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What is a marinade injector and is it something you need in your kitchen? First, it’s important to understand what a marinade is. It’s a liquid solution in which you soak food (particularly meats) prior to cooking. Why? It adds depth of flavor, plus tenderizes. It’s particularly good for high-heat cooking—like on the grill—to ensure the finished product retains plenty of moisture. A marinade injector is the easiest way to give your food that flavor and moisture boost that really takes your meal to the next level.
You don’t have to be afraid of injecting too much, either—more coverage equals better disbursement of the marinade, says Dave Zier, owner of Zier's Prime Meats in Wilmette, Illinois. It’s also a good idea to let the marinade blossom inside the flesh of whatever you’re working with—beef, pork, or poultry—overnight, at minimum, he says.
Marinade injectors come in different sizes with thick or thin needles (or both) and are made with a variety of materials. How often you use it and what types of meat you're going to be marinating should influence your purchase decision. You'll also want to factor in how easy it is to clean this handy kitchen gadget and how long it will last.
Here are the best marinade injectors for the job.
Best Overall: Cave Tools Stainless Steel Meat Injector Kit
Comes with multiple needles
Must be hand washed
No carrying kit
Made from 304 high-grade stainless steel, this meat injector is meant to go the distance. Despite heavy use, it won’t stain, rust, or retain flavors (great for those who can’t get enough garlic or experiment with lots of different spices!).
With its 2.3-ounce capacity, the main barrel holds plenty, so you won’t have to refill as often when cooking something large—like a Thanksgiving turkey or a pork butt. And because it comes with three marinating needles in different widths and lengths, it’s also very versatile. There’s a 6-inch needle with a solid tip and 12 holes along the length, another 6-inch needle with a wider tip for chunkier marinades (like those with minced onions or garlic in them), and a 3-inch precision needle for thinner cuts of meat.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 2.3 ounces | Dimensions: 9 x 2 x 2 inches
Best with Baster: Norpro Deluxe Stainless Steel Baster with Injector and Cleaning Brush
Comes with an additional needle
Easy to clean
Flimsy on larger cuts
If you prefer to have a streamlined arsenal of cooking gadgets, try this two-in-one tool: a baster/marinade injector combo. It looks like your average turkey baster—the elongated tip with the bulb syringe at the top—but it comes with an attachable needle for injecting liquids into the meat rather than simply squeezing them atop the surface. For occasional use, there’s really not much to complain about. But you should know that you won’t have as much control as you would with a dedicated marinade injector. And, at 1.5 ounces, the capacity is also a bit smaller than some others on the list.
Material: Stainless steel, silicone | Capacity: 1.5 ounces | Dimensions: 11 x 2 x 2 inches
Best Gun: SpitJack Magnum Meat Injector Gun
Includes carrying case and cleaning brushes
Comes with multiple needles
Difficult to assemble and disassemble
Hard to store
Though a simple marinade injector is enough for most amateur cooks, a marinade gun—often used by grill masters in competitions—will take your meal prep to the next level. Why? Marinade guns allow you to inject a very precise amount of marinade at a time but hold up to 50 milliliters to limit the amount of times you need to refill.
This gun is a favorite because it’s easy to operate. Think of it kind of like a caulk gun—you simply set the injection amount with the dial, then gently squeeze. It also comes in a comprehensive kit that includes just about everything you could possibly need: four marinating needles, three cleaning brushes, and a case for storage and easy transport. And, if on the off-chance you lose something, you can buy replacement parts rather than splurge on a whole new gun.
The marinating needles are great for large cuts of meat, since they can penetrate up to 5.5 inches deep. Still, you have options for smaller cuts, too, like the precision needle that has a slanted tip. Have something chunkier? There’s an oversized needle for that, too.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 1.7 ounces
Best Budget: Ofargo Plastic Marinade Injector Kit
Comes with multiple needles
Comes with a cleaning brush
For a quality marinade injector, this home-cook-friendly kit is a bargain. While it is mostly plastic, there’s plenty to love: It holds a decent amount of marinade (about 1 ounce), features easy-to-read measurements, is ergonomically designed for simple one-hand maneuvering, and comes with two sturdy stainless steel injection needles.
