Spoilt for Choice: A Guide To The Chicken Injection Recipe

August 26, 2022

I learned all about injecting chickens in culinary school. It was my favorite go-to method to ensure that the bird didn’t end up dry and flavorless.

As I experimented with a lot of different combinations, I can’t narrow it down to just one chicken injection recipe but instead decided to give you a few different options. Let’s get started!

Chicken Injection Recipe

The Top Chicken Injection Recipes

Here are the best chicken injection recipes to choose from:

Butter-Based Injection Marinade

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 can of beer
  • 2 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs. of hot sauce
  • 1 tbs. of soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. of onion powder
  • 2 tbs. of salt
Chicken in Marinade for Baking

Method

Step 1

In a small saucepan add all the ingredients except for the salt. Cook on low heat until the butter is completely melted. Make sure that you keep stirring.

Step 2

Add the salt teaspoon by teaspoon, stirring well after each addition. Stop when it has reached your desired level of taste.

Step 3

Take off the heat and let it cool to warm, but nothing below this. If you let this mix cool completely, then the butter may separate and harden.

Sweet and Spicy Injection Marinade

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup of garlic-infused oil
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 3 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs. of hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 sage leaf
  • 1 bay leaf

Method

Step 1

Add all the ingredients to a pan and simmer for five minutes.

Step 2

Let cool. Then, strain and use the liquid to inject the chicken.

Cajun Injection Marinade

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of hot sauce
  • 2 tbs. of smoked paprika
  • 2 tbs. of honey
  • 1 tbs. of garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. of dried oregano
  • 1 tbs. of dried thyme
  • 1 tbs. of dried basil
  • 1 tbs. of salt
  • 1 tbs. of black pepper
  • 1 tbs. of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. of white pepper
  • 2 tsp. of onion powder
  • 2 tsp. of brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. of crushed garlic
  • 12 – 24 ounces of beer or apple juice
  • 2 bay leaves
Variety of food and fruits on table

Method

Step 1

Add all the ingredients to a pan. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced to about a cup of marinade.

Step 2

Cool, strain, and inject a chicken.

Italian Injection Marinade

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of red wine
  • 2 tbs. of dried, ground oregano
  • 2 tbs. of dried, ground rosemary
  • 2 tbs. of dried, ground basil
  • 2 tbs. of dried, ground sage
  • 2 tbs. of dried, ground marjoram
  • 1 tbs. of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. of pepper

Method

Step 1

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Allow for some time for all the herbs to infuse the liquids.

Step 2

Give the ingredients a good stir before injecting the bird. This is something that you may want to do before reloading the injector as the dry ingredients can settle at the bottom and get left behind.

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What Can You Use in a Chicken Injection Marinade?

While the above injection recipes are pretty great, you may want to make one of your own. In this case, you are probably wondering – what can you include in such a concoction?

Well, there are so many different marinades and combinations for you to try out. In reality, there isn’t a limit to what you can combine. Instead, it is just a matter of figuring out what works together.

That being said, there is probably a basic formula that you would like to follow.

Well, first you need a good base – this is the main liquid. Most pros prefer the basics – chicken broth, melted butter, or salty water.

However, these rules are largely to be followed when you are injecting meat such as brisket or pork. In these instances, you don’t want to overpower the flavors. With chicken and even turkey, however, adding more flavor is always a bonus.

This is why beer and fruit juices such as apple or lemon juice are a welcome addition too.

Then, there are the flavorings. When you are using ground spices or garlic powder, onion powder, or chili powder, there isn’t an issue here. These easily dissolve in the liquid and can be injected into the flesh.

Remember to always use finely ground spices for this. And, when dealing with dried herbs, always run these through a spice grinder to ensure that they are reduced to the smallest possible size.

In case you are using fresh herbs or garlic cloves, then you first have to simmer these in the liquid. Allow the injection mix to cool, strain out the bigger pieces, and then inject the remaining solution into the chicken.

