Cooking With Liquid Smoke: The Dos and Don’ts

Liquid smoke is a byproduct of burning wood, so it is a natural product with flavors that come from real wood. You can get different flavors of liquid smoke that represent the flavors of different …

Cooking with Liquid Smoke

Liquid smoke is a byproduct of burning wood, so it is a natural product with flavors that come from real wood. You can get different flavors of liquid smoke that represent the flavors of different woods including pecan and hickory. Liquid smoke is viewed mainly as a convenience product. It is an easy way to get a flavor profile that can take a lot of work to develop using wood and a smoker. There are rules for using liquid smoke. Here are some of the liquid smoke dos and don’ts to help you get the most benefit from it.

Stock Up
Liquid Smoke Pack (Hickory, Mesquite, Apple, Pecan)
$9.49
Want to really explore all that liquid smoke can bring to foods? You'll want to try different liquid smoke flavors. This set includes hickory, mesquite, apple, and pecan - some of the most popular wood smokes out there.
Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
06/28/2022 12:04 pm GMT

Table of Contents

Do use liquid smoke to give an umami note to vegan foods.

Vegan cooks may struggle to get the meaty notes in tofu and other vegetable proteins. Liquid smoke can help to do this since it is vegan and comes with a savory flavor profile that most of us associate with smoked animal proteins.

Do use liquid smoke in your homemade barbecue sauce.

You get the most benefit from liquid smoke when you use it in applications that are difficult to smoke. Liquids fall into this category. You can place sauces and other liquids in your smoker but only the surface will be exposed to smoke so it will take hours for them to develop any true smoke flavor. You can get around this quickly by adding a dash or two to your barbecue sauce to get a strong smoky note.

Do use liquid smoke in marinades and brines.

If you don’t have hours to spend tending to a smoker, liquid smoke can be a convenient option. Marinating food in a marinade containing liquid smoke is a great way to replicate the flavor of the grill without actually grilling the food. This may be necessary if you are unable to use an outdoor grill or smoking wood to get the truest barbecue flavor. When you add liquid smoke to the marinade the food absorbs the smokiness the way it would after spending several hours in a wood-fueled smoker.

Do use liquid smoke in baked beans.

Baked beans are another application where the flavor of wood smoke is a traditional element. You can make baked beans smoky by adding a 1/2 teaspoon or so of liquid smoke. The other alternative would be to smoke the beans in an actual smoker, but that is as difficult as it is with barbecue sauce — it will take hours. You can get a similar smoky note in seconds with liquid smoke.

Do use liquid smoke as a substitute for bacon.

Most of the flavor profile that bacon brings when it is used as a seasoning comes from the hickory wood used to smoke it. If you are trying to avoid meat products or are watching your cholesterol, liquid smoke can be a workable bacon alternative. Use a few drops of it when sauteing vegetables to replicate the notes that bacon would bring. A little salt, MSG, and healthy fat can be added for an even stronger bacon-like flavor profile.

Don’t use too much liquid smoke.

Liquid smoke tends to be pretty potent, so a little bit will go a long way. Overusing it can lead to foods having an excessively smokey smell and an ashy taste.