Liquid smoke: What Does it Taste Like and is it Safe?
Liquid smoke is a liquid condensate of wood smoke used to impart a smoky flavor to foods. It’s used in barbecue sauce, stews, and other dishes. It’s made by burning wood in a smoker, capturing the smoke in water, and then condensing the water into a liquid form.
It’s a great way to add smoky flavor to your dishes without having to use real wood smoke. But how does it work? Let’s dive a little deeper into this smoky liquid.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Discover the Smoky Secret: What Actually Is Liquid Smoke?
- 2 What’s the Flavor of Liquid Smoke?
- 3 Ways to Employ Liquid Smoke in Your Cooking
- 4 Get Smoky: How to Add Liquid Smoke to Your Dishes
- 5 Where to Get Your Hands on Liquid Smoke
- 6 Is Liquid Smoke Harmful to Your Health?
- 7 Conclusion
Discover the Smoky Secret: What Actually Is Liquid Smoke?
Liquid smoke is a natural product that is produced by burning wood and capturing the smoke in water. This smoky water is then condensed and filtered to create a concentrated liquid that is used to add a smoky flavor to food.
The Compounds: What Does Liquid Smoke Contain?
Liquid smoke contains a variety of compounds that give it its smoky flavor, including:
- Guaiacol: This compound is responsible for the smoky aroma and flavor of liquid smoke.
- Syringol: This compound gives liquid smoke its spicy, smoky flavor.
- Cresols: These compounds contribute to the smoky flavor of liquid smoke and can vary depending on the type of wood used.
The Forms: What Are the Different Forms of Liquid Smoke?
Liquid smoke is available in a variety of forms, including:
- Straight liquid smoke: This is the most common form of liquid smoke and is simply the concentrated liquid that is produced during the smoking process.
- Powdered liquid smoke: This form of liquid smoke is produced by mixing the concentrated liquid with a carrier, such as maltodextrin or corn syrup solids, and then drying the mixture to create a powder.
- Mixes: Some brands offer liquid smoke mixes that are designed to mimic the flavor of specific types of wood, such as hickory or mesquite.
The Brands: What Are Some of the Most Popular Liquid Smoke Brands?
There are hundreds of liquid smoke brands available, each with its own unique flavor profile and quality. Some of the most widely available and popular brands include:
- Wright’s Liquid Smoke
- Colgin Liquid Smoke
- Stubb’s Liquid Smoke
- Lazy Kettle Liquid Smoke
- Red Arrow Liquid Smoke
What’s the Flavor of Liquid Smoke?
The most noticeable flavor in liquid smoke is, of course, smokiness. It’s what makes it such a popular ingredient in barbecue dishes. But there’s more to it than just smoke. Liquid smoke is made by burning wood and capturing the smoke that’s produced. As a result, it carries a distinct woodsy flavor that adds depth to any dish it’s used in.
Works with Different Foods
Liquid smoke can be used with a variety of foods, not just meat. It’s a versatile ingredient that can add a smoky flavor to everything from vegetables to tofu. The type of liquid smoke you use can also affect the flavor. Some brands offer different products that are specifically designed to work with certain types of dishes.
Powerful and Long-Lasting
A little bit of liquid smoke goes a long way. It’s a powerful ingredient that can quickly build up in a dish if you’re not careful. But that’s also one of the benefits of using it. Because it’s so potent, you’re able to add a lot of flavor with just a small amount of liquid smoke. Plus, because it’s a liquid, it’s easy to mix in with other ingredients.
Stored for a Longer Time
Liquid smoke is also a great ingredient to have on hand because it can be stored for a long time. Because it’s a concentrated product, it doesn’t go bad as quickly as other ingredients. This means you can keep a bottle of liquid smoke in your pantry and use it whenever you want to add a smoky flavor to a dish.
It’s worth noting that liquid smoke contains compounds that are also found in natural smoke. These compounds have been known to cause cancer in large amounts. However, the amount of these compounds in liquid smoke is very small, and the product is generally considered safe to use. If you’re concerned about the health effects of liquid smoke, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor.