The needles themselves are both 3 inches long but differ slightly in the sense that one is made for pure liquids while the other can accommodate marinades with some chunkier components. When not in use, both needles slide into two small holes in the main injection chamber for convenient, safe storage.
Like other models we love, this injector is dishwasher safe for easy and thorough cleaning.
Material: Plastic, stainless steel | Capacity: 1 ounce | Dimensions: 8.7 x 2.8 x 1.2 inches
Best for Turkey: J&B Goods Professional Automatic BBQ Meat Marinade Injector Gun Kit with Case
Comes with carrying case
Comes with multiple needles and cleaning brushes
Five flow settings
Hard to store
When you’re cooking something as large as a Thanksgiving turkey, you’ll need a marinade injector that is big enough for the job, otherwise, you risk not fully penetrating the meat. This heavy-duty stainless steel injector is up for the task since it comes with two extra-long 6-inch needles—a 12-hole version for thinner liquids and a single-hole version for thicker purees. It’s also trigger-style, so you’ll get a better grip when working with big, tough cuts. What’s more, it has five flow settings to help you deliver accurate amounts of marinade every time.
And if you foresee needing a tool for smaller cuts of meat? No problem. This device also comes with two more precise needles for steaks or even kebabs: a 4-inch needle with two holes for liquids and a 3-inch needle with two larger holes for thicker marinades.
With proper storage, this will be your go-to for years to come, as it won't rust or corrode, plus comes with all the cleaning brushes you need to keep it in tip-top shape.
Material: Stainless steel, plastic | Capacity: 2 ounces | Dimensions: 11.18 x 7.32 x 1.73 inches
"For perfectly crispy turkey skin, inject the marinade into the turkey, then place it in the fridge uncovered—this will dry the skin out so that it crisps up while roasting." — Christopher Arturo, Chef-Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education
Best with Measurements: OXO Flavor Injector
Good for beginners
Comes with an extra needle
Hand wash only
This marinade injector is a solid option for novices, thanks to easy-to-read measurements that guide you as you dispense up to 2 ounces, making you feel more in control of the process. It also has an ergonomic handle that makes one-handed operation more smooth. There’s no excess here, either—the kit comes with just two needles, one for thick marinades and another for thinner liquids.
While it’s not stainless, it’s made of durable BPA-free plastic that should afford you a number of years of use. Though it’s not dishwasher safe, the whole thing comes apart easily, so you can soak it in warm, soapy water for a thorough clean.
Material: BPA-free plastic, silicone | Capacity: 2 ounces | Dimensions: 3.25 x 7.5 inches
Best Outdoor: JY COOKMENT Meat Injector Syringe
Stands up to high heat
Comes with multiple needles
No carrying case
Harder to store
When you’re cooking outdoors, having durable tools is an absolute necessity, and this heavy-duty 304 stainless steel marinade injector fits the bill. It stands up to high heat—like the temps you’ll get from grills. Plus, it holds up to 2 ounces of marinade (fewer refills!) and is resistant to dings, dents, rust, and corrosion. The set comes with everything you need for both larger and smaller cuts, including three needles: a 6-inch angled needle for chunkier marinades, a 6-inch 12-hole needle for thin liquids, and a 3-inch needle for fillets and precision injecting. And when it comes to cleanup, convenience is the name of the game here. Each and every part is entirely dishwasher safe.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 2 ounces | Dimensions: 12.2 x 3.1 x 1.6 inches
Best for Minced Marinades: Bayou Classic Stainless-Steel Seasoning Injector
Easy to use
Comes with an extra needle
No cleaning brushes or carrying case
If you can’t pass up a marinade with plenty of flavor from minced garlic, onions, or veggies, you’ll need a marinade injector that can handle thicker liquids. Make sure whatever tool you choose comes with a needle with a wider construction that won’t clog like this one. The stainless steel injector comes with that thicker needle but also a smaller one for those times when you’re using a pure liquid marinade. The barrel is large enough for those thicker liquids, too, as it accommodates up to 2 ounces.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 2 ounces | Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 2 inches
If you want the all-around best marinade injector, try the Cave Tools Stainless Steel Marinade Injector (view at Amazon). It can hold more than 2 ounces of marinade, comes with three types of needles, and is made of high-grade stainless steel that doesn’t stain or rust. If you’re looking for something more affordable, consider the Ofargo Plastic Marinade Injector Kit (view at Amazon). It’s a quality injector—perfect for the average home cook.
