Is Liquid Smoke Safe?

Liquid smoke can add authentic smoke flavor to recipes. But it can also add the harmful compounds found in smoke. 

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
1-minute read

Liquid SmokeQ. 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.Liquid Smoke

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!

Wood smoke image courtesy of Shutterstock, Figaro Liquid Smoke by Andrew Filer CC BY-SA 2.0

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.