of the meat and just below the surface. No matter how long you let it sit. This will leave a nice, delicious bark on the outside. But, the inner part of the meat won’t have the same level of flavor from the seasonings.
Injecting brisket (or any other large meat) is the method of delivering salt, fats, seasonings, and other flavors straight into the core of the meat, well below the surface. This is the only way to get any additional flavor and liquid deep into the meat.
The mixture that is injected also helps to moisten the meat throughout and keeps it from drying out while it is cooking low and slow for long periods. This is why brisket injection is so effective. With brisket being a more muscular, tough cut, injecting it with fats, oils, and other ingredients helps to tenderize the meat and keep moisture locked in.
Image from Corey Mikes' Brisket class in BBQ Champs Academy
Injecting brisket properly is not overly complicated or difficult. But there are some essential tips when it comes to learning how to inject brisket, straight from the pros, to make sure it is done effectively:
When it comes to doing barbecue right, ensuring you have the proper tools is just as important as the actual cooking process. For injecting meat, there are a couple of things to look for in an injector. A stainless steel injector is going to be your best bet as far as material. It will hold up longer, is easier to clean, and won’t hold smells or oils like plastic can.
Also, make sure your needle size is big enough to handle your injection of choice. If you plan on using a thicker injection or one with some herbs or spices mixed in you have to be able to push it through the needle effectively. Most quality injector needles will come with two or more holes on the sides of it as well to help distribute the injection evenly.
Finally, make sure your injector holds 2 ounces or more. This will save you a lot of time from having to constantly refill it.
Using a deep container or tall glass to hold your injection will allow you to fill your injector easily without damaging the needle.
It is important to make sure you distribute the injection evenly throughout the meat. To do this, insert the needle at a slight angle (not perpendicular to the meat) in a checkerboard pattern every 1-2 inches across the brisket. You want to insert the needle and then slowly depress the plunger as you are pulling the needle out each time. This will help ensure you are getting the injection between the muscle fibers and bundles.
All parts of a good quality full packer brisket will benefit from the injection, but the Flat is where you want to focus your attention most. The Flat section of brisket is the leanest part of the cut. Which means it’s the most likely section to dry out during slow cooking. Making sure that most of your injection is adequately throughout the flat will help retain moisture and keep it tender.
Since the Point (aka Deckle) section of brisket has a higher fat content, the injection will be more for flavor throughout this section versus moisture retention.
Source: Northwest Edible Life
When injecting brisket, the goal is to add enough complimentary flavor to elevate the meat without overpowering the delicious beefy taste. So don’t load up on a big combination of heavy flavors like garlic, pepper, or bold herbs. You still want your beef to taste like beef. Go for ingredients like butter, beef stock, saltwater (brine), vinegar, and flavors that complement the brisket. Keep in mind that you want to aim for 1-2% salt content in your injection so that it helps tenderize the meat without being too salty.
You can get creative and put together great homemade injections with complementary flavors at home. Or, you can even try a competition-winning pre-made injection mix like Butcher BBQ Brisket Injection from David Bouska, one of our Champion Pitmasters.
When using an injection on brisket, it is still up for debate on how long to let the meat sit with the injection before cooking. Some let it sit for several hours, while some inject just an hour before cooking. But, one certain thing is that you have to be careful letting your brisket sit too long with an injection that has a high acidic, vinegar, or citrus level.
The acid in an injection that has a good amount of vinegar, apple juice, or pineapple juice will quickly break down the collagen and tenderize the meat. This is great for a couple of hours, but anything longer than that can quickly ruin your meat and turn it into mush.
The muscle in beef brisket is 75% water, so you won’t need a ton of injection. There’s not a whole lot of room for a lot more liquid. The injection will go between the muscle fibers and bundles, not within the fibers.
A common rule of thumb is 1 liquid ounce of injection per 1 lb of meat.
Image from Corey Mikes’ Brisket class in BBQ Champs Academy
It will be inevitable that you will end up with the injection mixture across the surface of the brisket as well. Leaving it on the exterior will make it difficult if you plan on using a rub as well. It will just cause your rub to cook into a light crust that won’t stick to the surface effectively and flakes right off.
So, make sure to have paper towels ready and use them to pat dry the exterior of your brisket after injecting it. This will help give your rub a better surface to stick to.
Now you should have a good idea of where to start when it comes to how to inject brisket. Injecting brisket is an effective, easy, and fast way to deliver moisture and flavor deep into a tough and lean cut of meat.
It is a great method that is used by many of the top Pitmasters to cook tender, juicy brisket every time. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your injection ingredients and flavors, whether it’s a homemade recipe or pre-made mix.
But, by following the tips above, you can ensure you are properly injecting your brisket and setting yourself up for BBQ success.
Want to learn more insider tips and info, as well as proven techniques and competition barbecue secrets? You can get the inside scoop from David Bouska, Mark Lambert, Robby Royal, and more Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here in the BBQ Champs Academy online barbecue classes. To get the full inside look, check out the All-Access pass now!