Liquid smoke is made when the smoke from burning wood is captured and then condensed into liquid form. As confusing or complicated as liquid smoke can seem, liquid smoke is quite literally the liquefied form of smoke. Think of water vapor following condensation and transforming into liquid form—that is the same process that changes smoke into liquid smoke.
Since its creation, liquid smoke has often been dubbed a “culinary shortcut.” That is because rather than smoking meat for hours, as little as a few drops or a teaspoon of liquid smoke can give your food the same smoky flavor. Often mixed into marinades or sauces—such as barbeque sauce—liquid smoke gives you the enjoyment of eating smoked meat without the tedious work of operating a smoker all morning or afternoon. So, is it a helpful shortcut or a last-minute resort for the lazy chef? That is an entirely different debate in itself.
The history of liquid smoke dates back to the turn of the twentieth century. Ernest H. Wright, a pharmacist from Kansas City, first created liquid smoke in 1895. The discovery, like many of the era, occurred when inspiration and curiosity met determination. After recognizing that smoke condensed when it hit cool air, Wright began capturing the smoke produced from burning hickory wood, condensing it, and then bottling the resulting liquid.
While rumors have surfaced about the dangers of liquid smoke, the reality is that when produced properly, liquid smoke is a healthy, all-natural, safe product to use for cooking, according to the Food Network. In fact, facilities in the United States that manufacture liquid smoke for commercial use are subject to FDA inspections and fall under its regulatory scope.
The safest liquid smoke products are the ones produced by reputable companies; however, there is a contingent of people who prefer to make their own liquid smoke at home. The process for making liquid smoke is fairly straightforward but takes experience to be able to replicate recipes used by professional manufacturing facilities.
- Ancient caves have provided evidence that humans have been controlling and cooking meat with fire for one million years.
- The world’s largest meat smoker, located in Texas, is 75 feet long and can smoke up to 8,000 pounds of meat simultaneously.
- The only event of its kind in North America, the American Cured Meat Championships have occurred annually since 1949 and pit the best smoked meats of various categories against one another.
- Foodnetwork.com – Is Liquid Smoke Safe to Eat?
- Eater.com – Liquid Smoke: The History Behind a Divisive Culinary Shortcut
- Allrecipes.com – What is Liquid Smoke?