Do You Like to Shoot Up?

Is injecting a great technique–or a nasty habit?

My traditionalist barbecue friends think injecting a pork shoulder or whole hog with brine or flavorings is heresy. The pitmasters of yesteryear certainly didn’t do it. But injecting is standard procedure on the barbecue cook-off circuit. Most competitors, like Chris Lily and Myron Mixon, use an apple juice-based injection. I have cooked up a lot of crazy injection brines including a Dublin Dr Pepper concoction.

When we prepare a whole hog at Foodways Texas BBQ Summer Camp at the Texas A&M Meat Science Department, we inject it with a sweetened brine. The salt helps the meat retain moisture. Myron Mixon uses MSG in his whole hog injection. Other competitors use nitrates, nitrites and similiar cures as well. That’s where I draw the line. No chemicals in my barbecue please.

You better not be opposed to injecting if you buy your pork and chicken at the grocery store. The enchanced meats in the supermarket are injected with salt, antioxidants, phosphate, water, and or other flavoring before we buy them. (The added water makes it more profitable.) You have to go to Sam’s or Costco to find meat that isn’t enhanced. That’s where barbecue cook-off competitors shop because the rules don’t allow enhanced meats in the competition.

So is injecting cheating? What do you think?

9 thoughts on “Do You Like to Shoot Up?

  1. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    Cheating might be too strong of a word but I’ve just never seen the need. I will say I’m glad to hear that about Costco; I buy all of my meat there except for the pork belly I use for making bacon. I’ve seen the meats at Walmart that I rush buy to pick up some half and half and you can tell they are slick and watery and I just say, ‘Ewwww.’

  2. extramsg

    Wait, you can put Dr. Pepper in your meat, but not chemicals? I think that’s impossible.


  3. extramsg

    btw, the water and salt solutions in most commercial meats isn’t to make them more profitable so much as to make them cook up juicier. That’s why they’re so prevalent in pork and poultry. They’re pre-brined. If it was to take our money, then you’d find them in all meats equally.

  4. robbwalsh Post author

    The salt solution does indeed make the meat juicier when cooked–it also adds up to 15 percent in weight to the product increasing profits. Beef is seldom injected, but just about all the pork and chicken is.

  5. Jim

    My issue against enhanced is not so much money wasted because enhanced is cheaper per pound which takes away most of the difference the water adds. The issue is I want to control when and how much salt I add. For many things such as broth, I don’t want to brine or salt the chicken at all.

  6. Jim

    At least for chicken I use HEB which has plenty of non-enhanced. In fact when I checked Sam’s they only had enhanced or a ridiculously high percentage of water retained. They’re either injecting water or doing something weird in processing to have so much more retained water than the non-enhanced such as Sanderson Farms at HEB.

  7. nmissc

    I don’t inject either whole hog or pork shoulders. It seems completely unnecessary. I’ve never had a problem with pork drying out while being barbecued.

    I try to get my pork from a local provider (usually am able to do so) who sells them completely dry. I’m particularly repulsed by wet brined chicken and avoid it. Why do I want that slimy salt water in my food?

    Does Big Bob Gibson’s barbecue place (which is filled with Lily’s trophies) brine their pork? I sort of doubt it.

  8. robbwalsh Post author

    nmissc- The recipe for pork shoulder in Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Cookbook authored by Chris Lily does indeed include an an injection. I doubt the restaurant uses injections in the many pork shoulders they cook, but it is certainly part of Chris Lily’s methodology for winning those trophies that clutter up the place.

  9. dglloyd

    I purchase non-enhanced meats for all of my cooking adventures. This gives me the option of enhancing to my own specifications if I choose to do so. And sometimes I choose to do so. When I enhance by injection, I use the liquid from my mop sauce, or a thinned version of the finish glaze, or something to that effect. The idea is to make the flavor of the inside reflect (not overpower) the flavor of the outside. Is it cheating to make it taste good? Or is it not cheating if it taste bad? Hmmm… I can’t recall a single time when I preferred something that tasted bad.

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