Shopping Like a Food Safety Expert – UPDATE

About a year and half ago, I wrote a blog on keeping food safe while shopping at the grocery store and getting it home safely.  In the blog, washing reusable grocery bags was included with advice from the USDA stating that reusable bags should be laundered at least one a month or immediately if soiled.

Since that blog, laundering of reusable bags has come into the lime light following a non-scientific study done by a tv station in Albuquerque, NM that is now circulating on social media.  This group contended that the bags they tested were heavily infested with bacteria that might be considered fecal contaminants.  The fact that reusable bags can be dirty is not a new story.   At study by scientists at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in 2011 confirmed such when they found that half of the bags tested in their study carried coliform bacteria with a small percentage exhibiting E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination.

While there are pros and cons to using reusable bags, cleanliness is of upmost importance.  Here are some tips from Good Housekeeping on how to launder the various types of reusable bags:

Canvas Bags – toss into the washing machine with hot water and detergent, dry in the drier.

Recycled Plastic or Polyproplylene Bags – wash by hand in warm soapy water and line or air dry; pay attention to inner- and outer-seams.

Insulated Bags – since insulated bags are usually used for raw meats, dairy products, and some produce, these bags need to be cleaned after each use with a disinfecting wipe and allowed to air dry completely before storing. If there was leakage of any kind, the bag should be turned inside out exposing the liner, washed with hot, soapy water and air dry.

Nylon Bags – flip them inside out; wash them by hand or on the gentle washing cycle in warm soapy water, and air dry.

In addition to these tips, I also like to dry my bags in the sunshine if possible. When was the last time you cleaned your reusable grocery bags?

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Buttercream Frosting

For some reason there has been a lot of discussion surrounding different types of frostings in the office recently. I have been recommending Buttercream frosting recipes to both family members and callers.

There are seven different types of Buttercream Frosting. The ingredients used are similar, but the way each is prepared is different.

Traditional Buttercream is fluffy and creamy, easy to make, and requires no cooking. It is a great base for adding flavoring and it holds color very well if you want to tint your frosting. This frosting is safe to be out at room temperature but it does not hold up as well in very warm temperatures. Once the butter starts to melt, the structure collapses.

Flour Buttercream, also known as Ermine Buttercream is not as sweet as Traditional Buttercream and it holds up a lot better in warm temperatures because of it’s pudding type cooked base. It is made by cooking together flour, sugar and milk then letting it cool completely before mixing it together with beaten butter.

German Buttercream is similar to Ermine Buttercream but it uses a custard type base instead of a pudding type. It turns out to be more like a whipped cream icing. This type of buttercream has eggs in it so it must be kept cool.

French Buttercream is rich and creamy. It is made by heating a sugar syrup until it reaches soft ball stage then whipping it into beaten pasteurized egg yolks and soft  butter. It will have a yellow tint to it due to the egg yolks but is easy to spread and makes a great filling between layers.

Italian Buttercream is similar to French Buttercream but you pour boiling syrup of sugar and water over pasteurized egg whites instead of just the yolks. This buttercream is best the day it is made.

Swiss Buttercream uses egg whites and sugar to create a warm mixture that is then whipped into frosting. You will want to make sure your sugar/egg white mixture is cool before adding your butter or the butter will melt. This buttercream is soft and fluffy and spreads nicely for filling layers and icing.

The seventh type of buttercream is Vegan Buttercream. You can substitute a vegan butter spread for the shortening but some spreads will produce a softer frosting so you may need to experiment with how much liquid to add if you are using a vegan spread.

I enjoy the ease and safety of the Traditional Buttercream but occasionally it is fun to experiment with some of the other styles.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Royal Icing Made Safe

Cookie decorating is a popular and fun holiday activity for many families. Royal Icing is often the chosen frosting for decorating as it dries quickly and hard and it is easy for nearly anyone to achieve decorating success! Traditionally made from egg whites and powdered (confectioners’) sugar, it is an easy icing to prepare but should NOT be made with raw egg whites.

