Injecting chicken with brine is a sure fire way to ensure you have a moist, flavorful piece of chicken every time. When people think of Southern cooking, they usually think of fried chicken. In this recipe, the chicken will be brined in saltwater before it is fried in a seasoned flour. Brining keeps the meat tender and moist while also concentrating the flavor. Aside from being an essential part of fried chicken, brine also makes a delicious stock for use in soups and stews.
At its best, roast chicken can be one of the world’s greatest culinary achievements. Brown, crispy skin covers tender, juicy meat: the combination of flavors and textures is simply amazing. Yet the perfect roast chicken is nearly impossible to achieve in practice. The temperature required to brown and crisp the skin is so high that it leaves the meat underneath scorched and dry. The dark thigh and leg meat similarly need higher heat than is ideal for the white breast meat. Brining the chicken in salt water can help the delicate breast meat retain more juice at higher temperatures, but the brine has the same effect on the skin, which then ends up unpleasantly chewy.
But we have a solution. In Modernist Cuisine at Home, we show you how you can inject brine into your poultry to speed up the process, ensure even brining, and keep the skin dry so that it roasts to a crispy, golden brown.
How to Inject A Whole Chicken [Easy Recipe Included!]
You don’t always have time to brine. I get that. Neither do I. But you still want to smoke or roast that whole chicken. It’s just so good, and you know you need to do something to make it deliciously juicy. You can’t go back to ordinary chicken at this point. So what are you going to do?
You’re going to inject it.
Back in 1999, I was at my boss’ house for a party, and he was frying a turkey for us. I had never tried that before, so I was excited. When I got there, he was injecting the turkey with some sort of happy mixture. Color me intrigued. Well, flash forward 45 minutes and I enjoyed the best turkey of my life.
That got me thinking…couldn’t I inject a chicken before smoking it? Wouldn’t the same result happen? The answer is YES. Injecting a chicken adds flavor that, to this point, you’ve only dreamed about…well…I’ve dreamed about injecting and smoking a chicken…doesn’t everybody? Is that weird?
SO. How do you do it? It’s difficult. You have to be VERY careful. You CANNOT pierce the skin of the chicken. Every hole you put in the skin is a hole precious juices can leak out. Notice in the above picture how the needle is underneath the skin? This is how you inject the breasts. Carefully lift the skin up and push the needle into the meat. Inject away.
The breasts are the most important part to get a ton of injection into. They are the most dry and tasteless. So I usually do at least 2 full injection needles into each breast.
For the legs, same basic theory, but much more difficult to pull off. The skin is tighter around the drummies, so you have to be really careful getting your needle in there and then pushing it into the leg and thigh. You can see how I do it in the above picture. Once you make it past that tight entrance, it’s actually pretty easy to then move the needle around, thus moving the injection into different areas of the leg and thigh.
What to Inject Chicken With?
You can really mix up the flavors when you are injecting a bird. Here is my basic butter and lemon chicken injection below.
Basic Chicken Injection Recipe
1/2 stick melted butter
2 cups apple juice
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs sea salt
The Tony Chachere’s brand of Creole Butter injection is excellent and has the added benefit of coming with a needle and syringe. It’s nice having a new needle/syringe so you can just throw it away instead of trying to get the inside of the needle clean after use.
I have been seeing the Tony’s injection at Walmart so I am hoping you can find it in your part of the country.
Other flavors you could consider include:
- Teriyaki, honey and sesame oil
- Spice it up with hot sauce and butter
- Make it sweet with some honey and maple.
The possibilities are endless and delicious!
So, in summary:
- When you don’t have time to brine your whole chicken, inject it.
- When you inject, be very careful. Do NOT pierce the skin!
- Try different flavors and have fun with it – you will love the results!
Chicken Injection Recipe
This chicken injection recipe is quick to prepare and is a great substitute for brining.
COOK TIME10 mins
TOTAL TIME10 mins
- 1/2 stick butter
- 2 cups apple juice
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- 2 tbs sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Let cool to room temperature before injecting the chicken.
Inject the chicken with as much of this liquid as the bird will hold. Inset the needle directly into the meat and do not puncture the skin of the chicken.
Ideally you will let the chicken rest for at least 30 minutes after injecting to allow the liquid to evenly distribute and give the salt time to start tenderizing the meat.