Mistakes Everyone Makes When Using Liquid Smoke

If you've never cooked with liquid smoke, you're in for a treat. It's the secret shortcut to getting that signature grilled meat smokiness in anything you're cooking, without the mess or hassle of actually grilling. Plus, not only is liquid smoke super versatile, it's even vegan (via Taste of Home)! In fact, it's a fantastic way to make ordinary vegetables into more-believable meat substitutes, from eggplant bacon, to carrot hot dogs, and even mushroom meatballs (via Real Simple). 

Unfortunately, the sheer potency of this smoky condiment often leads well-meaning chefs to over-use it and ruin their food. Be warned: you probably only need about 1/4 of a teaspoon of the stuff in your whole dish — it's that strong (via Taste of Home). Don't let this deter you from using liquid smoke, however. A great way to dip your toe in is by diluting the liquid smoke with something like vinegar, barbecue sauce, or even just water to mellow the flavor and help it to spread more evenly across your dish. But that's not the only thing you should know about liquid smoke.

What to consider when cooking with liquid smoke

If you're wondering whether liquid smoke is healthy, you're not alone. Not unlike the charred foods that inspired liquid smoke's creation, concerns have been raised over the safety of liquid smoke in food products. Following an investigation by the European Union, the answer is...complicated. The primary concern is the presence of certain "polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a family of chemical compounds [some of which have] been linked to carcinogenic effects and DNA damage," (via Eater). However, those compounds are also present in smoked meats or fish and, according to many nutritionists, the concentrations you'd be consuming in liquid smoke likely won't be enough to have any negative effects.

Finally, don't be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to cooking with liquid smoke; it can improve so much more than just meats and vegetables. For instance, try some in your cocktails, or on roasted nuts, or even in some desserts (via The Spruce Eats). Whether you're adding smoky flavor to microwaved s'mores or making some quick smoked ice cream without any fancy equipment, liquid smoke is a quick and easy way to add depth to a huge number of dishes (via ChefSteps). Get creative!