Liquid smoke is a concentrated seasoning that is used as a substitute to actual smoking of food stuff like beef, pork or seafood. Liquid smoke is used as a way of duplicating the distinctive flavor and smell of an authentically smoked food without having to need a smoker or a smokehouse. Liquid smoke is, surprisingly, taken from the actual smoke that is generated by popular “smoking” woods in a controlled environment.
Making liquid smoke starts with the first step, which is the choosing of the wood. The woods most closely associated with smoking are hickory and mesquite, which are popular for barbecuing meats. But over the decades, woods like pecan and apple wood have also become more popular. In order to manufacture liquid smoke, a batch of wood is inserted into a large oven called retort to be processed.
The smoke that comes out in this part of the process are actually minuscule smoke particles that are encased in water vapor. A refrigeration unit quickly cools down the surrounding air. This rapid drop in temperature would result in the smoke particles and water to condense and turn into liquid that falls down. The resulting “smoke” liquid is piped into oak barrels where it is aged, a process similar to aging whiskey or wine.
After the aging process, the liquid smoke is filtered to remove any kind of impurities. It is then bottled for shipping and distribution. Liquid smoke is usually found in groceries near other liquid seasonings like Worcestershire sauce or angostura bitters.