How to Inject Marinades Directly Into a Turkey

Inject marinades directly into a turkey for maximum flavor

Organic Turkey
Organic Turkey. Getty Images

Seasoning rubs are perfect for adding flavor to the turkey's skin and the upper layer of meat, but wouldn't it be great if there was a way to get these flavors into the thickest parts of the bird? Well, luckily, there is—with a meat injector and injection sauces. Sauces, rubs, and marinades can only go so far, but an injection gets right to the center of the meat.

The Necessary Tool

In order to reach the deepest parts of the turkey, you need a special tool called a meat injector.

A meat injector is basically a hypodermic needle with a large gauge needle. Use this syringe to place small amounts (about two teaspoons per location) of sauces into thick parts of any meat before cooking. Whether grilling, smoking, frying, or roasting a turkey, this is the best way to get extra moisture and flavor into the deepest parts of the meat (a good strategy with turkey since the breast meat is so thick). Whereas applied flavorings, like rubs or marinades, will only flavor the surface, the injection will get deep into the meat and distribute as it cooks.

The Injection Sauce

To make the process of injecting work, and to get the most from your injection sauce, start with a liquid that doesn't contain anything that might clog up the needle. Avoid flaky herbs, crushed garlic, or anything else that might have a tough time getting through the hole. Ingredients to use are seasoned oils, vinegar, finely crushed spices, wines, or beers.

As long as it will fit through the needle it will work.

You also do not want to overpower the flavor of the turkey. You might be tempted to add a lot of hot sauces or cayenne, but you may end up with a turkey too spicy to eat. Go with subtle and mild flavors, or use stronger flavors in small amounts.

Remember, you want to enhance the flavor of your turkey, not cover it up. Browse some more of our favorite turkey injections here.

The Injection Strategy

It is important that you make sure to spread out your injection pattern. You want to get small amounts of the solution into as many places as possible (think about making 40 injections instead of four). Also, aim the needle toward the middle of the meat, meaning don't push the needle in so far that you are close to coming out the other side. If you overshoot, the sauce will just slip through to the opposite side of the meat. However, if you don't insert the needle far enough, it will seep out the hole you just created. 

The Combination of Flavoring Methods

If you follow a few simple rules, you can combine more than one flavoring technique—like using a rub along with an injection or brining the bird first and then injecting with a marinade. Just make sure your injection marinade matches all the flavors being used on the turkey. For instance, if you are using a rub on the surface for the turkey, use that same rub in the injection. Brined turkeys can be injected as long as there is no salt in the injection sauce since brining adds all the salt that a turkey will need—using additional salt in the injection will oversalt the meat and make it undesirable.