The Truth About Liquid Smoke

You may have seen it in its little bottle up there on the grocery store shelf next to the barbecue sauce selection, and wondered, what the heck is liquid smoke anyway? Well, the short answer is printed right on the bottle — it's actual liquified smoke, which has been condensed from burning wood and conveniently bottled so you can enjoy that delicious smoky flavor without having to go through the time and effort of firing up a smoker (via The Spruce Eats).

Many barbecue purists decry its use, claiming liquid smoke is totally fake. Come to think of it, how often do you really see those little bottles make their way into anyone's shopping cart? Still, most of the liquid smoke produced is actually used in the commercial preparation of numerous sauces, marinades, meat products, cheeses, and basically just about anything labeled as "barbecue flavored."

Cooking with liquid smoke

Okay, say, for curiosity's sake, you do decide to purchase a bottle of liquid smoke, what should you do with it? Your first choice would be to pick a variety, assuming your store carries a wide product range, as liquid smoke is available in chipotle and jalapeno varieties as well as different wood types such as hickory, mesquite, and applewood. A bottle should last you a long time since the flavor is so concentrated, and you'll only need a tiny bit — just 1/4 teaspoon mixed into a marinade or brushed onto a piece of fish or meat before cooking will give it that fresh from-the-smoker flavor.

A few drops of liquid smoke can also add a little extra flavor to vegetable dishes — beans in particular — or mac and cheese, roasted nuts, and creative cocktails. What's more, liquid smoke can also make a fat-free, calorie-free, relatively low sodium, and even vegan substitute for bacon in any recipe where this meat is used primarily for seasoning

Nest time you see liquid smoke at the supermarket, why not give it a try? Shh, we won't tell the barbecue snobs you didn't spend hours slaving over a hot wood fire to achieve that smoky taste.