Liquid Smoke Is The Secret For Taking Your Hot Sauce To The Next Level

While we love watching people test their resilience by trying extreme hot sauces, some hot sauce fans prefer more nuanced flavors to tickle the tongue. Although the spicy notes of peppers and other ingredients can offer a bold tingling sensation, it's often the layers of ingredients that make one hot sauce preferred over the other. One flavor note that can enhance all others in the bottle is smoke.

Flavors of smoke often come from the low-and-slow pitmaster cooking method. Whether it's mesquite, hickory, or another wood choice, the burning embers produce a haze that penetrates food with flavor. Finding a balance is key. A note of wood? Good. Food tasting like an ashtray? Bad. Although pitmasters develop that perfect flavor with time and expertise, some cooks have turned to liquid smoke as a shortcut, adding a dash of flavor to boost various recipes. When the heat from the hot sauce needs to be tamed, liquid smoke can help lessen the flavor flames.

What is liquid smoke?

Although the aroma from a pitmaster's setup can be enjoyed from a distance, capturing the essence of that flavor in liquid smoke is a little more complicated. According to Pioneer Woman, water droplets form when smoke meets cold air. That "liquid smoke" can be used to bring a smokey flavor to foods that have not been kissed by flames. But, one word of caution. The liquid needs to be used sparingly because it is a concentrated flavor.

In a hot sauce, Hot Sauce Hell recommends using "1 teaspoon to every 24 ounces of sauce." The idea is to add depth of flavor by using the smoke to round out the spiciness. It should be added sparingly to keep the final product from tasting like smoke. Instead, liquid smoke should be a hint of umami that brings together all of the flavors.

Although liquid smoke might be considered a cheat in the barbecue world, it's the secret ingredient in many hot sauces. Whether it's called smoke essence, natural flavor, or another ubiquitous name, the reality is that a little smoke flavor can be the boost needed to make a hot sauce even more crave-able.

Creative ways to use liquid smoke in various dishes

Only a couple of teaspoons of liquid smoke are used in a hot sauce, so make sure that store-bought bottle doesn't go to waste. According to MasterClass, there are several simple recipes where concentrated smoke flavor can be welcome. For example, a couple of drops in a marinade can bring woody notes to meat. This option is an easy recipe hack when a grill is not available. Similarly, liquid smoke can give crock-pot brisket a more low-and-slow flavor nod.

You could even use this food hack to transform a meal made mostly from store-bought ingredients. For example, adding a drop or two of the flavor concentrate into a store-bought barbecue sauce is a great idea. The key is to remember that a little goes a long way. Usually, the ratio is one part liquid smoke to eight parts liquid. But it's best to experiment with the ingredient. Some people might like a more subtle approach and others may prefer a heavier hand. For people who do not have a smoker going 24/7, a bottle of liquid smoke might be their recipe's liquid gold.