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I was born and raised in Texas, where brisket is almost a way of life. When it comes to brisket, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been pretty spoiled and have access to some of the world’s finest.
It’s easy to take for granted that brisket actually comes from the muscular chest area of the animal, which gets worked hard and carries a lot of weight. Because of that, it’s actually a pretty tough cut of meat to work with. If you aren’t careful with how you prepare a brisket, you could easily end up with dry and tough results.
One of the ways you can increase the moisture levels and tenderness of your cut is by using a brisket injection recipe. Brisket injection is actually pretty easy, and can most definitely lead to more tender and juicy BBQ brisket vs only using a dry rub.
In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know for how to do a beef brisket injection. After that, we’ll share a few different brisket injection recipe ideas and go over some FAQ about the process!
Brisket Injection – What Is It?
Brisket injection is a way to infuse flavors, seasoning, and other nutrients deep into the core of the beef. It’s a way to distribute flavor and moisture across the entire cut of meat, as opposed to just the outer portion that’s seasoned with a traditional brisket rub (but you should do that too!).
Remember, brisket is typically cooked low and slow – it will be on the smoker for a long time. So the extra moisture that comes from injection helps for it to remain juicy, tender, and moist as the smoking process plays itself out.
Injecting meats is a practice that is fairly common, and the basic principles apply to lots of different meats – not just brisket. Ham, turkey, and pork are some other common meats that are prime candidates for injection to name a few.
Brisket injection is equal parts art and science. There are a few things about the injection process and technique that are pretty unanimously agreed upon in the cooking community.
Some other things have a little more opportunity for variation and personal preference – like which recipe to use, or how long before cooking you should do the actual injection.
As we give our brisket injection recipe and tips, we’ll be sure to point out which is which. Now let’s get into the how of brisket injection!
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Things You’ll Need
If you’re going to get the job done right, you’ll need to make sure you have the correct equipment. Thankfully, you won’t need to break the bank to get everything you need.
First, you’ll need a quality meat injector. Stainless steel is the ideal material of choice because it is sturdy, long lasting, and won’t retain flavors or smells after the fact like plastic injectors tend to do.
For home use, you just need a syringe style injector. As far as the needle size goes, you’ll want to make sure you get something big enough to handle your injection liquid of choice.
If you plan on injection recipes that have pepper, herbs, or other sediments – a thicker needle will probably be necessary. Or, if the consistency of your injection fluid is more pasty – a thicker needle is the right call.
Many kits on the market come in packs with multiple needles to handle different needs. Each needle for injection should have a sharp tip with multiple holes on the side of the needle where the liquid gets distributed throughout your meat.
You’ll also want to make sure your injector holds 2 ounces of fluid or more. Anything less than that will cause for you to spend too much time refilling!
The second piece of equipment you’ll need is a bowl or large vessel to contain the injection fluid. It should be big or deep enough to accommodate your injector’s needle easily. I’ve also seen people use a tall drinking glass for this part.
Last, you’ll need a workspace you don’t mind getting messy. For some that could mean a countertop. If you have an extra large pan that can contain the juices, that works too. Brisket injection gets pretty messy, and you can 100% count on some sort of juice clean up process after the fact.
Remember, the overall purpose of brisket injection is to add moisture and flavor to the insides of your cut.
It’s important at this point to quickly note the two main sections of a brisket. The “Flat” of a brisket has more meat, is lean, and has relatively little fat. The “Point” (or Deckle) of a brisket on the other hand has more fat.
As far as moisture goes, the most benefit will be seen in the leaner brisket flat portion of your brisket. By nature, the lack of fat means there will be less moisture and tenderness in the flat. This will probably be the most beneficial area to inject because it will enhance both moisture and flavor.
The point portion of a brisket will also be enhanced by injection. But it’s less of a benefit in terms of moisture as the fatty part of a brisket typically stays pretty moist. It’s more for flavoring when it comes to the point.
It’s also worth pointing out that this article assumes you’ve already trimmed your brisket. If you need some guidance on how to trim a brisket, check out this article before you get started.
Step by Step Guide
The goal is to completely and evenly inject your brisket. The best way to do this is by utilizing a checkerboard pattern of injections across your meat – on both the brisket point and/or the flat.
- Fill your injector with your injection fluid.
- Puncture the brisket with your injector’s needle between fibers. Be sure to puncture with your needle at a slight angle, not perpendicular to the meat. There’s some debate on whether it’s better to inject against or with the grain. Personally, I think it’s better to inject with the grain, but it’s completely up to you to experiment with this.
- Press the plunger of your injector as you withdraw your needle. Press the plunger too hard and the liquid will squirt everywhere. You also don’t want to inject too much into one spot – if liquid begins to pour out you’ve done too much. You’ll get the hang of this part with some practice.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 in a 1-2 inch checkerboard pattern across your entire brisket. Refill your injector with fluid as needed.
