HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


your thoughts on liquid smoke?

I love, love, love smoky flavors in food. Obviously, the best way to get them in there is to char-grill or smoke things in a smoker. However, this is not feasible for me right now--I share an apartment with roommates in a densely populated city and so I lack the space and the money for the equipment. When I went to impart a smoky flavor to food, I usually include some kind of smoked ingredient that I can buy--Spanish paprika, chipotle, smoked cheese etc. But then there's just straight up liquid smoke--I don't know how to feel about it. Some how, it seems like cheating, more than adding smokiness via another ingredient does but then, maybe that's just a silly prejudice. I generally like to stay away from fake additives and do things "the long way." But the long way just isn't possible right now! What do you guys think? Should I feel fine about adding this to my pantry? Do you use it? Would you not touch it with a 10-foot pole? Your thoughts, please.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Its good. Use it. Its not a fake additive, its real smoke put through water.

    1. It's absolutely fine. No reason not to use it when you need to. There's nothing fake about it.

      1. I would not touch it with a 10-ft pole, but I have the luxuries of a back yard and a cold smoker. But if I were in your situation I certainly would give it a try. If it tastes good, eat it. Is garlic infused oil fake garlic flavor?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Zeldog

          agree with Zeldog, I have the luxury of an outdoor grill and a forest of hardwoods at the moment, so I turn my nose up at the idea, but if I were in your shoes, I'd indulge. my only caution is to those that think they are avoiding potential (and minimal) carcinogens by using the liquid - yer not.

        2. I think you should just go by what tastes good to you. I know many people like liquid smoke, I don't but you might.

          1. I use liquid smoke fairly often. When I am cooking pork ribs, I put liquid smoke in the brine and then I add it to mustard that I brush on to hold the dry rub. I have seen this technique with pulled pork too. I

            I have done it with pork tenderloin, too.

            The way I figure it is that it is better than no smoke at all. I usually don't have time to smoke for several hours.

            1. I use it and it does the job. It's a natural extract, unlike something like truffle oil which is totally fake.

              I do think however that liquid smoke is something that should be used judiciously...it's not the perfect replacement for _actually_ smoking food, and too much of it does get pretty cloying. But usd moderately, it does add a very nice touch to many foods.

              1. I have a Weber smoker and I enjoy smoked food from it, but in the winter or in the summer when it's too hot I also use liquid smoke. A little goes a long way. Too much can overwhelm and make food bitter.

                But I also put beans in chili and sugar in cornbread, and I like it. ;-)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Antilope

                  There are also different flavors of liquid smoke. I've used hickory and mesquite. I prefer hickory.

                  1. I knew nothing about it until I heard a segment on The Splendid Table interviewing an author of Cheaters BBQ. I bought the book, and have tried a few recipes, as well as used it a few times on my own. I'm not yet a big fan of the stuff, but this is a place to start.


                    ATK also did an oven roasted pulled pork, where they first marinated the meat in a brine with liquid smoke, and then used smoked paprika in the dry rub. I roughly followed the idea using country style ribs and produced some good meat (though the smoke flavor was not strong).

                    1. Hi, Lady_Tenar:

                      Here's my take on liquid smoke. Like garlic powder, a *lot* more chefs and home cooks use it than will admit. Like garlic powder, they use it because it works well. Frankly, to draw a different analogy, it may be more like canned pumpkin--it's really hard to work a flavor improvement with real smoke. Texture, appearance and preservation are different matters.


                      1. I agree that it has its place, but is not a substitute for actual smoking. A few drops in a marinade, or a batch of greens, or a dip, or a soup, or a BBQ sauce works great.

                        It's one of those flavors where just enough can be wonderful, but a little too much is truly awful. I use & enjoy it occasionally, and one little bottle will last a long, long time. Myself, I use smoked paprika more often, but the liquid can go places the paprika can't.

                        Still, whatever you do, be careful not to spill any in your kitchen!!!

                        1. I'm not sure where I read this, but liquid smoke is basically the equivalent of bong water (ahem). I only use it in rare instances, but I do keep it in my pantry for such occasions as making beef jerky. A little goes a long way, so don't go nuts with it. Otherwise, I'm on board with it.

                          1. "bong water" mm, that was good for a laugh!

                            Not being in a position to smoke anything here (I tried it one time in Brooklyn, I was smoking chicken breasts in my little Weber Smoky Joe in the back yard and the fire department arrived, called by a neighbor who, yeah, smelled smoke.) I have used liquid smoke but right now I have hickory smoke powder which is great in bbq sauce, chili and on pork, on anything where I want a little smoky essense.

                            Ingredients: Spray dried smoke powder in a malt sugar base. Nothing fake about it. A little goes a very long way.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                              Do you have a pattern for that pumpkin avatar?

                              1. re: sbp

                                Hehe, no, it just came to me...wait til you see the pumpkin avatar I have for the day after Halloween.

                            2. I use smoky paprika for this purpose.

                              1. I always have some on hand, but as others have said a little goes a long way.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MandalayVA

                                  Same here. I don't use it a lot. Have a smoker and use it often but there are times when it's just the ticket to get the flavor I want in a dish.

                                2. To me, it is one of those pesky ingredients you buy for *ONE* recipe, after which it languishes in your cupboard getting old and crusty.