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Liquid Smoke – Does it Add an Authentic Smoke Flavor?

Liquid smoke is a liquid flavoring. It is commonly used as a substitute for cooking with real wood smoke i.e Barbecue grilling/smoking.It can be added to any meat or vegetable and will impart a smokey flavor to that food.

The purist grill master out there, still would prefer the open barbecue grill and to be honest it does give a great  flavour experience. A few drops of liquid smoke does not provide the socially satisfying experience that is an outdoor Barbecue.

However liquid smoke is an amazing product and when used correctly can enhance the flavour of any meal.

How It’s made

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Liquid smoke is made by burning wood – particularly hardwoods like natural hickory, mesquite, and pecan. This gives it the taste of a real wood-fired grill. The vapor from the smoke is gathered using condensers which turn the vapor into liquid. The liquid is then concentrated which intensifies the smokey flavor. It is also filtered to remove any bitter impurities (i.e. ash) and then bottled for sale. It can also be completely dried to make a smokey powder.

Depending on the brand – often molasses, vinegar or colorants are added to the end product.

 Although liquid smoke has recently become popular, it has been developed and bottled since 1895. A pharmacist, Ernest Wright, experimented with liquid smoke and it was initially marketed as a preservative. Wright’s liquid smoke is still sold today.

Liquid Smoke and Health questions!

A question often asked – is Liquid Smoke safe to use? It is in fact utilized in many products on your supermarket shelves today. This varies from smoked barbecue crisps to smoked cheese products. Even vegan meats like Tofurky have it listed on the ingredients label.

 Of course, the fact that it is widely used does not necessarily mean that it is a healthy product.

People often question whether there is a high carcinogenic content in the liquid smoke. There are, in fact, known carcinogens in natural smoked meat and fish named PHA’s (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). Consisting of more than eighty different chemicals, PAHs are produced when you burn coal, gas, charcoal and wood.

When you cook over natural gas, on a stove top, the PHA’s do not come in contact with your food. This is because a pot or pan are used creating a barrier. However, if you grill fish, meats or vegetables directly on the grill they absorb the PHA from the burning fire. There has been evidence to suggest that PHA’s are carcinogenic.

However, before we put aside the liquid smoke – have a quick look at the PHA quantities that are produced when just grilling on an open fire.  A portion of smoked salmon on the grill has more PHA’s than a bottle of Liquid Smoke .

How to use Liquid Smoke

  • It should be used in small amounts i.e under 1/4 teaspoon. It is a vegan product which is often used to give a meaty, smokey flavor to many meatless dishes. It can, of course, be mixed with anything. Try a few drops in a Bloody Mary! Brush liquid smoke on meats like steaks, burgers & pork chops.
  • To obtain a more subtle flavor – dilute the liquid smoke with water or vinegar.

Using too much will result in a “fake” overpowering taste.

Liquid Smoke Brands

There are many many brands on the market. Some are more “natural” than others. Have a close look at the ingredients to check if additional flavorants have been added.

Some of the top rated brands available to purchase through Amazon are: Colgin, Wright Mesquite, Lazy Kettle and Living Nutritionals All Natural Smoke. This last brand has no added preservatives and is highly rated for its natural taste.

Ideas on using Liquid Smoke with Food

Add an interesting element to your next Mac and Cheese side dish.

If you have difficulty sourcing smoked salmon it yourself . Take a salmon steak and marinate it in liquid smoke, brown sugar and soy sauce for an hour. The result will be sweet and spicy.

A few drops of liquid smoke can transform sliced tomatoes into a great taste similar to lox. Boil the tomatoes for a minute. Slice and place in a marinade consisting of a tiny drop of liquid smoke with Tamari or soy sauce, water and kelp powder.

 Add liquid smoke and salt to nuts before roasting.

Add a small drop of liquid smoke to your next Bloody Mary. Alternatively, place two drops in a cocktail glass rinse and then discard the excess liquid smoke. Put together your cocktail as normal for a hint of smoky flavour. 

Having a bottle of Liquid Smoke in your household will not detract from your outdoor grilling experience but rather enhance it.

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