Test Kitchen Tips
How to Use Liquid Smoke
Liquid smoke goes way beyond meat. Learn how to use the shortcut ingredient.
Shutterstock / wideonet
There’s nothing that quite captures the taste of summer like starting up the BBQ. But how do you get smoky flavor without the grill? Liquid smoke, of course. While this ingredient can be polarizing—yes, we hear your groans, grilling purists—a few drops of liquid smoke offers a shortcut to all that good wood-grilled flavor that you would get from grilling outdoors. Purchase a bottle or two here.
How to Use Liquid Smoke
- Brush liquid smoke on meats like steaks, burgers or even deli meats to add more depth to the flavor. Here’s the best way to cook a burger indoors.
- Liquid smoke is concentrated and often very potent. Aim to use 1/4 teaspoon (or less!) in your recipes. You can always add more to adjust to your taste preferences.
- Try diluting liquid smoke with water or vinegar for a subtle flavor.
Liquid smoke shouldn’t be limited to just your standard meats; it can be used in unexpected ways to infuse dishes and drinks with complex, delicious flavors.
Shutterstock / Elena Veselova
Combine With BBQ Sauce
There is almost no sauce that can’t use a little pick-me-up from liquid smoke. Add a few drops to everything from your BBQ sauce to vinaigrette to your ranch dressing—finding how to get smoky flavor in unexpected places will help elevate your burgers, salads, and everything in-between.
Make Vegetarian Bacon
Even meat eaters will love this vegetable twist on bacon: with liquid smoke, everything from eggplants to mushrooms to even rice paper can imitate your favorite breakfast. Just mix up a quick marinade with liquid smoke, soy sauce, maple syrup and paprika, coat your thinly sliced substitute of choice, and cook your preferred method.
Psst! Did you know that most liquid smoke is vegan? However, these foods are not.
Shutterstock / Rimma Bondarenko
Make a Faux Hot Dog
Maybe you’re vegan, or maybe you’re trying to increase your veggie intake (Meatless Monday, anyone?)—whatever your motive, put down the hot dog and reach for a carrot. Seriously. Prepare a marinade with a few drops of liquid smoke, some olive oil, and apple cider vinegar and let the carrots soak in the liquid for about four hours before roasting. Stick it in a bun, and you’ve got the taste of your childhood favorite.
“Smoke” Your Own Salmon
We’d all love to prepare our salmon on a cedar plank (we can show you how!), but when none is available, liquid smoke is a good substitute. Marinate your fish in liquid smoke, brown sugar, and soy sauce for at least an hour before cooking. The result will be a sweet and spicy dish that will taste restaurant-worthy but be ready within minutes.
Shutterstock / Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH
Fake Your Fish
Not eating salmon? Time to stock up on your produce. Liquid smoke can transform sliced tomatoes into lox’s identical twin; once you boil the tomatoes for about a minute, add the liquid smoke to a marinade with tamari or soy sauce, water and kelp powder to create the perfect accompaniment to your morning bagel. Speaking of bagels, you’ve been missing out on these crazy-good toppings.
Reinvent Mac and Cheese
We know you shouldn’t mess with perfection, but even the most dedicated mac and cheese aficionados would agree this is a worthwhile upgrade. Add just a few drops of liquid smoke to your cheese mix before baking for a, well, smoky flavor. Toss in some bacon for a truly unforgettable dish.
Roasted nuts are the perfect snack if you’re watching the game or heading on a camping trip. Create some zest by mixing together olive oil, salt, and liquid smoke—paprika and red pepper flakes are good additions as well—and thoroughly coat your nuts of choice in the mixture before roasting. For a sweeter option, sub out the spices for maple syrup and vanilla.
Shutterstock / Martha Graham
Meet the barbecue you can drink. Rinse a glass with one to two drops of liquid smoke—swirl it, and then dump it out into the sink—and build your cocktail as usual. This works best with tequila or dark liquors, like rum and whiskey (nothing says “five o’clock” like a smoky and sweet brandy old-fashioned) and is a great recipe to keep on hand once colder weather hits.
Add Depth to Your Candy
Liquid smoke can be added to candy to draw out deeper flavors. Add a few drops while you’re making caramels—the sweetness will be well-balanced by more depth, complexity, and richness. Sprinkle some sea salt on top for an extra crunch. Not sure how to start making candy? These soft chewy caramels are a great place to begin.