What is Liquid Smoke and How Should You Use It?

Jason Webster
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What is liquid smoke?

Liquid smoke has been used for centuries to lend a smoky taste to various foods. It adds a strong smoky flavor to foods when applied.

You can use liquid smoke to add a smoky flavor to sausages, meats, fish, and even vegetables. But it’s definitely not for flavoring desserts.

There are basically three types of liquid smoke, depending on their chemical compositions and uses in the kitchen.

Distilled liquid smoke is made by passing smoke through a condenser. The condenser boils liquid smoke in a vacuum, using steam heated by electricity or gas to separate the water from the rest of the chemicals. After that, the steam condenses to form liquid smoke.

The condenser vaporizes steam, so there is no smoke contact with it. In that case, the “smoke” in the final product is almost entirely water with a few chemicals to preserve the color and flavor of the smoke.

The steam used in the condenser to make liquid smoke is also heated by electricity or gas. Electricity heats the steam indirectly by heating the water that is flowing through the tank and pipes in the condenser.

Gas heats the steam directly. One of the most popular gas-powered generators used to make liquid smoke is the kettle that goes over an open flame.

How is liquid smoke made?

At its most basic level, liquid smoke is basically heat energy combined with water vapor and smoke particles, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA explains that liquid smoke is formed from smoke from a wood fire being forced into containers that have a piece of fabric stretched over the opening and water applied to the fabric through a controlled device.

The smoke particles then stick to the fabric. This process of combining smoke and water and forcing it into a container is called either “dry distilling” or “capturing.”

Next, two basic methods are used to remove the water from the liquid smoke. Distillation is the process of boiling the product in a vacuum sealed chamber. Pushing the steam through a furnace-like device takes the water away.

Decantation involves allowing the product to drip out by itself. This is usually done by putting a fine screen over the container, letting the liquid drip through the screen and gradually collecting it in a solvent.

The methods used to produce liquid smoke, and the processes used to separate the water from the smoke, determines the type of liquid smoke that is created and how that smoke will be used.

Is liquid smoke safe?

Liquid smoke is produced by burning wood chips. The smoke is condensed into a ketchup-like consistency.

Liquid smoke is generally considered safe. It is chiefly used as a flavoring agent, but it can also be used in medical products, tobacco, and fireproofing.

Never drink liquid smoke.

If you suffer from allergies and other respiratory issues or if you have asthma, you should exercise caution when handling liquid smoke. It is best to use gloves when working with it and avoid inhaling it directly.

Remember when using liquid smoke not to confuse it with liquid smoke flavoring which is a mixture of flavorings containing liquid smoke. Don’t bother trying to find it in a grocery store.

Uses for liquid smoke

Liquid smoke can be used in a variety of ways, from added flavoring in cooking to disinfecting pets and as a meat preservative. There are several different brands of liquid smoke, and each is made from different ingredients or combination of ingredients.

Generally, liquid smoke products are made by infusing water with smoke from burning smoke-wood chips. The density of the smoke used differs from product to product.

The types of smoke-wood chips that are used also vary by brand. The most common smoke-woods are hickory and mesquite.

Using liquid smoke is a lot like smoking food. The longer you smoke it, the deeper the flavor becomes.

The smoke flavor from a liquid smoke essence is intense. Like other concentrated flavors, you should use it sparingly.

How to cook with liquid smoke

You might have noticed tons of barbecue recipes calling for liquid smoke. Perhaps you are wondering how one ingredient can do so much. So what exactly is liquid smoke and how should you use it?

Liquid smoke, also known as Brown Smoke, is an ingredient that you can easily add to your food for an extra flavor kick. As the name suggests, it is made out of smoke. The smoke flavor comes from burning wood chips.

Liquid smoke, unlike actual fire, is safe to use. The flavor and aroma of smoked foods is a result of the chemical compounds that are released into the air while burning wood specially aromatic trees and plants.

While smoke itself is odorless, the compounds do give off an aroma of burned wood. That is because these compounds contain nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.

Cooking with liquid smoke is probably one of the easiest ways to get the smokey flavor we all love.

The flavor that liquid smoke adds to your food not only adds complexity and depth but also changes the texture of the food. It makes the food more tender and tasty.

