All About Liquid Smoke

by Evelyn Brown | Published On

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When we talk about the BBQ community, liquid smoke is often looked down upon and thought of as a cheap way to implant the smoky flavor in a dish. These criticisms are more or less unjust given the fact that not everyone has the finances to invest in a smoker.

The main function of liquid smoke is to enable people to enjoy an almost similar smoky flavor to the one provided by smokers without feeling the need to buy one. There are several doubts that pop in most of our minds when it comes to liquid smoke. In the following article, we shall delve deeper into the topic of liquid smoke and gain more insights about the same.

Liquid Smoke


Liquid smoke was an invention of Ernest H. Wright who belonged to the brand Wright’s Liquid Smoke. As a teenager who was employed at a print shop, Ernest noticed that the stovepipe which performed the function of heating the print shop released a black liquid.

Later on, Ernest worked as a chemist, and during his tenure, he found that the black liquid he noticed at the print shop was a result of the contact between smoke and cold air that condensed to form a liquid.

Liquid Smoke

Thereafter, liquid smoke came into existence as a result of the combustion of wood followed by the condensation of the exhaust of the fire. The liquid smoke was manufactured first in 1895 and is still widely used. The primary practical application of liquid smoke is to add a smoky flavor to various dishes without the need to use a live fire or a smoker.

How Is Liquid Smoke Made?

Liquid smoke is made naturally. We all know that fire emits smoke. While for a layman, the smoke may mean nothing, to a chemist, it does. The chemist captures the vapors in a cooling tube and condenses them to form a black liquid. The next step is the filtration of the liquid to remove any impurities, such as soot or ash. Finally, once the filtration is done, liquid smoke, which is yellow-brown in color, comes into being.

Uses Of Liquid Smoke

The primary purpose of liquid smoke is to give a smoky flavor to any food item without actually using a smoker or live fire. Therefore, you can use it in any food item in which you wish to enjoy a smoky touch. You can use liquid smoke in several prepared food items such as barbecue sauce, bacon, and hot dogs. These food items contain only the liquid version and have never been exposed to a smoker.

Other food items that you can add liquid smoke to include chili, meatloaf, mac and cheese, homemade hamburgers, homemade BBQ sauces, ice cream, and smoked fish. Apart from that, food manufacturers use liquid smoke as a flavoring additive. If they use liquid smoke in their prepared foods, they can use the word smoked to describe or advertise such food items. Examples of such food items include cheddar or gouda, some mass-produced cheeses, and sausage products as well.

One thing to note is that liquid smoke is a high-concentration substance and therefore, should be used carefully. If it is used in high quantities, there are strong chances that the food will become off-putting and too intense.

Cook With Liquid Smoke

Cooking with liquid smoke is a piece of cake. Since the flavor of liquid smoke is concentrated, it should be used in small quantities. Either add a few drops of the liquid smoke to the food item or mix it with marinade and sauces.

If upon tasting you feel that the flavor of liquid smoke is overpowering the food, you can easily dilute it using a liquid of your choice. You can add liquid smoke to almost every recipe as long as you use it in mild proportions. You can even make use of liquid smoke in cocktails to enhance the breadth of the flavor.

Best Way To Make Your Own Liquid Smoke

If you choose to make your own liquid smoke, it can definitely be fruitful given the fact that you have direct control over the intensity of the flavor and the ingredients that you will be using. Furthermore, preparing liquid smoke at home allows you to make sure that there are no added chemicals.

The primary requirement for making liquid smoke is a grill or a smoker that should be funneled up through a chimney. Then choose a variety of different woods or perhaps the wood of your choice to add flavors to the liquid smoke. To ensure there is sufficient smoke, soak in your wood chips or wood beforehand only.

  1. Start by putting a bundt pan at the opening of the chimney and use an upside-down mixing bowl to cover it. Using a bundt pan is an advisable option as it enables the heat to escape from the hole in the middle.