It is a well-known fact that eggs may contain a bacteria, Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), that can cause foodborne illness. Researchers say that if present, the SE is usually found in the yolk, but they can’t rule out the possibility of SE in egg whites. To eliminate risk and ensure food safety, one should replace the raw egg white with lightly cooked egg whites or use pasteurized egg whites or meringue powder when making Royal Icing.

Lightly Cooked Egg Whites. Use the following method provided by South Dakota State University which can be used for Royal Icing and other frosting recipes calling for raw egg whites: In a heavy saucepan, the top of a double boiler or a metal bowl placed over water in a saucepan, stir together the egg whites and sugar from the recipe (at least 2 tablespoons sugar per white), water (1 teaspoon per white) and cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon per each 2 whites). Cook over low heat or simmering water, beating constantly with a portable mixer at low speed, until the whites reach 160° F. Pour into a large bowl. Beat on high speed until the whites stand in soft peaks. Proceed with the recipe. Note that you must use sugar to keep the whites from coagulating too rapidly. Test with a thermometer as there is no visual clue to doneness. If you use an unlined aluminum saucepan, eliminate the cream of tartar or the two will react and create an unattractive gray meringue.

It is a well-known fact that eggs may contain a bacteria, Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), that can cause foodborne illness. Researchers say that if present, the SE is usually found in the yolk, but they can’t rule out the possibility of SE in egg whites. To eliminate risk and ensure food safety, one should replace the raw egg white with lightly cooked egg whites or use pasteurized egg whites or meringue powder when making Royal Icing.

Meringue Powder. Meringue powder is available in specialty stores wherever cake decorating equipment is sold. Meringue powder is composed of cornstarch, dried egg whites, sugar, citric acid and some stabilizers. It’s perfect for making royal icing. Follow the instructions on the package to rehydrate and use.

Pasteurized Egg Whites. Pasteurized egg whites are of two types—pasteurized in-shell eggs or liquid pasteurized egg whites. Pasteurized in-shell eggs are available at some grocery stores. Shells of such eggs are stamped with a red or blue “P” in a circle. Whites of pasteurized shell eggs may appear slightly cloudy compared to fresh eggs. Liquid pasteurized egg whites are found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store in a milk-like carton usually near the regular eggs. According to the FDA, both of these products are safe to consume raw. Use these two products like raw whites is the recipe.

Keep unused icing covered at all times with a damp cloth or tightly wrapped to prevent drying and caking. For longer keeping time, store in the refrigerator for up to three days or freezer for up to three months. In addition to preventing food borne illnesses, refrigeration seems to help with separating. (If separation occurs–yellowish liquid on the bottom—just remix.).

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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“Joy of Cooking” Rolls Out a New Edition

A new edition of America’s favorite, classic cookbook, Joy of Cooking, rolled off the press on November 12. This edition was nine years in the making under the guide of John Becker and wife, Megan Scott. John Becker is the great grandson of Irma Rombauer, the original author of Joy of Cooking. I look forward to getting a copy of the new edition.

I was first introduced to Joy of Cooking in my junior food science class at the University of Nebraska where I was a consumer science (then home economics) major. My instructor called it the ‘kitchen bible’ telling us that anyone could learn to cook using Joy as their guide. It had all the recipes one would ever need in addition to being a culinary reference with its “About” sections. So in addition to purchasing our course textbook, we were required to also purchase a copy of Joy of Cooking. While I don’t remember, it was likely the 5th edition published in 1964 by Irma’s named successor and daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker. In the many years since, my paperback copy of that edition has been lost.

The cookbook began eighty-eight years ago when Irma Rombauer, a German immigrant and recent widow, needed a means to support her family during the Great Depression. To do so, she compiled her favorite recipes, wrote a cookbook, and self-published it in November 1931. She enlisted the help of a St Louis, MO company that printed labels for shoe companies and Listerine mouthwash to print her book, a first for the company. She paid $3000 to print 3000 copies of the Joy of Cooking: A compilation of Reliable Recipes for a Casual Culinary Chat. The book was illustrated by Rombauer’s daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker.

