The Best Butter Injected Chicken
When cooked correctly, chicken can be one of the tastiest meats around, packed full of protein and flavor. Cooked wrong? You get cardboard. There's nothing worse than overcooked, dried out chicken. You know the kind – stringy, bland, and has to be smothered in sauce to be edible.
Well, I've found one foolproof way of cooking tender, juicy chicken every time. I'm talking about butter injected chicken. Injecting the meat is a no-wait and no-waste method of tenderizing, adding moisture, and packing your meat full of flavor.
Think of it like marinating from the inside out. Rubs, marinades, and glazes either sit on the surface or barely penetrate the meat, but with a flavor injector, you can have flavor packed food with simply the push of a plunger. Once you try this simple recipe, you'll wonder why you haven't been making butter injected chicken your whole life.
Here's what you are going to need:
- 2 to 4 whole chickens
- Your favorite dry rub
You can buy plenty of premade dry rubs for chicken, but I prefer to make my own. My dry rub usually contains a mixture of brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, powdered garlic, and powdered onion. Amounts are all to-taste, depending on your preferences. If you also have some hickory smoke powder, now is a great time to use it.
- Flavor injector (looks like an oversized hypodermic needle)
- Mixing bowl
- Spray bottle
- Meat thermometer
And for our butter sauce you are going to need:
- 1 stick of butter (melted)
- ¼ cup apple juice
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
Step 1 – Prep your bird
You might be inclined to start by rinsing your chickens, but I'm going to caution against it. Sounds crazy, right? But the USDA actually advises against this common practice because of how easily washing the surface of the poultry can cause bacteria to spread to everything nearby.
We're going to cook these birds enough that any bacteria present will be destroyed, but I will let you use your best judgement for what you feel most comfortable doing in regards to washing. You are definitely going to want to cut off all the excessive skin or fatty tissue to improve the texture and taste. Pat your chickens dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.
Step 2 – Make butter sauce
In your mixing bowl, thoroughly combine melted butter, apple juice, brown sugar, and garlic powder to make the butter sauce. Keep a little extra brown sugar and apple juice handy – you'll see why later! Insert the flavor injector into the sauce making sure the perforations are completely submerged (Some flavor injector needles are closed on the end and have the hole on the side of the needle.). Pull back the plunger and fill the injector with the sauce.
Step 3 – Injecting the chicken
Insert the needle into the drumsticks and wings and slowly push it into the opposite side, careful not to breach the skin. Inject the sauce slowly until you start to feel pressure pushing back. As you withdraw the needle, slowly inject more sauce to allow for even distribution of the flavors.
You don't want to go too fast or the built up pressure will cause the sauce to squirt out at you. Using the same method, inject the chicken breasts in several locations across the breast.
PRO TIP - You can minimize the number of holes you make in the meat by using the same entry hole but angling the needle two or three different directions. Have extra sauce left over? Go ahead and rub it all over the chicken. This will help your dry rub to stick to the skin.
Step 4 - Apply your dry rub
Season both sides of each chicken with your dry rub. Add as much (or as little!) as you like, to taste. Then, sprinkle on some of that extra brown sugar I mentioned earlier and massage it into the skin to give it a crisp and delicious flavor. You can learn this easy recipe for the absolute best chicken rub for smoking.
Here’s a quick video on how to use a BBQ dry rub for chicken:
Step 5 - Time to cook
There's nothing better than smoked meat - so we are going to stick these birds on the grate and smoke at about 230 degrees. It’s always good to brush up on your smoking technique, for example with this quick and easy smoking guide.
Once they have cooked for about 45 minutes, put some of the extra apple juice in a spray bottle and mist the chickens one time to keep them moist during the smoking process. Cooking times will vary while smoking, so you are going to need to rely on your meat thermometer here.
You are going to want to keep them cooking low and slow until you reach an internal temperature of 175 degrees. Insert your meat thermometer into the breast meat for the most accurate temperature reading. Once they have finished cooking, remove the chickens from the smoker and allow the birds to rest for a few minutes. Carve and enjoy!
PRO TIP - If you want to keep the apple juice flavor subtle, dilute the juice with water. You can also dilute with your favorite bourbon or rum for an extra zing! There are a lot of different options for sprays to moisturize your meats while smoking - soda, vinegar, fruit juices, and more - so feel free to experiment with different flavors!
PRO TIP - Looking for crisper skin? Once the chickens have reached an internal temperature of about 160 degrees, turn your smoker up to 375 degrees. The meat will remain tender and juicy, and the skin will be dark and crisp. Remove from the smoker when the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees.
This is my favorite way of preparing a whole chicken, and I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I do. Friends and family are always impressed with how the skin can be so crisp and delicious while the meat remains tender and juicy, and I'm happy to share my secret weapon - the flavor injector.
When I first started using a flavor injector, I wanted to try it with every kind of meat and marinade, so I encourage you to try new combinations and let me know what works best for you.
You really can't go wrong! If you enjoyed this little tutorial, be sure to leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you think! Remember - friends don't let friends eat dry chicken, so share this with your friends so they too can learn how to make the best butter injected chicken.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does a Meat Injector Work?
A meat injector is an easy way to tenderize and add moisture to meat. The injector has a syringe which is used to inject foods with marinades, sauces, or brines. This marinates the meat from the inside, infusing the flavors into every fiber of the meat, not just the outside.
How Do You Inject a Chicken?
To inject a chicken, insert the needle into the meaty parts of the chicken. Avoid piercing the skin whenever possible, finding areas that access the meat around the skin. For example, there is a gap of skin in between the breast meat. There is also easy access at the bottom of the legs where the feet were. Place the tip of the syringe into the meat and inject small amounts of the marinade into the meat until you can feel the muscles swell.
Do You Need to Rinse Chicken Before Cooking It?
Many people believe that washing raw chicken is a safe way to prevent food-borne illness. In fact, it is not necessary and the USDA advises against this practice. Washing raw chicken can cause bacteria to spread nearby areas via splashing water. Any water you would use to rinse the chicken would not be hot enough to kill any surface bacteria, anyway.
How Long do You Smoke Chicken?
Chicken is unsafe to eat at temperatures below 165 degrees F, so using a meat thermometer is especially recommended. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh meat. If you are smoking a whole chicken at 230 degrees, the meat should be done in about 90 minutes.
How Do You Get Crispy Skin on a Roast Chicken?
The best way to get crispy skinned chicken is to cook the chicken on a low temperature until it reaches 150 degrees. Then, increase the heat to 375-400 degrees and cook for the remaining 15 degrees. This will crisp up the skin without overcooking the meat.