Open Your Mind to Liquid Smoke

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I love barbecue, and the more often we can all enjoy barbecue, the better.

With all the hype and fanfare on television about barbecue competitions and visiting old-time barbecue joints across the country, it’s easy to see why many people are scared away from learning how to smoke foods in the backyard, or with an indoor smoker contraption. Barbecue is fun, and getting the right combination of smoke, low heat, rubs, and sauces does take practice. But what about the rest of us, who want good barbecue and reliable results any day of the year, and don’t aspire to being a barbe-guru? What about those who live in small apartments, and don’t even have a grill? Yes, you can have great barbecue.

Use your regular kitchen and some liquid smoke. It works and tastes great.

As one of the authors of Cheater BBQ, I’m continually surprised by most folks’ brush off of liquid smoke. For some reason, this seasoning has been condemned by a false reputation as some kind of creepy, unidentifiable, artificial chemical substance.

It’s not true. Liquid smoke is not artificial, and doesn’t taste artificial. It is all natural smoke condensate, made from smoldering hardwoods, and is readily available at regular supermarkets, Walmart and, yes, even Whole Foods. Two popular brands are Wright’s, made with only smoke and water, and Colgin, a blend with added molasses and vinegar. After recipe testing for our book (and throwing lots of great parties with lots of happy guests), my co-author R.B. Quinn and I firmly believe that liquid smoke is a handy, reliable seasoning in the kitchen. It is consistent and easy to control, measure, and use. In fact, we’ve had much more oversmoked bitter meat prepared with solid wood smoke than with liquid smoke.

Sure, we love the adventure of an all day, all night barbecue—but how about smoky pulled pork, made in a slow cooker, with slaw and corn cakes on a regular school night? How about coming home to mesquite oven brisket with tortillas and fresh Pico de Gallo after a busy Saturday of soccer games and chores? Or, how about actually having fun at your own make ahead oven rib fest, with time to chat with guests? You can even parade out the ribs for a quick, showy finish on the grill at party time. Indoor barbecue uses all the traditional methods—dry rub, low slow heat, and sauces—but it changes the smoking chamber to the consistent heat of indoor appliances like the regular oven (or the slow cooker). We urge barbecue lovers to consider liquid smoke. It is the easiest, most foolproof way to impart real smoke flavor in your foods at home—no fancy gear required, or need to remove the smoke alarm battery.

There’s plenty of middle ground, and we can all enjoy our own great barbecue. It’s about barbecue diversity, and figuring out what’s right for the occasion and you. No one should apologize for not wanting to turn a home kitchen into a smoking laboratory, or not caring to know hickory from pecan, hardwood from briquettes, or a bullet from an off-set smoker. Give yourself permission to reach your own conclusion about barbecue, and you’ll be a happier, more successful pit master indoors and out.   


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