Be warned, however, that it does have a peculiar taste. And, if you add too much of it, the taste can be overpowering, ruining the overall flavor. It is always better to add a little with each addition and then add more later on if necessary than to add too much and ruin a dish.

Recipes that use liquid smoke

Liquid smoke is perhaps one of the most overlooked ingredients in our pantry.

It’s a vegetable extract that comes from burning hardwood and adds that smokey flavor to your dishes.

Made from pine trees, hickory wood or sugarcane, liquid smoke is a naturally smoked food that is free of chemicals.

It has a strong aroma and adds that “smokey” flavor to the food. You might even wonder if you are using a flavoring instead of the real deal.

While we tend to get inventive with our uses, one of the most popular ways to use liquid smoke is in barbecue sauce or to make smoked salmon and meats.

Few other recipes that you could use liquid smoke:

  • Adding to salad dressing
  • Sprinkling on popcorn
  • Marinading meat
  • Seasoning beans
  • Making chili flavor
  • Creating meat dishes

For instance, the smoky flavor of liquid smoke could add a punch to your favorite stew, casserole, or chili.

And if you are looking to experiment with your food, you can even use in place of smoked almonds or citrus fruits.

However, we suggest you use this ingredient sparingly until you know that you like it. It can easily overwhelm a dish if you add too much.

Main dishes

Side dishes

We love meat, don’t we? But sometimes our meat craving can get a little too much that we’re ready to devour almost anything that’s edible, even the table itself or maybe even our own claws.

Don’t worry, we are not going to talk about any weird stuff here.

Instead, we are going to talk about a non-edible side dish that you can always have with your meat: liquid smoke.

If you have never heard the term liquid smoke before, then you have probably heard it in your everyday conversations with people.

Did you ever hear someone say that they are as hungry as meat is? Well, that’s a cliche but you’ll find it coming up often in popular conversations.

What they actually meant is that they are extremely hungry.

And now that you know what is liquid smoke, you can tell them how you are just as hungry as meat tastes.

Let’s dig into the details then.


It is not uncommon for some classic dessert recipes to become incomplete without a sprinkling of cinnamon, smoked paprika, and a dash of liquid smoke!

The flavor enhancer has been around for centuries. Its popularity has spread across the world and can be found in most supermarkets.

Liquid smoke is made through harvesting the smoke from burning wood. The smoke is then processed to form a concentrated liquid. The flavor enhancer is often used to give smoked flavors without actual meat smoking.

When using it, remember that the flavor enhancer is a potent ingredient. It should be added with an eye on the desired flavor balance.


When you think of liquid smoke, you are more likely to think of it as a seasoning for food. But this product can add an extra dimension of flavor to your cooking. Liquid smoke is an all natural product that can be used as a substitute for barbecue smoke, in recipes that call for smoked flavor.

It is created by condensing smoke vapors common in producing barbecue. It is then processed to form a liquid product. Since it is made from quality smoke ingredients, it is almost the same as using real smoke.

A bottle of liquid smoke is capable of releasing smoky flavor to your dishes and making it as savory as if it was cooked over a bonfire. It can also provide bacon-like flavor to your dishes with just one drop.

However, it is best used sparingly to avoid your food from taking on a smoke flavor whenever you use it.

Here are some of the things that you can do with a bottle of this versatile product:

Add a few drops of liquid smoke to your marinades and sauces for a different flavor profile. It will simulate the flavor of a long smoked barbecue.

Use it to add flavor to your baked fish.

Add a few drops to your vinaigrette dressing for a smoky bacon like flavor.

Try adding it to your tea for a smoky flavor boost.

Where to buy liquid smoke

Liquid smoke (real wood smoke flavor) is an essential ingredient for adding smoke flavor to foods during cooking.

The smoke is produced from burning wood and this is where the name comes from. A smokehouse also referred to as “smoke house” is a facility for the preservation of meat, fish and/or vegetables by smoking them over smoldering and highly flavored wood. Nowadays, a smoke house is a cooker that is used to smoke meat, fish or vegetables.

Smoking is a traditional technique for preserving foods. It was in practice ever since humans discovered fire.

