5 Things You Must Know To Use Wood Chips For Smoking

Time To Get Grilling Wood Chips

Time To Get Grilling

It's almost that time again! Summer is approaching, and that means it is also time for backyard BBQ'ing. You may grill with gas or charcoal, but this year, you want to try something new - smoking your meat using wood chips for smoking.

5 Things You Must Know To Use Wood Chips For Smoking

Smoked meats provide the enjoyment of cooking out, and provide you with some variety other than just grilling burgers, steaks, and hot dogs. This article aims to give you all the information you need to get started smoking meat with wood chips right in your own back yard - no smoker necessary! Smoking wood can really be that easy.

#1 How To Use Wood Chips For Smoking

So you want to expand your grilling skills and smoked meats sounds interesting. Actually, smoking meats is only the beginning! Seafood, chicken, vegetables, even pizza can be smoked over the grill!

First, pick up a wood chip smoker box. You can use this with your gas or charcoal grill (yes, you read that correctly). A box will hold the chips, plus it is designed to allow the maximum amount of smoke to breathe through to the meat.

An alternative to this is to wrap your chips in aluminum foil, poking holes throughout the foil so that the smoke has maximum airflow.

Depending on whether you are smoking your meat directly or indirectly, you may need to place more chips into your box every so often. When using the indirect grilling method, feed one to two cups of chips every forty-five minutes.

In case you did not catch it earlier, no, you don't have to invest in a smoker to achieve tasty smoked meats. Simply put your chips into the aluminum "bag" you can make yourself, or you can buy a wood chip smoker box if you see yourself smoking meats on a regular basis.

You will get maximum smoke flavor from your smoked meats if you learn how to choose flavored chips that enhance the particular meat you are cooking. Youtube has an abundance of videos that can visually assist you on properly smoking meat; this video is a basic "how-to" that can get you started immediately:

Maple and cherry chips burn into a sweet-smelling smoke, and when used to cook chicken and pork, create a light, hint of sweetness in the meat.

Apple wood chips, another chips famous for its sweet smoke, produces a combination of sweet and fruity tasting meat. Apple also complements chicken and pork.

Pecan wood chips have a variety of uses; you can even put dessert out on the grill cooked via pecan chips! The result is a mild, nutty flavor that enhances any baked goods and beef, as well as pork and poultry.

Hickory is hands-down the most commonly used smoking flavor. Any meat, especially red meat, goes well with the taste of hickory wood chips.

Want a full easy-to-read guide on which wood chips to use with your meat? Check out the Complete Meat Smoking Guide.

Once you've chosen your favorite flavor wood chips and whether or not to purchase a wood chip smoker box, a smoker, or to try it out with an aluminum foil bag, you are ready to begin smoking! Let's look at tips and tricks for a successful smoke.

#2 Grilling With Wood Chips On Charcoal

If you plan to use wood chips in your charcoal grill, you can forgo the foil bag and the smoker box, but you do need make sure you follow a few important steps in order for your meats to get the best flavor.

Use Your Charcoal As A Fire Source Let It Burn White

You will still need to use a minimum of charcoal as a fire source. You want to use one layer of charcoal, let it burn until the charcoal is white, then add your chips. Allow the chips to develop a thin, smoldering smoke, then add your meat.

If you are cooking indirectly, be sure to add the cup or two of chips every forty-five minutes or so. One great thing about smoking in your charcoal grill is that you have the ability to add chunks of wood in addition to the wood chips you're already using in order to keep your fire burning longer.

Simply place the chunks directly on the lit coals (just a small amount - one or two pieces - while it is perfectly okay to cook over hardwood, too much wood burning will make your meat taste too smoky).

It's really important to make sure that the air vents in your grill allow for proper air flow; otherwise, you will burn the wood too quickly, and the meat will have an acrid taste.

Thick, white smoke is a tell-tale sign that your wood is burning too quickly. You want it to cook low and slow. Serious Eats has an excellent article on how to achieve the perfect balance between wood chips and charcoal.

Wood Type

Flavor Strength

Flavor Profile



Sweet, fruity taste



Fairly sweet and fruity



Sweet to strong with heavy bacon flavor



Slightly sweet and woodsy flavor



Sweet and mild, similar to hickory

#3 How To Use Wood Chips On A Gas Grill

If you use a gas grill, you may be in luck! Some models come with a dedicated smoker box which has its own burner.

Simply add your damp wood chips and let it go! If your gas grill doesn't come equipped with a box, you can purchases a heavy gauge stainless steel smoker box, or you can use a foil pan covered with aluminum foil.

You should note that making your own smoker box works a little differently with a gas grill. You'll need to put the box in a corner, turn all the burners up on high, and when the smoke is right, turn down the burners and let the meat cook.

Note that you won't be able to add chips as you would with a built-in box or a stainless steel box.

Next, on to perhaps the most controversial topic of all when it comes to using wood chips to smoke meat - to soak or not to soak.

This YouTube video shows you how to add wood chips to your gas grill.

You don't need a smoker box in order to cook a great piece of meat!

#4 How Long Do I Soak Wood Chips For Smoker

Why would you want to soak your chips?

This is actually something that is highly debated among smoking veterans. Most feel that yes, it is imperative that you soak your chips, as smoking involves not merely burning up the wood, but allowing it to smolder and produce a lasting smoke that permeates the food without leaving a strong "burnt" taste, but a rich, tasty hint of smoky flavor.

Jason Hill has a great YouTube video that goes into great detail about using a smoker box on your grill.

Some grilling gurus say that you can never soak your wood chips enough, and the longer you intend to smoke a piece of meat, the longer you should soak your chips (for a steak, thirty minutes is great; for a Boston butt, soaking the chips for a day or more is more appropriate).

Still others believe that you need not soak your chips at all, even soaking overnight will not totally saturate larger pieces of wood. However, I recommend soaking chips as you always want a smoldering wood, never a totally burning piece of wood.

#5 How Often Do You Change Wood Chips In A Smoker

Every Five to Six Hours Change Your Chips

While there is no set rule for how often to change the chips in your smoker, a good rule is to change the chips every five to six hours.

Some people add one or two cups of chips on top of previously used chips each time.

The most important thing is to look at the quality of smoke you're getting each time you smoke.

Amazingribs.com recommends using a cooking log each time you smoke in order to find what mixture of chips, what flavor, and how often you add chips or change out the chip box so that once you find the perfect combination, you will remember it and can use it in the future.

Be sure to check chips that have been used four or more times consecutively for mold.

Other than that, change out your chips as often as you wish. Thinner smoke is also a sure sign that your current chips need to go.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often do you put wood chips in a smoker?

What are the differences between flavored wood chips?

What kind of wood to smoke ribs?

How do you use wood chips on a gas grill?


Memorial Day is coming up soon, and that ushers in the grilling/smoking season as well. If you're like me, I know you can't wait to fire up the grill!

This year, try something a little different - smoking using your grill! All you need is an aluminum bag or tray, some tin foil, and the wood chips of your choice.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading the list on using wood chips, and I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. Happy Smoking!

Each Share Saves a Steak From Being Cooked Well Done