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What's the scoop on liquid smoke?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I have several recipes I like that call for smoked hocks or bacon bits. I don't mind the bacon bits, but I'd rather not mess with the hocks. Fortuitously, I happened to notice an ad for liquid smoke. I'd love to hear from anyone who has used such products. Do they work? The stuff sounds easy to use. I also read an article that there were health concerns associated with liquid smoke. What's the scoop?
post #2 of 17
I have used it and it has been around for years. It has a slightly medicinal flavor. I use it on my chinese ribs mixed with sugar and other things. Only use a drop, but your better off with hocks, fat back , bacon, or a smoked ham bone.
post #3 of 17
Liquid smoke is a liquid infusion made of the tiny particles which make hardwood smoke, usually in plain water. In essence (pun alarm!) it is smoked water. There are varying degrees of quality and purity, and a wide choice of woods.

Serious barbecuers typically frown on its use, preferring to put smoke into food in the old fashioned way, by smoking the food, or smoking some of the seasonings. Liquid smoke has its place mostly with novice barbecuers, and commercial packers. I keep a couple of bottles around and use it for making barbecue sauces for kids and the adult who calls herself "Right." At least, she's said, "You know I'm Right" so often it must be her name. But I digress.

You'll have to experiment with whatever brands and flavors fit your fancy -- there are no hard and fast rules for ratios. I suggest starting very slowly, and I recommend Wright's.

As far as I know there are no health issues associated with liquid smoke that aren't also associated with any other smoked food. Most of the nitrate and nitrite components of smoke are not known to present health issues when ingested. In fact, there's some speculation they make you live longer.

post #4 of 17
Wrights is one common brand. I will admit to using it midwinter to get my jerky fix. Somehow firing up the pit to smoke a batch of jerky isn't appealing at -20 :lol: To much can really ruin something in a hurry and once in you can't take it out!
post #5 of 17
While I tend to believe that if you want smoke flavor then just go ahead and smoke it, I too have a bottle of liquid smoke sitting on my shelf in the pantry. I do use it occasionally, when time constraints or pure laziness keep me from smoking things (there are other reasons also). As stated before, be very careful when using it. A little goes a long way, and too much can make your food taste artifical.
post #6 of 17
I haven't tried liquid smoke. I have, however, smoked bread, and then crushed the dry smoked bread into crumbs. I make a bunch of it and save it for multiple recipes. It's worked really well for flavoring things, when the texture of it doesn't interfere with the rest of the dish. I "invented" this, but I'm sure I'm not the first.
post #7 of 17
Years ago, when I had my little 'que enterprise going, I used liquid smoke in a few sauces. There were three brands available to me at the time, and I tested them all, compared ingredient lists, cooked with 'em, and decided on Colgin. At the time the additive had the least additives and the most "natural" flavor :lol:

I made a couple of batches of sauce with the stuff and then decided it really didn't give the smoke flavor, aroma, and taste that was needed, and ditched it. Other approaches were more satisfactory on several levels.
post #8 of 17
Lately I have stuck to reading more than replying. I must interject here because there are plenty of misconceptions surrounding liquid smoke like the above mentioned.

I have represented companies that manufacture liquid smoke and I know how it is made, how it works, where it applies and why they exist in the first place. I will be brief .....but probably not....

Liquid smoke is made through wood pyrolysis which consist of burning saw dust in a very hot chamber without air. Instead of igniting the wood in flames it releases its essence by smoking. The hard residue left behind is essentially charcoal dust. The smoke is channeled upwards in a stack where fine water mist cloud condenses the smoke. A collection chamber accumulates the liquid. Overtime 3 separation phases appear: heavy tar at the bottom, liquid smoke in the middle and wood wax on top.

