Pack some flavour into the barbecue
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.
"Injections are just a great way ... to get some flavour deep inside that muscle." Tuffy Stone
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.
There were some serious barbecuing skills on display at last year’s innaugural Meatstock festival in Auckland.
Brisket can hard to cook, but when it’s done well it’s perfect.