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Know Your Ingredients: Liquid Smoke

With Summer grilling in full force and smoke-tinged cocktails taking the helm at bars nationwide, the food world has been singing the virtues of liquid smoke. But what is this mysterious substance, and how does it obtain its trademark taste?

A concentrated flavoring used to duplicate the essence of smoked wood, liquid smoke is literally the flavor of smoke captured in water. Wood chips or sawdust are burned in a controlled environment, producing tiny smoke particles held in water vapor. Chilled air is introduced, causing the particles to condense into liquid. The liquid is then aged in oak barrels.

Liquid smoke is usually made from smoked hickory, mesquite, pecan, or apple wood, and can be applied to a gas grill to add a charcoal flavor, added to a meat marinade or curing solution, or used on soft cheeses and meatless proteins such as tempeh.


Join The Conversation
wunami wunami 8 years
Do you really have to age it in oak barrels? What does the aging accomplish? I recall seen an episode of Good Eats where Alton makes liquid smoke. He just collected the liquid and bottled it for use. Seemed perfectly reasonable for obtaining smoke flavor. It's not like when you smoke food directly you need the smoke particles to "age" somehow.
ella1978 ella1978 8 years
We used this to make a vegetarian red beans and rice.. that's why it's in my cabinet!
Smacks83 Smacks83 8 years
Shoneyjoe, That was my first thought when i saw the title! I actually like liquid smoke when I make ribs in the oven because it gives them that "grilled" flavor.
shoneyjoe shoneyjoe 8 years
Liquid smoke is one ingredient in Homer Simpson's "Patented Space-Age Out-Of-This-World Moon Waffles." Waffle batter, caramels, liquid smoke. Close waffle iron, sweep and lick waffle runoff, and cook. Wrap around a stick of butter, secure with toothpick, and devour.
Chouette4u Chouette4u 8 years
I always wondered about this stuff! I assumed it was some sort of unnatural chemical.
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