As the 3000 copies began to dwindle, a commercial printer was sought and with it came, a second edition in 1936. This edition expanded to 640 pages and set a new style for writing recipes—a conversational style, later known as the “action method.” Instead of listing ingredients and following with instructions, ingredients were interspersed with directions appearing as they were needed. This edition became popular quickly prompting six printings and selling 52, 151 copies by 1942.

A third edition was rolled out in 1943 and included a collection of recipes that could be prepared in less than 30 minutes using canned and frozen foods. This edition also included information intended to help readers deal with wartime rationing. Once again sales were phenomenal with nearly 620,000 copies sold by 1946. As the WWII came to an end, an update was made to the 1943 edition in 1946 with the elimination of the rationing information and the addition of more quick recipes.

The newly released edition is the 9th edition of the cookbook and marks the first update in 13 years. Joy has remained a family project passing from Irma to her daughter Marion, to Marion’s son, Ethan Becker, and now to Ethan’s son, John and his wife, Megan Scott. Through the various editions, Joy has remained a mainstay of American home cooking by adapting and evolving to the popular tastes and trends of Americans yet remaining basic. Marketing of the 2019 edition touts ingredients from the wider world and chapters on sous vide, fermentation, and cooking with both traditional and electric pressure cookers. John and Megan developed more than 600 new recipes for this edition with a focus on international, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes and tweaked many of the classics of former cookbooks. Lastly, this edition includes information about food history and science.

Indications are that this new book will be more than a collection of recipes; it should also be a fascinating read. For anyone who loves reading cookbooks as I do, I think this just might be the one for me to have and perhaps share as a holiday gift, too.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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‘Home-Canned’ Cakes and Breads for Gift Giving – A Big NO

The holidays are just around the corner and homemade food gifts are often part of the giving and receiving. One can look in magazines or online to find countless ideas for foods to give and ways to dress them up for giving. While many of these suggestions are safe and cute at the same time, some are not and one needs to be wary of them. One that I find particularly disturbing is the advocating of ‘home canned’ cakes and breads in jars.

Instructions for these “special” gifts involve preparing a favorite cake or quick bread recipe and baking it in a pint canning jar. Once the cake or bread is done, the steaming jars are taken out of the oven and a canning lid is immediately popped on. As the cake or bread cools, the lid seals creating a vacuum. Many recipes claim that these products can be stored safely on the shelf from a year to indefinitely. While the pictures look attractive and the gift might be unique, these products are NOT SHELF SAFE as the recipes and instructions indicate. There is NO canning involved and this technique IS NOT RECOMMENDED. If someone gives you a home canned cake or bread in a jar, assume it is unsafe to eat and discard it in a manner that not even animals will consume it. Here’s why . . .

Many cake and quick bread recipes often have little or no acid resulting in a pH range above 4.6, a pH level that will support the growth of pathogenic organisms that cause foodborne illnesses. Of greatest concern is the microorganism Clostridium botulinum (botulism) growing in the jars. Conditions inside the jar are ripe for hazardous bacterium given that cake and bread recipes may include fruits, liquids, or vegetables which increase moisture content AND the practice does not remove all the oxygen from the jar. The two factors create a rich environment for microorganisms to thrive.

One other consideration outside of food safety, is the jar itself. Regardless of the brand of the jar, jars can break or explode due to temperature fluctuations when the oven doors is opened or the jars removed from the oven. The glass used for Ball and Kerr canning jars is not tempered for oven use and is not meant to be used as bakeware.

Commercially prepared breads and cakes made in jars are safe. Companies use additives, preservatives, and processing methods to ensure the safety of the finished product that are not available for home recipes. Avoid purchasing canned breads or cakes in glass jars at bake sales or farmer’s markets unless they meet all labeling requirements for commercial foods. Currently there are no reliable or safe recipes for home baking and sealing breads or cakes in canning jars and storing them at room temperature for any length of time.

