Who knew you could actually add smoky flavor to food without firing up your offset smoker or pellet grill.
Liquid smoke is a versatile ingredient that helps you to achieve a smoky flavor without having to light a fire.
Like a good steak knife can last for years to come, one bottle of liquid smoke can allow you to cook up delicious foods for years to come.
You don’t even need to use a ton of liquid smoke to achieve a smoky flavor!
With such a long history, liquid smoke has been the subject of much debate.
Consumers have begun whether it is good or bad for you and how to use liquid smoke. However, before we discuss those questions, let’s discover what liquid smoke is.
- What Is Liquid Smoke?
- Who Invented Liquid Smoke?
- How Is Liquid Smoke Made?
- Is Liquid Smoke Dangerous?
- Is Liquid Smoke Worth It?
- How To Use Liquid Smoke
- Can I Put Liquid Smoke Directly Onto Ribs?
- How To Use Liquid Smoke on Fish?
- How Are Hickory and Mesquite Liquid Smoke Different?
- Can I Marinate Meat in Liquid Smoke?
- How To Neutralize the Flavor of Liquid Smoke?
- Where Can I Find Liquid Smoke?
- Does Liquid Smoke Have To Be Refrigerated?
- What Can I Substitute for Liquid Smoke?
- Final Thoughts
What Is Liquid Smoke?
As the name implies, liquid smoke is smoke condensed into a liquid. Essentially it is the byproduct created by burning wood.
It is an inexpensive yellow-brown liquid that is popular within the BBQ world.
Who Invented Liquid Smoke?
Ernest H. Wright, the inventor of Wright’s Liquid Smoke, is credited with creating liquid smoke.
During his teenage years, he was employed in a print shop.
It was there that he observed a black liquid trickling down from the stovepipe, which was used to heat the print shop.
After he became a chemist, Wright had an epiphany and realized the black liquid occurred because the smoke reacted with cold air.
After investigating wood combustion, he discovered that he could compress the hot smoke produced by fire into liquid smoke.
Since 1895, Wright’s liquid smoke has made a name for itself, and it is still a common ingredient in many recipes today.
How Is Liquid Smoke Made?
Essentially, when wood burns, it generates smoke, which can be captured, compressed, and transformed into a liquid.
The liquid is distilled to boost its smoky flavor.
The liquid is also filtered to get rid of bitter, unwanted impurities and composites, then bottled and shipped.
Moreover, some manufacturers add additional ingredients to their liquid smoke, such as molasses, artificial coloring, salt, vinegar, and sugar.
However, the process of making liquid smoke will always begin with burning wood.
Is Liquid Smoke Dangerous?
Although there’s concern about the healthiness of liquid smoke, it is not dangerous.
On the other hand, the char created by charcoal grills is associated with carcinogenic compounds.
As mentioned above, liquid smoke is produced by burning wood.
The liquid also contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) compounds, capturing a unique smoky flavor. These PAHs are known to be carcinogenic.
The frequency of PAHs liquid smoke contains hinges upon the kind of wood used to produce the liquid smoke as well as the temperature of the smoker.
Nevertheless, the amount of PAHs is relatively small.
Liquid smoke is just as safe as grilled or smoked food, mostly consumed during the summer months.
Consuming liquid smoke is considered safer than consuming smoked foods such as brisket or cold-smoked cheese.
The distilling process of the liquid removes most of the carcinogenic compounds and leaves behind a flavorful smoky liquid.
In addition to this, liquid smoke is so concentrated that just a few drops can add flavor to your food.
The risk of developing a medical condition because of consuming liquid smoke is extremely low.
Is Liquid Smoke Worth It?
Unfortunately, some BBQ elitists have sworn off using liquid smoke because they think it’s a crime.
However, they have probably eaten liquid smoke without knowing it.
Some liquid smoke does not go through the bottling process for mass distribution.
Instead, it ends up in commercial products such as BBQ sauce, marinades, or foods with a barbeque flavor.
In addition to this, liquid smoke is also used as an ingredient in hot dogs, smoked meats, several types of cheeses, and bacon.
Manufacturers will market products with liquid smoke as “smoked,” such as smoked Gouda or smoked sausage.
However, the consumer has no idea that the product was never placed onto the smoker.