What to Look for in a Marinade Injector
Marinade injectors are made of a variety of materials, including plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel. Consider what you’ll be using yours for most often. If you’re only looking for an occasional-use marinade injector for something like Thanksgiving, a plastic or aluminum one should serve you just fine. If you’re looking for something to see you through weekly barbecue marathons or even competition cooking, you’ll want something much sturdier, like stainless steel.
Large-capacity marinade injectors are great if you regularly work with very large cuts of meats, as you’ll do less fumbling to refill. But there’s one big downside: These are typically harder to clean and store. If you work with smaller family-size cuts, a smaller capacity marinade injector is likely large enough—and will be easier to clean and store in the long run.
Though many marinade injectors come with both thick and thin needles, this is something to pay attention to. For the most versatility, you’ll definitely want both. Thick needles are used for marinades with small chunks of food, like garlic and herbs; thin needles are used for thinner fully liquid marinades.
Care and Cleaning
Because marinade injectors are used on raw meat, thorough cleanings between uses are key. That said, many marinade injectors have small tubes and needles that are inherently difficult to clean. Look for a product that can be easily disassembled for cleaning. Many also come with cleaning brushes that can help you reach all of the nooks and crannies.
How do you use a marinade injector?
A marinade injector is a great way to infuse deep flavor into larger cuts of meats, like turkey or pork. The syringe-like tool is easy to use. Choose which needle to use: The small one is for liquid marinades; the larger for marinades that contain small chunks like garlic and herbs. Then, fill the barrel of the injector with your marinade by putting the tip in the marinade and pulling the plunger back. Now, it’s time to insert the needle. For long, thinner cuts of meat, inject the marinade horizontally; for larger, rounder cuts of meat, inject all throughout, avoiding bones.
What types of meat can be used with a marinade injector?
A meat injector is a great tool for any large cut of meat, but particularly ones that have a tendency to dry out during cooking—think poultry like chicken and turkey. You can also use a meat injector for other naturally lean cuts of meat like pork loin.
How do you clean a marinade injector?
Some marinade injectors are dishwasher safe and some come with brushes to help you get into the nooks and crannies. Either way, the best way to ensure your marinade injector is clean is to sterilize it by boiling it before and after each use, says Chef Arturo.
Turkey Marinade Recipe
Here’s a great turkey marinade recipe, courtesy of Christopher Arturo, Chef-Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education.
1) Bring the following ingredients to a boil in a large pot:
- 70 grams salt
- 30 grams honey
- 100 grams grated ginger
- 15 grams ground black pepper
- 100 milliliters bourbon
- 5 grams red pepper flakes
2) Once at a boil, turn off the heat, and let it steep for an hour.
3) then strain the mixture, chill it, and inject it into the turkey.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This roundup was written by Brigitt Earley, who has written and edited hundreds of articles in the food space for various publications over the course of the last 10 years. Brigitt attended the French Culinary Institute in NYC. She also interviewed Dave Zier, owner of Zier's Prime Meats in Wilmette, Illinois, and Christopher Arturo, Chef-Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, for additional research for this roundup.