Hickory Smoke Powder Is The Underrated Alternative To Liquid Smoke

Many cooks may be familiar with turning to small bottles of liquid smoke to add a bit of fresh-from-the-fire flavor to a dish, but fewer people know that there's another great resource for getting the taste of grilled goodness. The hickory smoke powder can provide an impressive amount of smokiness to any dish, from soups to meats.

Hickory smoke powder is a remarkable product. If you look at the ingredient list, it's incredibly simple. Most versions of this seasoning contain smoke flavor, maltodextrin, and silicon dioxide. The maltodextrin is used to transform a liquid essence of hickory wood smoke that has been captured and then turned into a powder. The silicon dioxide helps maintain the seasoning's powder consistency and prevents it from clumping. While it's unclear how long people have been making hickory smoke powder, the practice of creating a liquid version of smoke dates back to the late 1800s.

How to cook with hickory smoke powder

The first thing to realize about hickory smoke powder is that a little goes a long way. This powder is powerful stuff, and you want to use it judiciously. Start small –- try just a pinch, or maybe a ¼ teaspoon, and work your way up from there. It's a natural fit for meat rubs, and it pairs well with other BBQ favorite spices such as paprika, cumin, chili powder, and onion powder.

Another interesting way to use this seasoning is to add a little bit of it to your pickling liquid. It's a great way to add an unexpected hint of smoke to your pickled vegetables. Your potato salad could also benefit from a hint of smoke, too, especially if you include a bit of bacon, as well. Like liquid smoke, hickory smoke powder can help enhance the flavor of meatless dishes. You can add a bit to your favorite black bean burger recipe to give it some fresh-from-the-grill taste. In fact, you can make your own smoked salt by adding a teaspoon or two of hickory smoke powder to ½ cup of salt. Hickory smoke powder can jazz up condiments, as well. Imagine how good a smoky mayonnaise would taste on a sandwich.

Where to buy it

While it's not as readily available as its cousin liquid smoke, hickory smoke powder isn't too difficult to find. A number of online retailers, including Amazon, sell it. You can also buy it directly from several spice companies, as well. Remember to buy a small quantity; a 2-ounce or 4-ounce container will last you for a while, since you only use a little at a time.

In addition to hickory smoke powder, you can find other popular barbecue woods in powder form, as well. Mesquite smoke is considered to be bolder and more distinctive in flavor than hickory smoke. So you may want to adjust how much you use if you decide to try out mesquite smoke powder. And if you have no luck finding these smoke powders, you could also give smoked paprika a try. This spice is made from smoked peppers, and it adds a smoky flavor to any dish.

Nutritional information to know

Some people do have health concerns about smoke products since they are a byproduct of real smoke. The burning of wood or charcoal produces what are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and some are considered to be carcinogenic. Both liquid smoke and hickory smoke powder contain PAHs, but they are generally thought to be safe because they are only used in small quantities.

While there are no data available for hickory smoke powder specifically, liquid hickory smoke has a level of 0.8 carcinogens per teaspoon, according to the National Library of Medicine. This is a very minute amount, considering that a person can safely handle exposure to a carcinogen level of 47 at the most. Some versions of hickory smoke powder also contain salt, which may be a health concern for some. So for those watching their sodium intake, make sure to check the list of ingredients on the seasoning's label to make sure that there is no salt added.