Sunday, December 7, 2014
Liquid smoke was invented in the late 19th century as a convenient alternative to the smoke house. The product is derived from actual wood smoke, which is cooled and condensed to give a liquid, rich in the compounds that give the characteristic smoked wood flavor. When wood burns it doesn't do so completely, and while it burns it releases certain compounds - a process called pyrolysis - that can be used to season and cure food and give it a smokey flavor. Liquid smoke effectively does the same thing - it contains the same compounds released by smoldering wood and is essentially wood smoke in liquid form.
The story has it that sometime in the early 1890s a guy named Ernest Wright, a Kansas City pharmacist, made the first liquid smoke to prepare a ham for his friends, who could not distinguish the soaked ham from an ordinary smoked one.
Indeed, soaking meat for 1-2 hrs in a liquid smoke solution imparts the same smoky flavor as actual smoking and can be done much more easily than actually smoking it! This is not to say that we would not want to smoke our meat in a traditional charcoal/wood smoker, but it is simply not practically possible for many apartment-dwellers such as ourselves.
You can find liquid smoke in specialty shops or large supermarkets (in ours it was filed under "condiments"). Try following the directions on the bottle as they tend to be pretty accurate (diluting one part liquid smoke in X parts water). If you taste the liquid smoke/water solution, it will taste very bitter. So I was skeptical the first time, and I insisisted that we use half the amount of liquid smoke, since I thought the meat would come out bitter as well. That was not the case. The meat still came out delicious. The tenderloin tasted like ham (the smokiness flavor was subdued). The second time we used it we used the full amount, and the meat came out tasting like it's been smoked.
You should allow at least an hour or two for the meat to soak in liquid smoke solution (two hours is better). Also allow enough water and a container large enough for the meat to be completely submerged. Once the meat is done marinating, discard the liquid and pat dry with paper towels. Lay on a lightly greased baking sheet and either season with spices to your preference, or (an option we prefer) use a dry barbecue rub.
Roast in oven at 350ºF. Any time we have any meat or poultry that needs to be roasted, I like to use old trusted sources for temperature and time. For this one, we used the Joy of Cooking magic formula: cook at 350ºF for 30 minutes per pound of meat. We had two pounds, so an hour was perfect (however, keep an eye on it as pork tends to dry out easily even if slightly overdone).
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Liquid Smoke
You will need:
About 2 lb split pork tenderloin
liquid smoke (proportion as instructed on the label)
dry barbecue rub (check out our recipe here)
canola or other high-heat oil
1. Rinse the tenderloin and pat dry with paper towels. Prepare a bath of 1 parts liquid smoke for 8 parts water (or as instructed on the label) in a container large enough for the tenderloin to be submerged completely. Soak tenderloin, refrigerated, in liquid smoke solution for two hours. Remove, discard the liquid, and pat dry completely with paper towels.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil with a little oil. Generously rub the two tenderloin pieces with barbecue rub.
2. Place in oven, uncovered, and roast, for about 1 hour for two pounds or until done.* Let rest for about 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy with a choice of barbecue sauce, horse radish, mustard, or whatever condiment you prefer.
*Add half an hour for additional pound of meat