To date, there are no documented cases of botulism resulting from cake or bread in a jar. However, experts warn that it is an accident waiting to happen. Imagine how you would feel if you were the one who gave a gift that made someone incapacitated for life or worse.

If special breads or cakes are to be part of holiday giving, consider alternatives of baking and freezing, giving the recipient the opportunity to choose when they wish to use it. Most cakes and breads freeze well. Or create a “mix” by assembling the dry ingredients into a jar and attaching directions for preparing and baking. Attach a “use by date” on the label as some ingredients will loose their effectiveness, harden, or cake. Generally one month is appropriate. Also include a list of ingredients for those who have food allergies or dietary issues.

For additional information on gift foods to be weary of, check out Is Your Homemade Food Gift Safe to Eat? by the University of Minnesota. Be sure your homemade holiday food gift is memorable, not haunting.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Safe Edible Cookie Dough

Edible Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Bites

An interesting question came from an AnswerLine friend. This person had received a recipe for making homemade cookie dough ice cream. Being aware that raw flour should not be consumed, this friend was delighted to find directions in the recipe for supposedly making the flour used in the cookie dough safe by baking the flour in a preheated 350F oven for 5 minutes on a sheet pan. Question: Did this really make the flour safe so that the cookie dough was safe to eat in the ice cream?

Since edible cookie dough is now such a popular trend, there are several internet sites that suggest the same or similar DIY methods to eliminate possible pathogens found in flour. However, none of the sites are researched based. While it makes sense that heating flour in an oven could eliminate the potential food safety issue, there is no research-based DIY directions for consumers to support that theory. Food safety experts advise against any of these DIY methods as there is NO guarantee that the flour will reach the desired 160F needed to eliminate food contaminates for an appropriate amount of time. Further, baking flour could possibly denature the protein strands in the flour resulting in a less desirable product.

Flour is classified as a minimally processed agricultural ingredient and is not a ready-to-eat product. Through the growing process, wheat can come into contact with harmful bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella via wild animal waste. If pathogens get into the wheat plant, they stay with the seed head in the milling process. When flour is used in baked products, the baking temperatures will generally inactivate any pathogens in the flour. However, harmful bacteria remain active in uncooked flour and when ingested will cause illness or worse.

So if one desires edible cookie dough, what are the options for safe “flours?” There are a couple of easy options:

Purchase commercially processed heat-treated flour. Heat-treated wheat flour is not generally available at our local supermarkets. Page House is one such brand and is available online. It is, however, a bit pricey.

Substitute oatmeal or oat flour. Flour is used in dough to add structure, not flavor. Oatmeal or oat flour is a good replacement as it is not dangerous to eat raw. Oat flour tends to also be a bit pricey but can easily be made by pulsing oatmeal in a blender or food processor. (Two cups of oatmeal will yield about 1 ½ cups of oat flour.) In the process of making oatmeal, the oat grain is heated to stabilize the oat groats and then it is steamed to flatten into oatmeal thus oatmeal is classified as a ready-to-eat product.

The other ingredient in cookie dough that can render cookie dough unsafe is eggs. Pasteurized eggs or no eggs at is the way to go. Peanut butter can also be used to replace eggs.

Here are two recipes that I make with my ‘edible-cookie-dough-lovin’ grand kids.

Peanut Butter Bites
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup add-ins (chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit,
peanuts, chia seeds, M&’s, etc)
1 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup ground flax seed
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients. Roll into balls.
Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Edible Cookie Dough
½ cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 ½ homemade oat flour (see above)
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup add-ins (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips,
M&M’s, raisins, nuts, Reece’s pieces, etc)
Cream sugars, vanilla, and milk until fluffy. Add in oat flour and salt. Mix until all is incorporated. Stir in add-ins. Shape into balls. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for up to a week. 

