Q. Hello! My family just returned from Hawaii, and I was excited to try a recipe for Kalua Pork until I saw liquid smoke listed in the ingredients. Is liquid smoke safe?
A. Liquid smoke is made by passing wood smoke through a chamber where the vapor is captured and condensed. Along with authentic smoke flavor, the resulting liquid also contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can be carcinogenic.
The amount of PAHs in liquid smoke depends on the type of wood and the smoking temperature, but the amounts are all quite small. Although I wouldn't drink the stuff, I don't think the occasional use of liquid smoke to prepare a special recipe is anything to be concerned about.
PAHs are also formed when meat is grilled over coals or flames, but this hazard can be minimized with marinades and spices.
See also: Does Grilled Meat Cause Cancer?
Finally, antioxidants can protect cells from the damaging effects of PAHs and other carcinogens, so be sure to serve plenty of veggies with your Kalua Pork!