There are several ways to go when you want to impart a smoky flavor to food without actually, you know, smoking it. Many folks complain about liquid smoke; they think it tastes grossly artificial. In fact, most brands of liquid smoke are completely natural: They’re the condensed liquid from the actual smoking process. If you find liquid smoke gives an off-flavor, you’re probably using too much, says Will Owen—this stuff is to be dealt out in drops, not spoonfuls. Two recommended brands are Colgin and Wright’s.
If you want to add some heat along with a smoky flavor, chipotle chiles (dried and smoked jalapeños) do a great job, whether you use them whole and dry, in powder form, or canned in vinegary adobo sauce. Another option is Spanish smoked paprika, which is available in sweet, bittersweet, and hot varieties (order online from La Tienda). magnolia uses Lapsang Souchong tea, which has an assertively smoky flavor, in cooking. She grinds the tea leaves as fine as possible in a spice grinder, then forces them through a fine mesh sieve and stores them in a salt shaker. You can also submerge Lapsang Souchong tea bags in liquid dishes like soup or chili when you want to add a smoky note.
Board Links: Liquid smoke…or not?