First manufactured as “condensed smoke” in 1895 by Missouri pharmacist Ernest H. Wright, liquid smoke is bottled magic: It adds a quick hit of grill flavor, no gear necessary. And you can make it (or fake it, rather) at home. The industrial method for producing it is a cross between the strange wonder of a chemistry lab and a barbecue—wood is burned, the smoke vapors are caught in a chamber, and then they’re cooled into a liquid. Chris Young, one of the founders of science-y cooking website ChefSteps.com, has a smart way to bypass the need for a big smoker. The trick is to use smoked salt and a mixture of solvents that will extract the smoke aromas. Young starts by mixing a neutral oil into the smoked salt and then adding just enough vodka to capture the smoke aroma from the salt without dissolving it. The result is a pure smoke oil, without a vodka or salt taste. He favors Bonfire smoked salt, which has a bold flavor that’s easy to extract. Brush smoke-flavored oil onto grilled corn, mix it with mayonnaise for potato salad or a burger condiment, add a few drops to salad dressing, or blend it into chocolate ice cream.
- 1⁄2 cup canola oil
- 2 tbsp. Bonfire smoked sea salt (saltworks.us)
- 1 tsp. vodka
- Bring oil, salt, and vodka to a simmer in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat, 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour, stirring occasionally, to allow flavors to meld. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding salt. Store in an airtight container; the mixture will keep indefinitely.