All varieties of meat can be enhanced with a smoky barbecue flavor including pork shoulder and angus beef.  

Authentic wood flavor


Different woods allow for the layering of flavors.

“We use different wood species to create different varieties of smoke,” says Joe Schissler, sales director with Red Arrow. “Since hickory is the most common form of wood used in the US for smoking, it has become the standard that all other smokes are judged.”

A mesquite wood provides an ashier flavor profile, whereas applewood has a sweeter note. Other common woods include cedar, cherry, oak and pecan.

“The beautiful thing about the array of complex smoke and grill flavor ingredients now available is that you can capture elements in such a wide range of cooking,” Weber says. “From slow smoking a brisket for 12 hours to flame searing a ribeye in minutes, grill and smoke flavors can be customized to match the technique. You can also add these authentic cooking method flavors into products such as meatloaf, sausage, burgers or even bacon to truly create a unique and premium eating experience.”   

In keeping with the clean and simple formulating trend, Red Arrow recently introduced a line of naturally smoked ingredients. These ingredients are manufactured by allowing the whole smoke fraction to come in contact with common ingredients, such as sugar, garlic or onion. These ingredients then deliver the smoky flavor and do not require a “smoke flavoring” added label declaration.

“This product line was developed to fill a need in the marketplace for products requiring minimal labeling,” Johnson says. “Because we use quality hardwood sawdust to traditionally smoke these ingredients, only the ingredient needs to be labeled.”

The smoked carrier is simply identified in the ingredient legend. Applewood smoked sugar and hardwood smoked garlic powder are two examples.

“Our new line of naturally smoked ingredients delivers high impact and customizable smoke flavor,” says Mark Crass, vice president and general manager at Red Arrow. “This line removes almost 100 percent of all carcinogens from smoke, reduces air emission and carbon dioxide by more than 82 percent, and is an all-natural process, meaning they are not artificial or chemically derived.”

Kurt Christensen, director of research and development, LifeSpice, says, “The use of liquid smoke in meats has allowed for large increases in throughput compared to the processes where smoke is added via the smoke house. Aside from better throughput, using smoke flavors has the advantage of delivering a more consistent flavor. It’s also safer, because the temperature is better controlled when making smoke on a large scale than when the processor makes it themselves.”

“A big application for liquid smoke is hot dogs,” Christensen explains. “The dogs are stuffed and hung on ‘trees,’ where they are drenched in liquid smoke. The liquid smoke adds flavor, color and also sets the protein, so that the hot dogs develop a skin. Natural smoke does the same thing, but it takes much longer in the smokehouse.”

Smoke flavors come in many forms. This offers variety, but comes with the challenge of understanding when to use one over the next.

“The majority of the time the delivery method, either through the seasoning, into the meat block, drenched on product, or atomized in the smokehouse can seem straight forward,” says Christopher Rodrigues, culinary council member at LifeSpice. “But there are inevitably snags that can be frustrating, but present learnings on best uses, a trial and error of sorts.

“Liquid smoke comes in water- and fat-soluble forms,” Rodrigues says. “Water-soluble smokes can be applied directly to the meat block at many different stages. Fat-soluble smokes can be used very similarly, with the added benefit of being plated on the seasoning side prior to going into the meat block. This can be beneficial because there is less processing needed at the manufacturing facility and less user error. 

“Dried or plated versions of smoke are better implemented through a seasoning blend and used on a ground or chopped and formed product, as whole muscle applications can have aversions to absorbing the carrier leaving a residue that may be unwanted,” Rodrigues says.

Some smoke ingredients contribute functional benefits to meat and poultry applications, including possibly extending shelf life and combating spoilage.

“Smoke is a multi-dimensional ingredient, which in addition to imparting the familiar attributes of aroma, color and flavor, contains naturally occurring compounds that inhibit both oxidative rancidity and certain classes of known spoilage and pathogenic bacteria,” Johnson says. “This may extend shelf life and flavor stability during storage and distribution.” 

Smoke and grill flavors also assist with adding flavor to meat analogs. This is proving to be helpful with improving the taste of the growing category of plant-based meat products now on the market.

“Consumers have become accustomed to a certain flavor profile and when they go meatless, they still expect that flavor profile,” Schissler says.

Smoke flavors can assist with improving the taste of plant-based meat alternatives, in particular patties and sausages. Usage levels may be reduced, as plant-based products tend to be higher in moisture and lower in fat than their meat and poultry counterparts. This often results in increased flavor intensity.

“Seasoning companies have a great opportunity to enhance these alternate proteins to improve on acceptability,” Rodrigues says. “Counterintuitively, the goal on the seasoning side will not always be to make the plant-based protein taste like meat, as the base consumer can still have aversions to rich meaty notes through association. Within those parameters there is still a lot of room for making really delicious umami rich flavors within these plant-based protein systems to deliver to the growing expectations of the consumer.”