Enjoy cookie dough, but do it safely!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Salsa – Questions and Answers

With the summer gardens finally coming into season bringing an abundance of tomatoes, peppers/chilies, onions, and herbs, salsa making season is here! With it comes lots of questions to AnswerLine regarding how to make it safely. This blog will attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

I made up my own recipe for salsa or got one from a friend. Can you tell me how long to process it? It is important to use a tested or researched based recipe when canning homemade salsa. The reason being, the ratio of low acid vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic) to acid (lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar) has not been tested in a non-research based recipe. Recipes that have been tested will have enough acid to prevent the growth of the botulism bacteria and provide a safe product that everyone can enjoy straight from the canning jar. (Source: Homemade Salsa is a Science, Not an Art, Michigan State University)

Where do I find safe recipes for canning salsa? Creating a safe product that can be processed and stored on a shelf means having the correct proportion of acid to low acid vegetables to prevent the growth of botulism bacteria. The best way to ensure that the salsa is safe is to always follow a tested or researched based recipe. These recipes can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Land Grand University publications or blogs, The USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, and So Easy to Preserve.

Can I make my own salsa recipe? Creating your own recipe is a possibility. However, instead of guessing at the processing time, freeze it or make just enough to be eaten fresh. Another alternative is to follow a tested recipe using the exact ingredients and processing time; when ready to use, add the black beans, corn, or any other ingredient that should not be used in a home canned salsa recipe.

Can I add more cilantro to my canned salsa than the recipe includes? Cilantro is best added to fresh salsa. It is not usually included in cooked recipes. Cilantro loses its fresh flavor when cooked and becomes dark and soft in the mixture. As mentioned in creating your own salsa, cilantro could be added at the time of using the canned salsa.

Do I have to use canning salt? Canning salt is recommended and should definitely be used with vegetable and pickle canning. However, in a pinch, one could get by with iodized or table salt with salsa. The product will be safe but one may detect a metallic or bitter flavor which may not be disguised by the spices or herbs used in the salsa. Also, table salt usually has an added anti-caking ingredient which may cause a slight cloudiness.

Can I substitute peppers? One should never increase the total volume of peppers in a recipe. However, substituting one variety of a pepper for another is perfectly fine.

Must I use the suggested spices? Spices are the only safe ingredient you may change in a tested recipe to adjust for flavor.

Does it matter what kind of onion I use? Like peppers, one should not increase the amount of onion specified in a tested recipe. However, red, yellow, or white onions may be substituted for each other.

Is it okay to use any size jar? The size of the jar can also affect the safety of the product. All tested recipes are canned in pint jars and one should not substitute another size and assume it is safe.

For more information on preserving homemade salsa, check out Preserve the Taste of Summer Canning: Salsa.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Freezing strawberries

This is the last week for picking strawberries at the farm I go to. I am always sad to see the season end. The berries are consistently delicious! The ones I buy in the store the rest of the year never measure up. I do make sure I freeze a certain amount to have on hand during the Winter as I enjoy the flavor in smoothies and desserts.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends using a sugar syrup or sugar pack when freezing strawberries. This process works very well and helps preserve the color and texture of the berries. It is however a quality issue, not a safety issue.

Many people prefer not to have the added sugar. This also gives you more options when you are ready to use them later in the year. For my purposes I prefer the dry pack method. It is easy right now to spread my berries out in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet and let them freeze individually overnight then transfer them to my freezer bags/containers. By letting them freeze individually first it is easy to just remove the amount I need without any of them sticking together in a glob.

I will enjoy the fresh strawberries of the season as long as I can and also make sure I freeze some to enjoy later.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Blanching?

We are starting to get calls about freezing and blanching fruits and vegetables. We often explain to callers that blanching is a quality step and not a safety step. Blanching vegetables will kill the enzymes present that will continue to soften the food even in the freezer. Blanching will also protect the color of the vegetable. The directions for blanching are often confusing for callers.