Point to Remember
To sum it up, liquid smoke is a fine ingredient that offers a lot of benefits when it comes to adding a smoky flavor to your dishes. It’s easy to use, long-lasting, and works with a variety of different foods. Just remember to use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way. And if you’re looking for a specific type of liquid smoke, be sure to check out different brands and products to find the one that works best for you.
Ways to Employ Liquid Smoke in Your Cooking
Liquid smoke is a great way to add a smoky flavor to your dishes without having to go through the actual smoking process. Here are some ways to use it:
- Add a few drops to your marinade or sauce to give it a smoky flavor.
- Brush it onto meats like pork or beef before grilling or roasting for a smoky taste.
- Add a little to your deli meats to impart a smoky flavor.
- Mix it into your burger patties for a smoky taste.
- Use it to flavor your bacon or add it to your breakfast sausage for a smoky breakfast.
Substitute for Actual Smoking
If you don’t have access to a smoker or don’t have the time to smoke your meats, liquid smoke is a great shortcut ingredient. Here are some ways to use it:
- Use it as a substitute for smoking in your barbecue sauce or rub.
- Add it to your chili or stew for a smoky taste.
- Mix it into your baked beans for a smoky flavor.
- Brush it onto your chicken wings before baking for a smoky taste.
Filtered and Flavored
Liquid smoke is generally sold in two forms: natural and flavored. Here are some things to keep in mind when buying liquid smoke:
- Natural liquid smoke is made by burning wood and capturing the smoke in water. Flavored liquid smoke is made by adding extra flavors like hickory or mesquite to the natural liquid smoke.
- Filtered liquid smoke is a safer option as it removes any impurities from the smoke. Unfiltered liquid smoke may contain some of the harmful chemicals found in smoke.
- Quality varies among brands, so it’s best to read reviews and do some research before buying.
- Some common brands of liquid smoke include Wright’s, Colgin, and Stubb’s.
Fast and Easy
Liquid smoke offers a fast and easy way to add a smoky flavor to your dishes. Here are some things to keep in mind when using liquid smoke:
- A little goes a long way, so start with a small amount and add more if needed.
- It’s a good idea to use it in conjunction with other smoky ingredients like smoked paprika or chipotle peppers for a more complex flavor.
- It’s a great way to add a smoky flavor to vegetarian or vegan dishes.
- It’s a common ingredient in prepared foods like barbecue sauce, jerky, and bacon.
Having Fun with Liquid Smoke
Liquid smoke is a versatile product that can be used in a variety of ways. Here are some fun ways to use it:
- Add a few drops to your hot sauce for a smoky kick.
- Mix it into your mac and cheese for a smoky twist.
- Use it to make a smoky vinaigrette for your salads.
- Brush it onto your pizza crust for a smoky flavor.
- Use it to make a smoky cocktail.
Learn the Process of Making Liquid Smoke
Liquid smoke is made by burning wood and capturing the smoke in water. Here are some things to keep in mind when learning about the process:
- Manufacturers use different kinds of wood to make liquid smoke, which can affect the flavor.
- The process of making liquid smoke varies among manufacturers, so the quality and flavor can differ.
- Some manufacturers use a large piece of wood to burn, while others use sawdust or wood chips.
- Some manufacturers filter the smoke to remove impurities, while others don’t.
Get Smoky: How to Add Liquid Smoke to Your Dishes
When it comes to choosing a liquid smoke, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some brands contain additional ingredients like molasses or vinegar, while others are more straightforward. It’s worth checking the label to see what the product contains and to compare brands to find one that offers the flavor profile you’re looking for.
Adding Liquid Smoke to Your Recipe
Once you’ve chosen your liquid smoke, it’s time to start cooking. Here are a few tips for adding liquid smoke to your dishes:
- Liquid smoke is a concentrated flavor, so a little goes a long way. Start with a small amount and add more as needed.
- Liquid smoke can be added to a variety of dishes, including meat, sauces, and even vegetarian protein sources like tofu or tempeh.
- When adding liquid smoke to a recipe, it’s best to mix it with other ingredients first to ensure even distribution. For example, you might mix it with a sauce or marinade before pouring it over meat.
- If you’re using an electric smoker, you can also add liquid smoke to the water pan to infuse your meat with smoky flavor.
