The Secret Ingredient For A Top-Notch Steak Marinade Is Liquid Smoke

steaks on an electric grill
steaks on an electric grill - John Danow/Shutterstock

Alas, not every season is grilling season. The summer can really give you a taste for smoky, crisp-charred meats that can only be made on a charcoal grill. This is not meant to knock on all the wonderful braises and stews that autumn and winter bring, but let's face it: Steaks made on an electric grill are missing something, and that something is smoke. You can continue believing this if you want, or you can go out and buy a bottle of liquid smoke and use it to continue living your best life during the indoor cooking season.

Putting just a touch (and believe us, a little goes a long way) of liquid smoke into any steak marinade will make that meal taste complete, likely because it scratches an ancient itch. Until quite recently in human history, all food was cooked over a fire, and the association of smoke and meat is ongoing. Because smoke is not just a by-product of combustion: It's a flavor. Why that is and how it was turned into a liquid is a fascinating story.

Read more: The 13 Best Steaks For Grilling

How To Bottle An Elemental

wood and smoke
wood and smoke - iJeab/Shutterstock

Most burning things produce smoke. The smoke from many different types of wood -- think hickory and apple, to name just two of many -- can hugely complement the flavor of cooked animal proteins (or asparagus, for that matter). In addition to water vapor and particulate matter, the gas we know as smoke also contains compounds derived from the burning wood's cellulose and lignin. This informs not only what we smell but what we taste.

Since you probably don't have a giant hearth in your kitchen, it's not a simple matter of introducing a smoke flavor into your food the old-fashioned way. Enter liquid smoke, which is basically just that: a condensed smoke produced by smoldering wood chips combined with water to create an aqueous solution (after the removal of some nasty compounds that result from burning). Ideally, the bottle of liquid smoke you buy at the store should contain only two ingredients: smoke and water.

A Controversial Condiment

hand holding a bottle of liquid smoke in a grocery store
hand holding a bottle of liquid smoke in a grocery store - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Because it contains smoke, and smoke contains natural carcinogens, liquid smoke is not universally loved by foodies. It's up to you to make the best dietary choices for your health, but know that the amount of liquid smoke you'd have to consume to be endangered is obscene, according to Iowa State University. Which brings us back to our earlier admonishment: A little of this stuff goes a very long way.

As soon as you open your bottle of liquid smoke, you will be confronted with the bracing smell of pure smoke essence. It should be obvious at that point that just a few drops of the stuff will do the job -- especially if you include liquid smoke as part of a dry rub on the aforementioned steak. If you're putting a marinade together, start with a ¼ teaspoon of liquid smoke (or less). Will it equal the smoke provided by those gorgeous, smoldering hickory chips in your smoker box? No. But liquid smoke is not only the second runner-up: It's the only other runner and, by the way, just the thing to take your hot sauce to the next level.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.