Liquid Smoke Can Be Acquired in Three Forms;

{1}. As a concentrated liquid in the bottle
{2}. As a fluid extract in a concentrated bottle or bottle
{3}. As wood-smoke flavoring in a water-based solution

The advantage of using liquid smoke is that unlike wood, it doesn’t rot and it lasts a long time.

It’s also a lot easier to handle when it’s in liquid form and it’s easier to measure then extract.

When purchasing a liquid smoke, ensure that it’s USDA Certified. To ensure you get the best quality, buy from a trusted vendor.

How to make your own liquid smoke

While liquid smoke is a smoke flavoring that can be bought in stores.

However, the majority of commercial smoke flavoring is made from burning wood chips and using the resulting smoke to flavor the liquid.

Because it’s made from natural, renewable sources, you can feel good about cooking with liquid smoke.

Some liquid smoke varieties are vegetarian-friendly, but make sure to check the ingredients on the bottle before buying it.

Although there are commercially available liquid flavorings, making your own is relatively easy and cheaper.

Simply pour water into a pot. Add a handful of your desired wood chips to the pot. The amount of wood chips and water will vary depending on how much you want to make.

The more wood, the more smoke flavor you’ll add.

Cover the pot to keep the smoke inside and bring to a boil. Let the water boil for about half an hour for the water to be infused with the wood flavor.

Turn off the heat and let the covered pot sit for a few more hours to allow it to cool.

Once the water has cooled, strain the wood chips out and use the boiled water to flavor meats, soups, and sauces.

Making your own smoke flavoring is fun and easy. You can experiment with different types of wood chips to see which you like best.

Substitutes for liquid smoke

You may find liquid smoke in the condiment section of gourmet or store. It is a great addition to any dish.

Not only does it add a smoky flavor to food, it can actually enhance the flavor of food that is lacking the much-needed smoky flavor.

If you haven’t tried it yet in your dishes, you should. It works great to enhance the flavor of bacon, ham, fish, eggs, burgers, soup, and salad, to name a few.

If you are wondering where to buy Liquid Smoke, you should not stress as you can easily find it at any local grocery store.

However, if you cannot, you can always use the following substitutes.

They are often easy to find and it won’t really take a lot of hassle to get them.

Liquid Smoke

Liquid Smoke is basically concentrated smoke which is extracted from certain wood types.

According to studies, it contains number of minerals, gums and other substances which will be released into the air as you cook to provide that unique woody flavor.

So, if you don’t have liquid smoke at your disposal, it is suggested to use the substitute below:

  • 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke

Tomato Juice

Liquid Luck

If you have never heard of or used liquid smoke before, then you might want to try it and I assure you you won’t regret it!

It is basically water that has had wood smoke added to it. It’s the perfect way to add a bit of that smokey flavor to whatever you are cooking without having to actually use a smoker.

Since I do not own a smoker, this is the easiest way for me to add that smokey flavor to my grilling.

When I lived in Mississippi there was a restaurant that used liquid smoke frequently and this is what made the all the food taste so good. A lot of the places that offer BBQ food use liquid smoke to add that smokey taste to their food.

While there are many types of liquid smoke available, I suggest you stick with real smoke and steer clear of the smoke flavored vinegar as it’s not the same thing.

There are a couple of things that I like to use it for. The first is making salmon and bacon bites. I put smoke flavored cream cheese on it [link: smoked salmon and bacon bites] and then drizzle a little of the liquid smoke on top to finish it off. This is a super easy appetizer to make and it’s always a huge hit.

How to Grind Your Own Meat

A common problem with freshly made burgers is that they tend to turn out dry and you can’t just serve them as they are. That’s why you need to learn how to grind your own meat to serve the burger of your dreams when the mood strikes.

The first time I made burgers at home, I was surprised to see how quickly they came together. To make them, you just need to get a grinder, some chuck roast or any other cut that’s about 80% lean meat (always keep a close eye on the fat content) and 20% fat.

Before you grind it, it’s even better to lightly run it through a meat tenderizer, which breaks down the muscle fibers and makes the meat more tender. Without it, your burgers will have a chewier texture. After all, you do want to create delicious juicy hamburgers.

Grinding the meat yourself has tons of benefits:

  • You control the fat content and can use the leanest meat available.
  • It’s fresher.
  • You can use fresh seasonings and you can taste the difference.
  • It’s cheaper in the long run.