  2. Now using ice, cover the bowl to induce condensation. You can use ice makers for ice, or a bowl of ice or ice packs to perform this step.

  3. When the smoke rises, the condensed air is liquified which then runs into the bundt pan thereby leading to the creation of your own liquid smoke. Pour this liquid smoke into a container or a jar and maintain it at room temperature until you wish to use it.

Substitutes For Liquid Smoke

Following are the substitutes to liquid smoke if you have run out of one or plan on using another one of its closely related alternatives.

  1. Smoked Paprika

    The peppers are placed over burning oak to dry them out. Then the peppers are grind in a fine powder to produce this spice. Consumers can choose from two options: spicy hot flavor and sweeter smokier flavor. When you add this to your dish, you can enjoy a peppery, smoky flavor.

  2. Smoke Tea

    The distinct aroma and flavor of black tea come from being dried over wood fires of natural pines. All you need to do is steep the tea leaves and then make use of the brewed tea as an alternative to liquid smoke.

  3. Chipotle Powder

    The preparation procedure of chipotle powder involves drying up jalapenos over a natural wood fire. These are then ground to achieve the powder. The long duration of the drying up enables the smoke to be deeply penetrated into the poder. Remember, the chipotle powder is spicy and therefore, should be used in careful quantities.


What Is Liquid Smoke Made From?

As indicated by name, liquid smoke is prepared from smoke. The sawdust or chips from any type of hardwood like mesquite or hickory is burned at relatively high temperatures. The particles of smoke emitted throughout this process are collected in condensers. The outcome of this process is a black liquid which is concentrated to give off a strong flavour.

What Is Liquid Smoke Good For?

You can add one or two tablespoons of liquid smoke to your barbecue sauces or marinades to enjoy a smoky flavour without the need for slow cooking, smoking, or outdoor grilling. In addition, liquid smoke can be used to add on big barbecue flavours to chicken, pork, vegetables, beef or shrimp. Last but not the least, liquid smoke can also be used as an ingredient in chili recipes, baked beans, or salad dressings to enjoy a tinge of smokiness.

Where To Buy Liquid Smoke?

Liquid smoke is easily available both online and in general stores in the condiment section. You can buy liquid smoke online on websites, such as Amazon, Flipkart, etc. You can even go into your local grocery store to buy liquid smoke.

How Long Does Liquid Smoke Last?

The shelf life of liquid smoke is dependent on the conditions that it is stored in. It is advisable to store liquid smoke in a dark, cool cupboard devoid of exposure to sunlight or heat. When the liquid smoke is not in use, make sure it is secured in an airtight container to prevent any contact with air. If you store liquid smoke in proper conditions, you can use it for approximately two years.

Is Liquid Smoke High In Sodium?

Liquid smoke has approximately 10 mg of sodium per tablespoon. This is not a high content given the fact that most recipes require the use of a maximum of two tablespoons of liquid smoke.

How Much Liquid Smoke Should I Use Per Pound Of Meat?

As we already know by now, liquid smoke is a highly concentrated substance. Therefore, it is suggested that for every one five pounds of meat, only one tablespoon of liquid smoke should be used. Considering this rule, if you plan on using liquid smoke for one pound of meat, it should approximately be one-fifth of a tablespoon.


Therefore, liquid smoke has several practical applications. It comes in handy especially when you wish to enjoy a smoky flavor in your food items without having to invest in either a smoker or a grill. Evidently, liquid smoke comes in as a cost-effective option. It not only enhances the flavor but also the color and texture of the food item. Depending upon your requirements, you can go for liquid smoke.

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Evelyn Brown

Evelyn Brown is a housewife and spends most of the time at home taking care of her infant son. The time that she has left after cleaning the house and taking care of the son and the daddy is dedicated to making her mark on the internet. She loves to write about the kitchen appliances that she uses in her daily life. She also likes to spend quality time with her husband and drink aged wine and scotch.

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