We tell callers to blanch vegetables in small batches; work with a quart of product at a time. Start water heating on the stove and when it boils, add the vegetables. Wait until the food returns to a boil to begin timing the blanching time. When the time is up, remove the vegetables from the boiling water and plunge them into ice water. The ice water will stop the cooking process. Plan to cool the vegetables for at least as long as the blanching time. Cooling for a bit longer will not hurt the quality of the food and will help it cool much faster in the freezer. Callers can choose from freezing in a container or freezing on a tray and then transferring vegetables into a freezer bag or container after 24 hours. Tray freezing will allow the caller to enjoy any amount of vegetable at a time without thawing an entire container of food.

Happy blanching!

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Liquid Smoke, that Controversial Condiment

Liquid smoke is a condiment that invites controversy.  Barbecue purists roll their eyes and say “no way.”  Health groups consistently voice concern over possible health risks. Yet despite all the ‘nay’, there is a strong ‘yay’ with marketing trends showing that the condiment is growing in popularity as a flavor additive.

Liquid smoke is made by channeling smoke from smoldering woodchips through a condenser that quickly cools the vapors causing them to liquefy.  The water-soluble flavor compounds in the smoke are trapped within the liquid while the insoluble tars and resins are removed by a series of filters.  The results is a clean, all natural smoke-flavored liquid that provides a cookout-like flavor when outdoor grilling isn’t an option.

Ernest H Wright is credited with introducing liquid smoke in 1895.  As a teenager, he worked in a print shop and noticed the liquid dropping from the stove pipe that heated the shop tasted like smoke.  Years later as a pharmacist, he experimented and perfected the process of condensing hot smoke from a wood fire to create Wright’s Liquid Smoke which is still sold today and remains as a pure product, smoke and water.

Unless liquid smoke has added chemicals or ingredients, it is an all-natural product—just smoke suspended in water. (It should be noted that some brands add molasses, vinegar, and other flavorings so read the label to be sure that it is just smoke and water.)  Liquid smoke is used as a flavor additive in a whole host of foods beyond the little bottles on the grocery shelf.  It is the source of the smoky flavor in commercial barbecue sauces, bacon, hot dogs, smoked meats, cheeses, and nuts to name a few.  The process of adding liquid smoke or smoked flavorings to foods is justification for the use of the word “smoke” on package labeling.

What about the health risks?  Smoke, no matter the source, contains cancer-causing chemicals.  Some of those chemicals persist even in the extracts making liquid smoke a potential cancer risk.  Studies have shown that the amount of carcinogenic chemical found in liquid smoke depends on the type of hardwood used and the temperature at which it is burned. Other studies have shown that liquid smoke is less risky than food charred and cooked over smoke. A researcher at NYU found that controlled smoking plus an ensuing filtering process removed most, if not all, of these compounds. Therefore, most experts contend that the concentrations of the carcinogenic molecules in liquid smoke are far too low for any genuine health concerns as one would need to consume far more liquid smoke than most recipes call for to see any effects. Moderation is key with this magical ingredient, so use a light amount (1/4 teaspoon) in dishes for the safest route and if sediment is detected, let it settle and use only the liquid above it.

Liquid smoke has zero calories, zero fat, and most brands are low in sodium (about 10 mg per teaspoon), but it still brings an intense flavor like bacon.  Knowing that we should use it sparingly, it may be brushed on meats to add a depth of flavor or added to foods that generally rely on saturated fats and salt to bring out their flavor; thus it may add flavor for those on restricted diets who find that their food lacks flavor. Just a dash imparts that distinctive meaty, salty flavor that we know and love.   Taste of Home says “there is almost no sauce that wouldn’t benefit from a few drops of liquid smoke.  Adding a few drops to everything from your BBQ sauce to vinaigrette to your ranch dressing will help elevate your burgers, salads, and everything in-between.”

I’m inclined to agree with the barbecue purists–liquid smoke does not replace true smoke, but I enjoy using a little liquid smoke now and again when smoking or grilling is not possible or to step up the flavor of foods and sauces.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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