- Clean up any liquid that is leftover once done. And I can promise you, there will be! It’s just the nature of the beast when it comes to any brisket injection recipe.
What Goes Into Brisket Injection Fluid?
A brisket injection recipe can be a plethora of different flavors, consistencies, and styles. Part of the fun is experimenting and figuring out what you like best in your recipe.
With that said, there are quite a few ingredients that are pretty common. You’ll see these staples as a base or component of almost any brisket injection recipe.
- Butter and/or Olive Oil – we mentioned earlier that part of the purpose of all of this is to add moisture to your brisket. Melted butter and olive oil are both commonly used in lots of recipes to soften things up and add that extra moisture to your meat.
- Beef Stock or Broth – is probably the most common ingredient found in any brisket injection recipe. You can actually inject either on it’s own without anything extra and still achieve nice results. Beef stock and broth intensifies the beefy flavor and adds moisture to your meat.
- Various Types of Alcohol – whether it’s beer or distilled spirits, you’ll very commonly find alcohol as elements in various recipes. Alcohol is added purely as a flavor compliment to your brisket and is incredibly delicious when used properly. Think about it, there are hardly better pairings than beer or whiskey and BBQ!
- Worcestershire Sauce – the more I’ve learned about cooking, the more impressed I am with the versatility of Worcestershire sauce. It’s a fermented liquid condiment that is savory, sweet, a little vinegary, and a definite value add to almost any injection project.
- Fruit Juices – apple juice and pineapple juice in particular I’ve seen in multiple recipes. Both of these fruit juices have properties that seriously tenderize meat (which is why they’re also staples in smoked ham injection recipes). You need to make sure that your brisket doesn’t sit longer than 4 hours after injection if your recipe includes any fruit juices.
Some of you might have used other ingredients for your brisket injection recipe. The ones we’ve listed above are just the staples. At the end of the day, it’s all about flavor and your personal preference – so you should try something else out if it looks good and if it will be beneficial in the cooking process.
I’ll also add that you can most definitely add seasonings, herbs, or other solids to your solution. Just remember that your fluid will end up exiting the needle through fine holes, and everything must fit and flow well! Otherwise you’ll be set back quite a bit with time and headache associated with cleaning and unclogging.
Where possible, ground solids into very fine powders, or at least put some extra effort into getting them into the smallest pieces that you can.
Best Brisket Injection Recipes
In no particular order, here are 5 of the best recipes for you to try at home!
Malcom Reed Brisket Injection Recipe
Our first recipe is simple, super easy to make, and a perfect compliment to your brisket.
- 1 Tsp Beef Base
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 2 Cups Water
- 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
Warm the water in a small pot or sauce pan. Add the beef base and whisk until combined. Then, add the rest of the ingredients and whisk those in. Once combined, remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool completely. From there, you’re ready to inject.
Butcher BBQ Prime Barbecue Brisket Injection
If you want to keep things easy and trust the professionals, then give the Butcher BBQ Prime Barbecue Brisket Injection recipe a try. It couldn’t be simpler and the pre made combination is delicious.
- 3 Scoops of Butcher BBQ Prime Barbecue Brisket Injection
- 2 Cups Water or Beef Broth (Depending on Your Flavor Preference)
Mix the 3 scoops and water or beef broth in a bowl, and stir to combine. That’s it!
Savory Beef Stock Brisket Flat Injection Recipe
- 2 Cups Kitchen Basic’s Beef Stock
- 1/4 Tsp Thyme
- 1/2 Tsp Rosemary
- 3 Cloves Coarsely Chopped Garlic
- Pepper to Taste
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 Bay Leave
This recipe is designed specifically for the flat portion of the brisket, although it would be fine to use on the point too!
The concoction is actually prepared and then refrigerated overnight too, so plan ahead if this is the one you want to try.
Pour beef stock into a pot. Next add all of the other ingredients. Turn heat on high, and stir contents of the pot occasionally until the solution reaches a boil. Once it reaches boiling temperature, reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, removing the bay leaf after 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool after the 1 hour simmer. Strain the liquid stock into a container, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Use as your injection the following day!
Sweet and Savory
- 2 Cups Beef Broth
- 2 Tbsp Black Pepper – Freshly Ground
- 1 Tbsp Onion Powder
- 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
- 2 Tsp Brown Sugar
This one’s pretty straightforward too. All you have to do is combine all of these ingredients in a bowl. Stir until completely combined, and voila, you are ready to inject!
Beef Marinade Injection
- 2 Cups Beef Broth
- 2 Beef Bouillon Cubes
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Place beef broth in a pot, and set heat to high. Add beef bouillon cubes and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. It’s ready for use after it has cooled.
Brisket Injection FAQ
Injecting a brisket can seem like quite the overwhelming process if you’ve never done it before. Naturally, you might have a few questions that weren’t answered so far in this post. In this section, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about brisket injection.
Marinade vs Injection – What’s the Difference?
