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Liquid smoke...or not?

This BBQ fan has been bubbling over in excitement upon finding a new and interesting BBQ sauce recipe to try. However, my excitement was quickly banished upon the realization that the recipe calls for "liquid smoke." I have avoided this substance in my cooking exploits thus far, but fear that it may be necessary when making BBQ sauce. I do not have a grill (3rd floor tiny apartment) so this would be going into the oven after being liberally splashed with excitement over chicken (and various other possible edible victims). Any BBQ experts out there have an opinion as to whether I can omit this strange substance or a possible replacement?

(Liquid smoke just sort of gives me the willies)

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  1. My homemade sauce certainly does NOT have it. I use apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, onions, garlic, and various other things. Tastes great.

    1. I do not use liquid smoke, I dont like the processed, chemical taste it has compared to the real thing.

      Luckily I have a smoker, so I can get the smoke flavor naturally.

      3 Replies
      1. re: swsidejim

        Hi you having a smoker is good because I need your help. I also have one and I ran out of hickory so I puchased a bag of hickory chip from Home Depot but they are to big to use in my smoker. Do you know where or what I can use to turn these chips into smaller pieces or sawdust.

        1. re: Chinajade

          Mm, rent a wood chipper? Small hatchet and start splitting kindling? Beyond from all that work, I would see about returning them for smaller wood chips that do fit into your smoker.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            I actually do use a small hatchet for that purpose. Kind of funny.

      2. I have replaced liquid smoke successfully with Tabasco's Chipotle Pepper Sauce - the smoke chilis bring the nice smoke flavor with our the chemical taste - also adds a bit of fire as well

        1. Most liquid smokes are completly natural. They are merely the condensed liquid from the actual smoking process, the stuff running down the inside of your home bbq/smoker lid. Other than actually smoking your item, which doesn't sound like an option, this is the only way you will impart that flavor. As chowhounds we should not fear that which we have not tried, but embrace the opportunity to explore and broaden our culinary horizons. Not to mention a bottle of liquid smoke is only a few bucks. Try it and report back.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mattrapp

            I agree. Many liquid smokes are all natural, and they can be used safely. If you are cooking in a third floor apartment without a grill, you need this. If someone else tells you that THEIR homemade sauce doesn't have it and if they have access to a grill or smoker, it is not a valid criticism. You are starting at a disadvantage and need to do what you can to get a smoky flavor. That may involve using liquid smoke or a prepared sauce that has liquid smoke in it. It is not a level playing field.

            BTW, I used to be afraid of it too, and assumed that it was a chemical concoction. Indeed, some might be, but after reading about it, reading lots of labels, and learning how it is made (and Alton's episode is a good one for that), I became convinced it is just fine. Just be sure to use a light hand at first.

            I agree on considering smoked paprika instead of regular, and if you like the heat, smoked chilis as an alternative. You'll likely need to adjust the original recipe.

          2. In Alton Brown's episode about Beef Jerky (food network), he set up this huge contraption to make his own liquid smoke. It was a pit with a pipe that he topped with an upside down bundt pan and a cover for it topped with a bag of ice. The idea was that the smoke comes up the chimeny, through the hold in the bundt pan, and when it hits the cold lid, it condenses and falls into the bundt pan for later harvesting.

            Sounds like a lot of trouble, doesn't it? He did it tho, and I was envious because I hate the taste of the commercial product that is liquid smoke.

            1 Reply
            1. re: xnyorkr

              It IS a lot of trouble and I believe even AB said it's not worth it. He did it to illustrate that it can be a DIY project if you're up to it.

              The stuff you can buy at restaurant supply stores has no chemical additives and is pretty good.