So why am I talking about massages and hot tubbing? Well, there's an analogy there with tenderizing and brining meats. If you're serious about your BBQ, then you have an obsession about doing everything you can before the cooking process to deliver the most tender, moist, and juicy meat possible.
Many question whether massaging meats has any effect -- especially, if it's just a few minutes. After all, it's not like you're massaging Wagyu cattle over many years to produce fatty and marbleized Kobe beef. With a huge hunk of raw meat, how do you get the flavor inside the meat? You can either use a meat injector or tenderizer. Or, you can use the FlavorKey Culinary Pulser.
The FlavorKey is a device that simultaneously pierces and pulsates meat, and claims to shorten the brining time because, in theory, the meat is more relaxed (remember my story about massages?) and able to retain more juice and flavor from the brine. Normally, brining chicken or turkey takes several hours, depending on the size of the meat. With the FlavorKey, you can brine the meat in significantly less time. So does it really work? I put it to the test.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, I cooked turkey twice (Friendsgiving time) and used the FlavorKey on one turkey -- concentrating mostly on the breast, where the meat can easily dry out. Given it was a 13 pound turkey, I placed it in a brine for one hour. For another turkey of the same size, I brined it overnight for a total of about 12 hours.
I smoked both turkeys for the same amount of time, until the internal temperature of the breast reached 160 degrees F. I let each one rest and the juices re-distribute, then sliced them up for taste testing. I could tell that the turkey meat that brined overnight was noticeably more juicy and flavorful. It didn't seem like the FlavorKey had much of an effect.
I did the same test, but this time on chicken breasts. I used the FlavorKey on some meat, and brined for about 15 minutes. For the other chicken breasts, I brined for 6 hours. I grilled all of the chicken for the same amount of time, and everything turned out juicy and tender -- without any difference in taste or texture.
So can you attribute the juicy and tender meat to the brining, the FlavorKey, or my awesome smoking/grilling skills? My skills, of course! It really depends on the poultry. According to my tests, the FlavorKey works better on chicken vs. turkey. I can also see the FlavorKey being useful for thick-cut pork chop (for a future test). One thing is for sure -- no matter how much massaging and brining is done to the meat, at the end of the day, it's just as simple as not overcooking the meat.