Liquid Smoke

Mar 01, 2016

The process of smoking meat is an ancient food preservation technique. Throughout history, smoking has been used to add flavor as well as preserve meat.  Traditionally, smoking involves generating smoke from burning hardwoods, corn cobs, mesquite woods, etc. and transferring the smoke phase to a smokehouse and meat products. Today, meat is still naturally smoked, but there is also another type of smoke available, liquid smoke.

The use of liquid smoke dates back to the 19th century. Ernest H. Wright is credited as inventing liquid smoke as he noticed the black liquid that resulted after smoke would rise from the stove, hit the cold air, and collect in droplets that ran back down the stove pipe. You can still buy Wright’s Liquid Smoke in grocery stores today, and liquid smoke is used in a variety of home recipes including barbeque sauce, burgers, chili, etc. Liquid smoke is made from actual smoke.  Woodchips or sawdust that are typically obtained as by products from the lumber industry are burned at high temperatures and the smoke is collected in a condenser. The smoke phase is then cooled and captured in water as a condensate and filtered to remove tars and other undesirable smoke components. The resulting liquid is a condensed natural smoke in liquid form. 

Liquid smoke can be used in meat processing in a number of ways. One of the most common ways is through atomization.  Pressurized air is used to vaporize the condensed liquid smoke to create the same smoke environment in a smokehouse as burning actual wood would. This process is similar to traditional smoking but it is faster and more consistent. Other forms of applications include drenching/showering, injecting directly into the meat, or using it as part of a marinade or seasoning system.  If liquid smoke is used in a topical application (atomization or drenching) it can be labeled as “smoked” or “Hickory smoked,” etc. Sometimes both liquid smoke and traditional smoke will be used and these products can be labeled as “naturally smoked.”  However, if it directly added to the meat such as in the injection brine or marinade, you will see ‘smoke flavoring’ included in the ingredient statement.


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