When using dried herbs or similar ingredients, you need to be a bit careful. This is because these tend to form a sediment at the bottom of the bowl if left to sit for any amount of time. Thus, you have to keep stirring it up before drawing the solution into the injection.

The Everything Marinade

What You Need to Inject Chicken?

The good news is that you don’t actually need too much for this process – a meat injector will do. However, finding the right injector isn’t as easy as people assume. Here are some guidelines that can help you in your decision:

Choosing the Right Material

You can find meat injectors made from a wide variety of materials – aluminum, brass, copper, and even plastic. Do yourself a favor and stick to stainless steel however, even if it costs you a bit more.

Plastic is simply too fragile. Use a little too much pressure while injecting meat and it will crack. The other materials tend to react with salt. Considering that most marinades will contain at least a little bit of salt, such injectors are no good for you.

Stainless steel, on the other hand, is non-corrosive even when exposed to liquids, mild acids, and other ingredients for a longer period of time. It is also durable and will last you a lot longer.

If you want my opinion, I would suggest investing in a high quality, professional grade meat injector. Yes, it may cost you more upfront but you can have peace of mind knowing that it is going to work like a dream. What’s more – care for it properly and you will likely not need to replace it for years to come.

Consider Capacity

There needs to be enough room inside the meat injector barrel to hold enough liquid for a single plunge. I would say that you should get one that has a minimal capacity of 2 ounces.

Remember, when dealing with turkey, you are going to need to be able to insert a greater amount of liquid. To add to this, you may also want to inject large cuts of meat later on.

Thus, if you are someone who likes to smoke briskets and similar cuts, look for a larger barrel.

Now, while I do prefer a meat injector that is completely made from stainless steel, I do like the ones that have plastic windows in the barrel. This is often accompanied by volume striations so that you can see just how much liquid is in the barrel.

The reason that I like this feature is that it allows me to keep each of my injections at the same rate as the rest.

Roasted chicken on glass form with vegetables

Select a Variety of Needles

If you imagine that every meat injector needle is the same, think again!

One thing that can be different from one meat injecting tool to another is the diameter of the needle. Some are smaller and others are larger. If you are only using a simple marinade – water or chicken broth with garlic powder dissolved in, then these needles will do.

However, if you want a thicker concoction, similar to that of a sauce, then you are going to require a wider diameter through which the ingredients can pass through.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some needles have holes on either side of the length of it. This is so that the marinade is dispersed sideways as well as down into the meat.

While such a feature would be excellent for larger cuts of meat, it will not work for smaller and thinner ones.

My suggestion would be to buy a kit or at least a meat injector with several needle options. This way, you will have exactly what you need at any time.

Easy to Clean

The final feature that you should look for is a marinade injector that is easy to clean. Remember, unless you are injecting nothing other than salt and water, there is bound to be some residue behind.

To ensure that mold or mildew doesn’t grow here and that nothing will gunk up the works, look for an injector that can easily be pulled apart and cleaned.

How Much Marinade Should You Use?

There is no hard and fast rule to follow here. However, you may want to aim for 0.1 ounces of marinade for every 5lbs of meat.

In general, less is more. This is especially true in the case of smaller chickens. Remember, after a certain point, the flavors will overpower the natural flavors of the chicken or turkey. When this happens, your bird will cease to taste like poultry.

What I like to do is to mentally separate the chicken into segments. Then, based on the above math, I decide how much should go into each segment.

Keep in mind, that the highest quantity should go to the thickest parts of the chicken.

Can You Use the Same Recipes for Turkey?

Yes, each of the following solutions can also function as the best turkey injection recipe you have ever tasted! The only thing that you do need to be mindful of is that you will need a lot more solutions. On average, turkeys weigh quite a bit more so you will have to adjust the amounts accordingly.

Roasted and Stuffed Turkey

How to Inject the Chicken or Turkey?

