Pack some flavour into the bar­be­cue

The Timaru Herald - - FOOD - THOMAS HEATON

In­ject­ing flavour, lit­er­ally, might be the best way to stop your meat from tast­ing like an old boot.

Brines, spritzes and in­jec­tions are all pro­fes­sional tech­niques in­creas­ingly adopted by am­bi­tious am­a­teur bar­be­cuers look­ing to op­ti­mise their meats’ flavours.

They work es­pe­cially well with big cuts of meat, such as whole chicken, briskets and pork shoul­ders, which can have a ten­dency to over­cook or dry out if not looked af­ter.

Tuffy Stone, a multi-award­win­ning pit mas­ter from Vir­ginia – in New Zealand for the bar­be­cue fes­ti­val Meat­stock – says it’s all about re­tain­ing mois­ture and putting ex­tra mois­ture in.

That’s where in­jec­tions come in to play.

With wide-mouthed sy­ringes filled with sauces and mari­nades – many of which can be bought in store – it’s sim­ply a case of jab­bing the meat and press­ing the mix­ture deep between mus­cle fi­bres.

It’s a par­tic­u­larly com­mon prac­tice in com­pe­ti­tion bar­be­cue, Stone says.

‘‘Most peo­ple who try brisket the first time, they un­der­cook it and dry it out.

‘‘In­jec­tions are just a great way – es­pe­cially with big masses of meat like brisket and pork shoul­der – to get some flavour deep in­side that mus­cle.

‘‘Think about it: they’ve been cook­ing meat for hours and hours.’’

The ben­e­fits are two-fold – flavour and mois­ture – and have sim­i­lar ef­fects to brin­ing and bast­ing.

Matt Greig, a Hamil­ton chef and part of the Bot­toms Up Bar­be­cue team, in­jects his beef cheeks with the juices left­over from pre­vi­ous cooks, with some added but­ter and gas­trique (a sweet and sour re­duc­tion of sugar and vine­gar).

Us­ing a spritz is a good idea to keep meat moist too – us­ing a spray bot­tle filled with liq­uid, which might have a sim­i­lar ef­fect to brais­ing in the oven.

Stone says it does the same as in­jec­tions, keep­ing meat moist, but does it from the out­side. He typ­i­cally uses a good qual­ity ap­ple juice, while some use ap­ple cider vine­gar.

Smoke is at­tracted to mois­ture, so there is no real risk of the meat go­ing soggy, and the crust is main­tained.

But low and slow bar­be­cued meats can also ben­e­fit from sit­ting in a brine mix­ture, a com­bi­na­tion of salt and wa­ter and some­times sugar.

‘‘You’re still achiev­ing the same thing: bring­ing in some good taste.’’

Between 24 and 48 hours is how long Stone likes to brine his chicken. He uses a mix of herbs, salt and wa­ter, and re­moves the herbs for two hours at the end.

The brine per­me­ates the meat, adding the mois­ture and flavour, which makes it more ten­der at the end of the cook­ing process.

Brisket can hard to cook, but when it’s done well it’s per­fect.

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