How to Use Wood Chips for Smoking – (Plus Bonus Guide; For Using Wood Chips on Charcoal or Gas Grills)

BBQ season is almost here, pitmasters!

As we all know barbecuing has a lot of variables that can affect how your food turns out.

Some the variables include;

  • Duration of cook
  • Type of rub used
  • How much you trim it
  • If you have wrapped the meat
  • How you control the heat
  • Choice of fuel

However, I think that fuel source has one of the biggest effects.

These fuel sources range from wood, charcoal, to electricity and gas! Once you understand how to correctly use each one, you will be the first choice pitmaster at any cookout!

That authentic smokey barbecue flavor is usually achieved with wood or charcoal. You can’t get that delicious smokey flavor without fuel. Here we going to teach you about picking the correct type of wood for your cook.

The sizes of wood for smoking are;
1. wood chips
2. woodchucks
3. Logs

Right, let’s find out how to use wood chips to cook your food to perfection.

Should you Be Smoking with Wood Chips Logs or Chunks?

You should use wood chips if you are cooking for a short period of time. This is because once the wood chips start smoking, they burn out quickly since they are small pieces. The types of food that usually have a shorter cook time are; chicken, steak, or fish.

If you need to cook your food a bit longer, you can use chunks for a slower burn. This is suitable for thicker meat including brisket or pulled pork. These steady chucks help slowly cook your meat for hours in the smoker.

Logs are ideal when you are barbecuing in a fire pit or a larger smoker. You want to ensure the logs fit in the designated cooking area as logs generate more smoke.

Now we know that type of wood to pick. We will focus on the correct technique for smoking with wood chips.

Before we get started on the correct techniques we will cover something that causes a lot of debate in barbecue! Should you soak or wood chips or not!

Should You be Soaking Wood Chips Before You Cook?

Basically, the answer is no. But this really depends on what you prefer. I would recommend trying both ways.

What you should know is that soaking your chips doesn’t actually produce more smoke. It only slows down the cooking process. So many argue that this allows more smoke to penetrate the meat over a longer period.

However, from our extensive “testing” (that means the hard job of smoking and eating), we found it doesn’t really make that much of a difference.

If you decide to, you should soak the wood for at least 30 minutes. But, if you go over time, don’t worry. You can’t over soak wood unless you soak it for weeks or longer.

How To Use Wood Chips For Smoking

In this guide, you’ll learn how to use wood chips right. Using them for the first time to smoke your food may be daunting, as it takes practice to get your flavor right. No one gets their smoking flavor perfect right away. Let’s get started

Making Wood Chips Smoke Instead of Burn By Reducing Oxygen

Burning wood creates indirect heat and less smoke. In order to reduce the flames, you can lower the oxygen to produce more smoke. An easy way to do this is by placing the wood chunks in a metal box to smoke, or a pouch. By using these containers, the oxygen levels will decrease and will increase smoke.

Create A Smoking Pouch For Your Wood Chips

To make a smoking pouch for the chunks of wood is easy. Take two aluminum foil pieces and placing handfuls of wood in the middle. ke little holes in the pouch to allow air to enter, and the sooty smoke to release. This foil pouch will restrict oxygen and slowly turn the cup of wood into charcoal for smoking your food.

Should You Be Changing Wood Chips in a Smoker?

This can depend on how deep your smoker box is and how long you cooking for. You are aiming to get thin blue smoke. I would recommend checking every 30 minutes, if your smoke is diminishing or all your chips are black II would add another handful.

Experiment with Your Pairings

To enhance the smokey flavor, you can experiment with different kinds of wood chips and meats.

Here are some examples of pairing that my friends and I enjoy!

  • Smoked salmon fillets go well with hickory oak, bourbon, apple, soaked oak, or cherry.
  • Hickory and oak wood chips also pair well with pork and beef.
    Hickory gives a strong smoky yet sweet flavour to meat. Pitmaster also like to use it as it gives a dark color to your food. I like to use it for food that requires a longer cook as it has a slow burn. It has a strong flavour profile, so it works best with beef as well as cheese! Try mixiing it with other wood, as this can help reduce the intensity of the falvour.
  • Applewood works well with pork.
    Applewood has one of the ligthest flavour profgiles. So it works well with white meat. I like slighty sweet smoky flavour it gives to my world famous pork loin!

The options of wood types don’t end here, and you can keep experimenting with more.

It’s good to keep in mind that less can be more, especially if you choose a stronger smoky flavor combination. Try not to overbear your meat with too much. Experimenting is key! I like to mix and match flavors, you’ll slowly start to see what works well together and what doesn’t!

The only thing to do now is to begin smoking your meat!

6 Simple Steps to Smoking With Wood Chips on a Gas or Electric Smoker

You have two options buy a smoke box or, If you don’t want to buy a smoke box, see my steps for creating your own, we call it a smoke pouch!

  1. Pick the wood chips that you think will work best with your food. (see our suggestions above!).
  2. Take two layers of aluminum foil to create your smoker pouch. This only applies if your gas grill doesn’t already have one. Place handful of chips in the center.
  3. Poke holes in the foil to allow air in and the oxygen to restrict itself.
  4. Light the fire. Then, only after the chips start to smoke from wood, place the meat on the barbecue grill.
  5. Close the lid to see smoke emitting from the gas or electric grill.
  6. Cook until the wood matter turns into charcoal, and eventually ashes.
my smoke pouch filled with wood chips for gas grill

6 Simple Steps to Smoking With Wood Chips on a Charcoal Grill

  1. Pick the wood chips that you think will work best with your food. (see our suggestions above!).
  2. Create a foil pouch (as outlined above) and fill with dry, flavored chips in the center.
  3. Place charcoal in the chimney and light the fire to start smoking the smoker box. Tip: for faster cooking, place the packet of wood right underneath the meat. For slower cooking, place on one side.
  4. When you see smoke, place the meat on the charcoal grill.
  5. Make sure you close the lid tightly
  6. Use a damper to allow some air in, but enough space to allow smoke to come out.

Things to look out for:

It might take at least 2 to 3 handfuls of your chosen chips on direct heat to really get smokey.

Try to avoid opening the smoker. Every time you open it you lose that delicious precious smoke!

Some people do soak their wood chips. This doesn’t add any more smoke, it only just slows down the beginning of the burning process.

DONT, we repeat don’t go using wood in your backyard. You never know what chemicals or poison it was treated with. So unless you know the wood came from, just leave it there. Don’t risk it, wood chips are fairly cheap so just pick up a bag.

Make sure you store your wood chips in a dry and cool storage area such as a basement or garage.

See Char Broil in Action Using Some Wood Chips to Get Smoking!

Smoking with wood really just boils down to three decisions. Whether you pick chips, logs, or chunks, whether you will soak your chips and what flavor of wood you pick (apple, cherry, oak, or maybe hickory!)

Go wild with experimentation. we can’t wait to hear what flavor combinations you tested.

Have fun smoking!

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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