No Smoker? No Problem.
You can bring that smoky flavor to your food in many other ways, no smoker needed. In fact, your cabinet may already contain flavoring and spice alternatives that can bring that earthy richness to life in nearly any dish. Here are our five favorite smoky ingredients for when good old-fashioned smoking is just not an option.
Liquid smoke gets a bad rap. Among BBQ and fiery food fans, it’s often seen as a cheap (and less tasty) hack to smoking your food the proper way. But when you’re in a bind and you need that smoky flavor now, there’s nothing that provides it better. It’s all natural – made from condensed smoke and water. Pro tip: Go easy on the amount you add. A little liquid smoke goes a long way. When you use too much, it can taste unnaturally smoky which is where the culinary griping is often born.
Chipotle is dried and smoked jalapeño peppers, so know going in you’re food is going to get a heat bump with this addition. But if you can handle the spiciness, the smoky flavor is strong in this solution. It’s a favorite alternative to liquid smoke for many fiery food lovers.
- Chipotle powder: It’s a common pure chili powder in many spice racks and common in stores. Try it as a simple rub for grilled steaks to add that wanted smokiness. Or add it into sauces or marinades.
- Chipotle in adobo sauce: This popular spicy tomato-based sauce contains not only smoky chipotle, but also paprika for some extra spice. It’s an excellent way to marinade meats or add a little smokiness to soups or dips.
- Chipotle hot sauce: Tabasco makes a popular one, but there are many options out there. Chipotle hot sauces tend to have a tomato and vinegar base, so the flavor intensity may be too much for many recipes. This can be an good option for dips and sauces.
- Crushed chipotle pepper: Pick up a package of these dried chilies and crush them yourself for that smoky flavor in a more rustic form.
Here’s another spicy solution that’s common in the supermarket. Smoked paprika is made from chilies typically smoked with oak. That supplies a delicious earthy taste to this powder. There are various heat intensities available for smoked paprika, so check the canister prior to using.
Only use this option as a finishing spice. If you rely on smoked salt to be the primary creator of smoky flavor in your meal, you’re going to kill your dish through over-salting. That said, a tasty smoked salt dashed on a burger or BBQ meal can help bring the smokiness to life.
If you are looking for a sweet smoky flavor, then molasses is a terrific ingredient to experiment with. It has a light smokiness that pairs very well with many richer spices, like cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. Try using it when you’re looking to add hints of smoke to sauces, marinades, and even soups.
Photo by Tim Sackton CC 2.0