Invented by Ernest H. Wright, liquid smoke is a savory additive that adds a hint of smokiness to foods. Liquid smoke allows nonsmoked foods to have the same flavor as smoke-cured foods, such as ham. Originally produced by collecting the condensed smoke from the top of a stovepipe, you can make your own liquid smoke at home by forcing smoke to condense and then collecting the liquid.
To condense your own smoke at home, use a smoker or a grill that has a chimney, such as a clay Mexican cooking oven. The type of wood you use will affect the flavor of your smoke, so choose your wood carefully. Frequently used woods include apple, olive, hickory and mesquite. Light charcoal, placing it in the chimney and then cover it with the wood or chips. Soak the chips or wood in water beforehand to ensure a good smoke. Place a Bundt pan on the top of the chimney, and cover it with an upside down metal mixing bowl. Place a bag of ice over the metal bowl. As the smoke rises up the chimney, through the hole in the pan, it will collect in the mixing bowl. The ice cools the mixing bowl, causing condensation to run down the sides of the bowl, into the pan.
Homemade Vs. Store-Bought
Homemade liquid smoke guarantees that there are no chemical additives for color or flavor — manufactured liquid smoke often contains little to no “real” smoke. Homemade liquid smoke also lets you control the flavor of your smoke, as you can choose what type of wood to use. It is also cleaner tasting than store-bought liquid smoke. However, making it yourself is a labor intensive process, and you will often get only a little bit of smoke after several hours.
References and ResourcesSerious Eats: Pantry Essentials -- Liquid Smoke
Cook's Illustrated: Liquid Smoke Taste Test
Liquid Smoke Flavor: Make Liquid Smoke Yourself