Through separation the middle part is isolated and sold as liquid smoke (flavour). The tar and charcoal dust is used as combustible fuel to heat and dry the saw dust before the pyrolysis chamber. The saw dust used is waste created by hardwood furniture manufacturers or the like.
Liquid smoke is composed of essentially 3 functional components: acids, carbonyls and polyphenols.
Acids reacts with the surface (proteins) of meats which creates a skin. Acidified proteins become tough and lose its ability to hold water (like tannin leather).
Carbonyls are highly reactive (sugar-like) compounds. They also react with surface proteins to impart surface colour through the Maillard reaction (surface browning).
Polyphenols impart the distinctive taste of smoked products (acrid).

Liquid smoked is preferred by large smokehouse operations for ease of use and fire insurance purposes (because large scale smoking is a fire hazard). Liquid smoke is applied by direct spraying or dipping the meat as well as using compressed air to create a mist in the smokehouse like traditional smoke would be used.

Health wise: actually liquid smoke is much safer than natural (traditional) smoking because the tar and wood wax is removed. In particular, the wood wax contain a known carcinogenic compound called benzopyrene (see: Benzopyrene - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). Traditional smoking cannot control or take out any of these toxic compounds.

Interested in knowing who makes most of the liquid smoke in the world?:
search for Zest_i_(space) S_mok_e and Red_ar_row_us_a.
They are (probably) the source supplier for any commercial products out there.

If you are interested in knowing how smoke is manufactured in large scales in smokehouses? one way is by rapidly rotating various length round logs and applying a dull scraper on the surface. By pure friction, smoke is generated. The sound is horrendous!!!.

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #9 of 17

Liquid Smoke

Liquid smoke is bad for those who are trying to quit smoking and drinking at the same time. :lol::lips::crazy::o
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Holy mackerel! What an education. Do you remember that old saw: Everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask — thank god I wasn't afraid to ask. Thank you for your timely intervention, and as comprehensive as it was, you failed to include the information I would have valued the most. I'd love to know your personal opinion about its use.
post #11 of 17

I too am afraid I must interject. There were no "misconceptions" in the referenced statement -- either one you clarifed or at all -- and stand by my post as accurate within the vagaries of everyday language as applied to chemistry (what is lquid smoke?) and medicine (any adverse health issues?).

post #12 of 17
This is strictly my opinion:
I go for products that do not declare things like: naturally smoked.
Since I believe liquid is safer all around (health, environment, fire hazard) than industrial smoking, I prefer it over natural smoke items hence I go for products that declare <smoke flavour> in the ingredient statement.

For home use: I personally believe that using liquid smoke would be healthier than smoking ones self only because all the parameters in home smoking vary so much equipment-wise and technique.

To Chefjohnpaul.....nice pun joke.

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #13 of 17
"I will be brief .....but probably not.... "

You're not doing it right.... :lol:
travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #14 of 17
I use liquid smoke for two of my recipes. First is for ribs in the oven, I live in Minnesota and it's not always feasible to slow cook outside. I place the ribs in a disposable aluminum tray after applying a dry rub, add about 2-3 tablespoons of liquid smoke and cover with the tray with foil. Cook at 250 for about 4 hours, uncover and baste with bbq sauce then cook for another hour or so.
The second recipe is for shredded beef for tacos, etc. Place beef roast of choice in crock pot, my choice is a 1.5(?) quart model. Add some dried chilies, ancho is nice, garlic powder, a bay leaf, maybe some onion, definatly add cumin, some whole peppercorns are nice, and a splash of liquid smoke. Cook for about 5 hours and enjoy.
post #15 of 17
I cook outside in the winter and I live in MN. Ribs only take 3-4 hours so a -20 day isn't to bad as long as it isn't windy. And yes people tell me I am insane :lol:
post #16 of 17
Hey MaryB, Burnsville in the cities here! The best thing about grilling in MN during the winter is that it teaches you to not mess with the food on the grill. Run out put it on the grill, hurry back inside. Run out to the grill, flip it once, hurry back inside. Run out to the grill, grab the food, take some time so not to spill the food on return. I might throw a jacket on if I am going to be outside for a bit, otherwise straight out into the winter in a t-shirt. :crazy:
post #17 of 17
I do 4-5 hour cooks on my big BBQ pit during the winter :lol: Ribs are tasty about mid January when I run out of frozen from the summer.
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