Don’t Have a Smoker? Ingredients That Add Smoke Flavor
Want to boost the smoke flavor—even if you don’t have time to fire up your smoker? Add one of the following smoked ingredients.
Ingredients That Add Smoke Flavor
Bacon: Everything tastes better with bacon. Wrap lean foods, such as shrimp or chicken breasts, in bacon for grilling. Grill or pan-fry bacon until crisp and crumble it over whatever you’re serving. Use bacon fat for sautéing or basting. In the best of all worlds, you’d make your own bacon or use a good artisanal brand like Nueske’s. Most inexpensive bacon uses injected smoke flavoring, not real wood smoke.
Chipotle chiles: Smoked jalapeños from Mexico. This is one of the rare foods I prefer to buy canned. Canned chipotles come in a spicy marinade called adobo. A teaspoon of adobo in addition to the minced chiles will electrify any dish.
Ham: Like bacon, smoked ham is a great way to add rich, smoky, meaty umami flavors to any dish you can think of. Wrap asparagus stalks in speck (Italian smoked prosciutto) for grilling. Add diced cooked smoked ham to mac and cheese. And slivers of smoky Virginia ham in red-eye gravy.
Lapsang souchon: Tea leaves are dried over pinewood fires to make this smoked black tea from the Wuyi region in Fujian, China. Use for teasmoking; add to brines and marinades. Makes great smoky iced tea. Freeze that tea with a little lemon and sugar, then scrape it with a fork to make a refreshing granita.
Liquid smoke: There’s no substitute for wood smoke, of course, but liquid smoke—a natural flavoring made by condensing real wood smoke in a sort of still—does give you a distinctive smoke flavor. Available in several flavors, such as hickory and mesquite, it’s especially useful for barbecue sauces. Use sparingly—a dash or two goes a long way.
Mezcal: Tequila’s cousin, mezcal is made from fire roasted agave cactus hearts in the hills around Oaxaca. It gives any cocktail an instant smoke flavor. Sprinkle a few drops on grilled oysters or in smoked tomato salsa.
Pimentón: Use this smoked paprika from Spain to add a smoke flavor to dishes not easily cooked on a grill—scrambled eggs, for example. I also like to substitute pimentón for the paprika in barbecue rubs.
Rauchbier: Smoked beer is traditionally from Bamberg, Germany. To make it, the malted barley is dried over a wood fire. Makes interesting beer-based cocktails and barbecue sauces. Melt grated smoked cheese in rauchbier for the ultimate cheese fondue.
Scotch whisky: One of the world’s most distinctive whiskies, Scotch is made by drying malted barley over a smoky peat fire. The best single-malt Scotches come from Islay Island off Scotland’s western coast. My favorite brands are Laphroaig (the smokiest), Lagavulin (distinguished by its finesse), and Bowmore (remarkable for its caramel sweetness). Indispensable in a Blood and Sand cocktail. Add a few drops to heavy cream with confectioners’ sugar to make a smoky whipped cream.
Smoked cheese: The best grilled cheese I ever tasted was smoked mozzarella grilled in lemon leaves at the restaurant Bruno in Positano, Italy. I like to grate smoked cheddar into mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. Popular smoked cheeses include cheddar, Gouda, and mozzarella. Learn how to haysmoke mozzarella and cold-smoke ricotta.
Smoked salt: A no-brainer seasoning for steaks, chops, and other grilled meats, and a great way to put extra smoke flavor into barbecue rubs. Two brands I like are dark Danish Viking Smoked Salt and Alaska Pure Alder Smoked Sea Salt.