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Flavorful Turkey Injection Recipes from Chef Melissa Cookston

"It’s almost turkey time! Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means lots of people think of those dry turkeys they’ve had to endure in the past and how to fix it for this year. If you are in that group, might I suggest injecting your turkey with a flavorful marinade to help with moisture and flavor. Everybody needs options, so I wanted to give you some of my different turkey injection recipes." -Melissa Cookston

Brining vs. Injecting

The first thing people will say is, “you should brine your turkey.” Yes, brining has many adherents, but I’m not usually one of them. I have always preferred injecting to deliver added moisture and flavor for a few reasons. First, brining a turkey requires a good bit of refrigerated space, generally for a couple of days. Space in the fridge is generally in short supply around the holidays. Secondly, brining has its drawbacks in terms of how it affects (for me at least) the skin and texture of the turkey. Maybe I’ve just not been doing it right, but I’ve just never been a huge fan. I have published brined turkey recipes that were quite good, I thought, but overall, I just prefer injecting a turkey.

Injecting a Turkey

When you are going to inject, you can do it right before cooking. You can also put in a different flavor profile than you can when you brine. Also, I’ve had some brined turkeys that were just too salty, and you won’t run the risk of that by injecting.

You’re going to need an injector obviously. If this is a once-a-year thing for you, then grab an injector from the grocery store for a couple of dollars. They will suffice to get through one turkey a year. If you cook and BBQ more often through the year, you’ll want to invest in a better injector. I have a heavy-duty injector that will make short work of turkeys, pork butts, whole hogs, etc.

When you inject the turkey, try not to go through the skin too often. I usually work around the skin of the breast as much as possible. If I do go through the skin, I will use it multiple times by injecting through that spot multiple times (at different angles.)

Turkey Injection Recipes

I’m attaching some recipes below to help you get started. As you see, you’ll only be limited by your imagination when you inject, so if you want to add some different flavors, knock yourself out. The only caution is making sure you don’t have too large of particles in your injection recipe, or you might clog your needle. These recipes also work great with any poultry, so don’t just save them for Thanksgiving!

Recipe #1


- 1 cup chicken stock

- 1/2 cup maple syrup

- 1 teaspoon kosher salt

- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

- 1 teaspoon soy sauce

- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

- 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring it to almost a boil while whisking. Allow to cool before use.

Recipe #2


- 1/2 cup butter

- 1 cup chicken stock

- Juice from 1/2 a lemon

- 1 teaspoon dried sage

- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

In a saucepan, heat all ingredients until butter is melted and spices are incorporated. All to cool down. Before it thickens too much, inject poultry in thighs, legs, breasts, and along the breastbone. Allow to sit for one hour before cooking.

Recipe #3


- 1/2 cup lemon juice

- 1/2 cup liquid crab boil

- 1/2 cup butter

- 1 cup chicken stock

- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

- 1/2 cup olive oil

- 1 teaspoon garlic powder

- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until butter is melted and spices are incorporated. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature (it should still be liquid.)

Inject turkey and place in a pan in fridge for 1 hour before cooking. This will allow injection to spread through the meat

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