Smoke flavourings - trendy and safe

By Dr. Peter Henriksen, International Business Manager, Azelis

Smoke flavourings continue to be popular and have been one of the hottest food trends in the past year. Chefs all over the world enthuse about smoke. It is not just meat and fish, BBQ sauces and snacks – the smoky flavour can be found throughout menus, even into desserts and cocktails served before the meals. The smell of wood smoke reminds us about fire, and fire means roasted meat, warmth and safety. Some believe that it is in our genes to find fire and wood smoke attractive.

Azelis was one of the pioneers in Scandinavia to manufacture and introduce Scansmoke ® smoke flavourings in the market place. Many consumers had difficulties to understand what a smoke flavouring was and assumed it was a synthetic flavour developed in a laboratory. This is far from true. Smoke flavourings are still manufactured by burning wood chips or sawdust, as is the case with traditional methods. The smoke vapour is then condensed and trapped in cold water to remove the tar as waste. The tar typically contains potential carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). This group of components are typically formed during smoking, roasting and grilling of foods or from burning woods. The higher temperature the more PAH, but the level is also influenced by a range of other parameters.

The removal of the PAH components is one of the most important steps in the production of smoke flavourings. When the tar is removed, the liquid smoke flavouring is filtered to obtain a primary smoke flavouring. This can then be further processed by concentration, dilution, spray drying or extraction and distillation processes. From all these processes, it is possible to tailor make a smoke flavouring, that exactly suits the food manufacturers needs in the production site. Most smoke flavourings are still atomised into the smoking or cooking chamber. Due to the heat and humidity in the smoking chamber the liquid smoke flavouring will turn into a regenerated smoke vapour, and it will not be possible to judge whether a traditional or liquid smoking process is used by opening the door to the chamber during the smoking process. Comparison of the flavour and colour to traditional smoking methods also shows no significant differences.

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Article was published in the March issue of Food Pacific Manufacturing Journal