Liquid smoke adds smoky flavor to a recipe without the long process of smoking foods over wood or charcoal. Derived from wood juices and distilled into an extract-like flavoring, liquid smoke concentrates the smoky taste for use in sauces, brines and marinades. Because liquid smoke can overwhelm some dishes, knowing how much to add and when helps it blend with the other ingredients.
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Liquid smoke used in brining solution infuses meat or poultry with its smoke flavor. Soaking meat or poultry in brine tenderizes it and uses the process of osmosis to infuse its cells with flavor and moisture. A brining solution consists of water, salt and flavorings. Dissolve 1 cup of salt per gallon of water. Add herbs, spices and sugar as desired. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke and cover the meat or poultry in the brining solution. Allow the meat to soak, refrigerated, for several hours and pat dry before cooking.
Because marinades don't come in contact with meat or poultry as long as a brining solution will, use a greater amount of liquid smoke in marinades than in brining solutions. Liquid smoke can comprise most of the liquid in a marinade. Add a bit of sugar or syrup, some acid such as lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and seasonings. Place the meat, poultry or fish in the marinade and let it sit for up to a couple hours. Cook the marinated food without rinsing or drying the marinade and discard any unused marinade.
Use liquid smoke as a component in a finishing sauce for coating on meat, fish or vegetables. Traditionally used in barbecue sauces, add a teaspoon of liquid smoke to every cup of sauce, but don't limit it to barbecues. Liquid smoke enhances the flavor of marinara sauce, cocktail sauce, and even cheesy béchamel sauces as well. Cut back on the amount of salt in a recipe when adding liquid smoke; salt to taste at the end.
Substitute liquid smoke for bacon grease when sautéing meat or vegetables. The liquid smoke contains no fat, so added calories are not a worry. Provide liquid smoke in a vinegar bottle at the table for shaking on rice instead of soy sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke to ground meat when making meatloaf or meatballs for an added shot of savory flavor or "umami." Include a teaspoon or two of liquid smoke in pickling brines.