Marination is a process that happens on the surface of your beef. While the flavoring will certainly soak in, it will only do so to a point. With marination, only the outer most portion of your brisket will absorb flavors and moisture.
This unfortunately leaves the bulk of the meat without any flavor or moisture enhancements. The problem result that often comes from a marinade is a delicious outer bark with a less than stellar inside of the brisket.
Injection on the other hand gets flavor and moisture deep into the inners of the brisket. When done properly, the entire brisket will have a flavor and moisture enhancement that will immensely help the pit master create a BBQ masterpiece.
Do Professionals/Restaurants Inject Their Briskets?
The answer to this question depends completely on the individual chef. It’s totally personal preference.
I mentioned earlier that I’m from Texas. More specifically I grew up in Austin, Texas and for those of you BBQ gurus out there – you’ll know that Austin is also home to Franklin BBQ. Franklin has arguably the best beef brisket on the planet, and I can tell you from experience that’s not an exaggeration!
You’ll notice in that video that nowhere does Aaron Franklin inject or even mention injecting his brisket. He simply goes with a rub on the outside and uses a spray to keep the brisket moist while it cooks – he also wraps his brisket in pink butcher paper to achieve a bark and keep the insides moist simultaneously.
On the other hand, you have an award winning pit master like Malcom Reed who always injects his competition briskets.
Those are just two easy examples – but the point is that it’s different strokes for different folks. There is no one dead set way of doing things. At the end of the day, the goal is to make sure your brisket tastes delicious and has enough moisture to cook properly. As long as that is all happening, you can’t go wrong.
How Much Injection Should I Use?
Meat is already almost fully saturated with water, so you really shouldn’t need a ton of fluid. A good rule of thumb is to prepare 1 ounce of injection recipe for every pound of brisket you have.
How Long Before Cooking Should I Inject My Brisket?
This also largely comes down to personal preference. Some folks prefer to inject a brisket and let it rest overnight. Personally, I don’t think letting an injection sit for a long period of time gets you much. Part of the appeal of using an injection is that it’s almost instantaneous moisture and flavor addition.
Also, if you’ve used some more acidic ingredients like apple or pineapple juice, you don’t want to let the meat sit for more than a couple of hours. Anything longer you’ll run the risk of breaking down and ruining your meat.
So, it doesn’t necessarily matter how far in advance you inject – but I’m unsure that there’s any benefit to doing it more than an hour or two before cooking.
Can I Also Season My Brisket?
Yes! You most definitely should also season your brisket in addition to using an injection. Proper seasoning is key for a couple of reasons.
First and most obviously, seasoning the outside of your brisket with a rub will enhance the flavor. Everything that we do with a brisket is done with the goal of complimenting and enhancing the meat, and a rub seasoning is a key part of this.
Second, a good rub seasoning will lead to that signature, crispy bark on the outside of your brisket when everything is done properly.
Feel free to use your rub of choice or keep it simple with a 1 to 1 mix of salt and pepper.
Are Pre Made Brisket Injections OK To Use?
Absolutely. In fact, pre made commercial brisket injections are often just as good as what you could make yourself at home, and they are much more convenient. The “catch” is that on a price per ounce basis, you’ll pay a little bit more for the commercial stuff.
You can find most reputable pre made powder brisket injections in your local grocery store or online at places like Amazon.
Here’s a list of our favorite commercial brisket injections:
- Butcher BBQ Prime Barbecue Brisket Injection
- Kosmos Q Original Barbecue Beef Brisket Injection
- Butcher BBQ Liquid Brisket Injection Base Flavor Barbecue Seasoning
- Lethal Injection Beef
Plastic Injector vs Stainless Steel vs Injector Gun – Which Should I Get?
The answer to this question comes down to your budget and how often you think you’ll be injecting meat.
Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that you should not get a plastic injector. They are usually cheaply made, and are prone to absorbing flavor over time. The flavors and smells will begin to contaminate future foods you wish to inject.
Stainless steel meat injectors aren’t much more expensive and frankly are way higher in quality. They are easier to keep clean and won’t ever absorb flavors over time. Most come with all of the necessary accessories and interchangeable needles.
Injector guns are the most expensive, and the highest quality when it comes to meat injectors. Most injector guns have extra features – like the ability to choose how much liquid to release on each pull. As you’d expect, a well made injector gun should last you a lifetime.
Now you’ve got the how and why when it comes to injecting brisket! It’s up to you from here to go and try it out for yourself and see what your results are like.
Remember, just try to keep things simple. At the end of the day, the goal is to compliment and enhance the flavor of your brisket. We aren’t reinventing the wheel. In fact, many successful chefs make delicious brisket without using an injection recipe at all!
Let us know how it went in the comments section below. Did we miss something in this post? Let us know about that in the comments section below too.
If you’re short on time but still want BBQ brisket for your next cookout, check out our hot and fast brisket recipe next!