Creating Your Own Smoky Sauce
Liquid smoke can also be used to create a smoky sauce that can be used as a condiment or marinade. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:
- Mix 1 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons liquid smoke, and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
- Whisk the ingredients together until well combined.
- Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Pour the sauce into a jar or bottle and store in the fridge until ready to use.
Is Liquid Smoke Worth It?
Liquid smoke is a great way to add smoky flavor to your dishes without the hassle of using a smoker or outdoor grill. While it’s not considered a “natural” ingredient, it offers a convenient way to achieve a smoky flavor in a short amount of time. For beginners, liquid smoke is a good way to experiment with smoky flavors and to get a feel for how much to use. Overall, if you’re looking to add a unique and delicious flavor to your dishes, liquid smoke is definitely worth trying out.
Where to Get Your Hands on Liquid Smoke
If you’re the type of person who loves to go shopping, then you’ll be happy to know that liquid smoke is widely available in most grocery stores. Here are some places you can check out:
- Walmart: You can find liquid smoke in the condiment aisle of your local Walmart. They carry multiple brands, including Colgin and Lazy Kettle.
- Kroger: Kroger is another major supermarket chain that carries liquid smoke. You can find it in the same aisle as barbecue sauce and marinade.
- Publix: If you’re in the Southeast, you can head to Publix to pick up some liquid smoke. They carry Colgin and other related brands.
- Vons: Shoppers on the West Coast can find liquid smoke at Vons. It’s usually in the same section as barbecue sauce and marinade.
- Haddon House: If you’re looking for a natural liquid smoke option, Haddon House carries a variety of brands that use natural ingredients.
If you’re not a fan of going to the store or just want to save some time, you can always buy liquid smoke online. Here are some options:
- Amazon: You can find plenty of liquid smoke options on Amazon. Just click the link and choose the brand that suits your recipe.
- Colgin: If you love Colgin liquid smoke, you can buy it in bulk on their website.
- Lazy Kettle: Lazy Kettle also sells their liquid smoke online.
- Store Locator: Most liquid smoke brands have a store locator on their website. Just type in your zip code and find the nearest store that carries their product.
Vegan and Vegetarian Options
Liquid smoke is a vital ingredient for making vegan and vegetarian dishes taste like the real thing. Here are some ways you can use it:
- Veggie “Bacon”: Liquid smoke can turn carrots, eggplant, and tempeh into delicious mock bacon.
- Umami Boost: Add a little liquid smoke to your vegetable marinade for an umami boost.
- Lox Substitute: Liquid smoke and lime juice can turn carrots into a delicious lox substitute.
- Horseradish Sauce: Add a little liquid smoke to your horseradish sauce for a nice smoky flavor.
- Liquid smoke is widely available in most grocery stores.
- You can also buy it online or in bulk from specific brands.
- Liquid smoke is an important ingredient for making vegan and vegetarian dishes taste like the real thing.
- Adjust the amount of liquid smoke you use to suit your taste preferences.
- Don’t be afraid to try different brands and flavors to find the one you love.
Is Liquid Smoke Harmful to Your Health?
Dr. Michael Greger, FACLM, a renowned physician and author, has stated that the intake of PAHs through liquid smoke is harmful to health. PAHs are proven carcinogens, which means that they can cause cancer. The presence of these harmful substances in liquid smoke means that it is not recommended to consume it directly.
Is Liquid Smoke Safer Than Smoking Food?
While liquid smoke does contain PAHs, it is safer than smoking food directly. This is because liquid smoke is filtered to remove some of the harmful substances. Additionally, only a small amount of liquid smoke is needed to add flavor to food, which means that the intake of harmful substances is limited.
How to Consume Liquid Smoke Safely?
If you want to use liquid smoke to add flavor to your food, it is recommended to avoid consuming it directly. Instead, you can add a small amount to your food to achieve the desired flavor. It is also recommended to read the label carefully and choose a brand that contains fewer PAHs.
So that’s liquid smoke! It’s a secret ingredient used to add smoky flavor to food. It’s a natural product produced by burning wood and capturing the smoke water, which is condensed and filtered to create a concentrated liquid. You can use it to add smoky flavor to a variety of foods, including meats, vegetables, and tofu, and it’s a great way to substitute actual smoking when you don’t have access to a smoker. So don’t be afraid to try it!
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.