Brine injectors also known as a pickle injectors come in many shapes and sizes. In their simplest form they resemble a large syringe operated by hand to add a brine or marinade solution to many protein products such as fish, meat and poultry. However for the purpose of this article we will concentrate on industrial brine injection machines. These machines do the same job as the simple syringe type injectors but with far greater throughput and automation. The majority of these machines transport the product through the machine using either a walking beam system or some type of conveyor belt system. While the product moves through the machine it passes under a moving head assembly that incorporates anywhere from a few injection needles to hundreds of injection needles. These needles penetrate the product and inject brine, supplied from a brine tank or other brine system, into the product. The amount of brine that enters the product is controlled via brine pressure and the speed the product is being fed through the machine. Once the brine is injected into the product the product will exit the machine and be further processed or packaged.
Now that you understand the basics of what a brine injector does and how it accomplishes the task let take a look at the purpose behind this type of food processing operation. We all know that when most meat or poultry products are cooked they lose some of their un-cooked weight and can dry out thus leaving you with a less than desirable eating experience. Therefore one of the primary purposes of injecting a brine into any protein product is to add to the pre-cooked weight and have that weight gain in the form of a liquid. Some proteins are injected with simple saline solutions resulting in the gains mentioned above while other products may be injected with flavored brine solutions that also add taste to the product as well as the pre-cooked weight and moisture thus creating a value added product that can sell for a premium price. For the consumer the fact that the finished product when cooked will yield more consumable product and be much less dried out as well as the added flavor, if a flavored brine was used, is the advantage that the consumer will receive from a protein product that underwent a brine injection process. The processor on the other hand will benefit in both profitability and reputation for superior products. Profitability is enhanced due to the fact that most protein products are sold by un-cooked weight and the brine injection process will add to un-cooked weight. Even if a very low pickup of say 10% is achieved in the un-cooked weight that would mean a 10 pound piece of protein would become 11 pounds after the injection process and the consumer will pay for 11 pounds at the price being charged for that product even though the 1 extra pound was achieved by adding brine weighing one pound to the product and that brine was most likely less costly that the product itself.
The bottom line is that whether you are planning on using a simple syringe injector to inject a brine into the next roast you prepare at home or buy a product that has undergone an industrial brine injection process you are getting a product that will come out both more moist and tender after cooking and taste better as well, if a flavored brine mixture was used, and ultimately give you and your guests a better eating experience well worth the slight extra cost.