By the way, if you are searching for a sausage stuffer, check out our review guide of the 5 best sausage stuffers.
Because a form of smoke is added to the food, even if it is only liquid smoke or other smoky flavorings, using the term “smoked” is acceptable.
How To Use Liquid Smoke
The ways to use liquid smoke are endless. Liquid smoke especially comes in handy for those who do not have a natural gas grill or offset smoker.
Add a few drops to Chinese BBQ pork, BBQ burgers, or BBQ meatloaf. Additionally, you can also add it to a marinade or BBQ sauce.
You can also add liquid smoke to macaroni and cheese, BBQ jackfruit, or baked beans to add an extra layer of flavor.
Since liquid smoke is so potent, only a few drops are needed to add smoky flavor to food.
Do not add more than 1/4 teaspoon to a recipe. If 1/4 teaspoon is too concentrated, you can also dilute it with vinegar or water.
Can I Put Liquid Smoke Directly Onto Ribs?
Of course, you can add liquid smoke directly onto ribs. This method works best for ribs baked in the oven or sauceless BBQ ribs.
Simply drizzle a small amount of liquid smoke onto the ribs, then massage it into the meat with your hands.
If you are worried about the liquid smoke overpowering your ribs, you can add liquid smoke to your brine or wet marinade to dilute the flavor.
How To Use Liquid Smoke on Fish?
Liquid smoke is also an excellent way to make grilled BBQ salmon.
Simply add the salmon to a cookie sheet or baking pan along with the liquid smoke and massage it into the salmon.
Add your BBQ rub and grill the salmon until it is flaky and tender.
How Are Hickory and Mesquite Liquid Smoke Different?
All liquid smoke is not made equal. Mesquite is known for its bold flavor that pairs perfectly with beef, specifically fatty cuts of beef.
On the other hand, hickory has a milder flavor that compliments pork and poultry. The same rules apply to liquid smoke.
Can I Marinate Meat in Liquid Smoke?
Yes, you can marinate meat in liquid smoke. However, liquid smoke should not be the only ingredient in your marinade.
To your marinade, you can add acids such as citrus or balsamic vinegar, water, seasonings, sugar, molasses, or maple syrup.
Next, place your meat into the marinade and allow it to chill in the fridge for a few hours.
How To Neutralize the Flavor of Liquid Smoke?
As mentioned above, you can use vinegar or water to reduce the liquid smoke’s intensity.
However, if that fails, you can also add milk or heavy cream to your dish to reduce the concentration of the smoky flavor.
Where Can I Find Liquid Smoke?
Liquid smoke is relatively easy to find. You can find liquid smoke in your local grocery store near the BBQ sauce.
In addition to this, liquid smoke comes in several flavors, such as pecan, mesquite, applewood, and hickory.
Because liquid smoke is used in small amounts, the different flavors in flavors are not as distinctive.
However, additives can alter the flavor of liquid smoke. Therefore, it is best to choose a liquid smoke with fewer ingredients.
Alternatively, you can also purchase liquid smoke on the internet.
Does Liquid Smoke Have To Be Refrigerated?
After it is opened, liquid smoke does not have to be refrigerated. Simply store your liquid smoke in its original bottle in a cool dark place such as the pantry.
This is the best way to preserve the flavor and aroma of your liquid smoke.
What Can I Substitute for Liquid Smoke?
If you run out of liquid smoke or your local grocery store runs out of it, there’s no need to panic.
You can add smoky flavor to your foods without having to fire up the grill or smoker.
Smoked paprika is an excellent substitute for liquid smoke. Its produced by drying peppers over oak fires for multiple weeks.
You can also use smoke tea as a dry rub for pork shoulder or butt or brisket or in soups and stews to add a dose of smoky flavor.
Lastly, you can also use chipotle powder. Chipotle is known for its unique smoky flavor.
However, use chipotle sparingly as it is significantly spicier than liquid smoke.
Liquid smoke is a bottled flavoring agent that’s perfect for intensifying the flavor of anything it touches.
No longer do you have to use the grill to create the signature smoky flavor in foods.
From chicken to beef, to salmon, to pork, and vegetarian foods, you can have all the smoky flavor you desire without the hard work that goes into setting up your BBQ equipment.
Remember to use liquid smoke sparingly and happy smoking.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.