Here is a step-by-step guide on meat injecting:

  1. Start by pouring the marinade into a long, thin glass. This ensures that you can easily suck up the marinades without taking in any air bubbles. You will also not have to keep topping up the marinade in the container either.
  2. Next, mentally map out where you are going to inject the meat. It doesn’t have to be perfect. However, having some idea of where you will be placing in the needle will ensure that you inject the meat evenly.
  3. Always start with the chicken breast. On average, breast meat is one of the drier portions on the bird. Thus, it can benefit from most of the marinade.
  4. Press the needle deep into the chicken – if you are too close to the surface, the marinade will simply bubble out. Thus, you should go as deep as you can.
  5. Next, depress the plunger slowly so that the juice can penetrate around the injection site as well. When you are done, massage that area so that the marinade can spread. You can do this after each injection or wait until you have completed the whole bird.
  6. Depending on the size and weight of the bird, move an inch or so over and repeat this action. Continue until all parts of the bird have been injected.

Tip for a Grid-Like Approach

I know that injecting meat the first time around can be a bit confusing. Here is a tip that you can use to make sure that you get it right:

Start off by placing one injection on the top far right side of the bird. About an inch or so below this one, place another. Repeat this an inch or so below the second injection site.

Do this to the left hand side of the chicken as well. If you want, you can place three similar injections down the middle. Then there you have it – your grid! You can then poke holes along this in an even fashion.

Tip for More Evenly Dispersed Marinade

OK, let’s say that the above method doesn’t really suit you either, there is another easier method.

For this option, you do have to map out where you are going to insert the syringe. Here, however, there will be fewer points of entry. For instance, based on the size of the bird, you may have two to three points on each side and two in the middle.

You may want to start in the middle as it will be easier for you to pinpoint where to add moisture next. So, stick the needle into the flesh and depress. Withdraw and turn the syringe at an angle to the right and stick the injector in the same hole as before. Withdraw it, angle it to the left, and repeat.

Then massage the area to disperse the marinade. Once this is done, repeat this motion at the other spots.

Create a Pre-Made Grid

If you want to be really thorough with what you are doing, tear of a piece of plastic or saran wrap. Place this on top of the bird and draw an outline using a marker on the plastic.

Next, remove the plastic and lay it on the table. Then, mark the points that you would like to inject. After this, place the wrap over the chicken and then inject at the marked spots.

Or, if you have a food marker, you can make the marks directly on the bird.

There is no need for you to be so perfect about this process. At the same time, I am well aware of how much this task can stress people out, particularly the first time around.

Roasted Chicken on a White Plate

User-Friendly Guidelines to Follow

Here are some practical guidelines that can help you out:

Protect Your Eyes and Clothes

As you are still trying to get the hang of it, injecting can be a rather messy business. Inject too close to the surface or pull the needle out too fast and you risk some of the juices squirting in your eye. Ones with salt, acid, or a lot of flavoring can seriously hurt!

This is why I would suggest wearing safety glasses until you are a bit more confident. Yes, this can sound like a hassle but trust me you will end up thanking me later!

Of course, it isn’t just your eyes you have to worry about, your clothes can get pretty messed up too. One option, of course, would be to wear an apron.

Some people prefer to place plastic wrap over the bird and to inject through this to prevent blowback.

Match the Marinade to the Color of the Chicken

As you are aware, you appreciate a dish’s beauty first before ever consuming it. Thus, if you are cooking for guests, you may be concerned about the appearance of your chicken as well.

In this case, it is best to use a marinade that is of a similar color to the chicken meat. You may want to steer clear of anything containing darker ingredients such as soy sauce as this can cause darker areas.

Of course, if you are roasting the chicken or applying a rub prior to smoking it, then you can get away with a darker marinade as these areas will be hidden by the skin or crust.

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Wrapping It Up

So there you have it – a guide to a chicken and turkey injection recipe – more than one of them, in fact! Now that you have the blueprint as well as the proper instructions, there is nothing to stop you. So, go ahead and give these recipes and this method a try today!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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