How to Use Wood Chips for Smoking – On Charcoal or Gas Grills

Smoking meat on gas and charcoal grills requires the use of wood for smoke production. Wood can be processed to make different end products such as chips, dust, chunks, and logs.

Of all the available types of wood products, wood chips are the most recommended smoking materials. When placed inside the smoker box, they provide long-lasting smoke that penetrates deep into the meat getting smoked.

For perfect smoking, grilling, or barbecuing, a lot of practice is required. Every time you smoke or barbecue meat, you gain new experience and skills that you didn’t have before.

The ability to choose the right wood for smoking is essential for achieving the right flavor on the smoked meat. Many first-time smokers rely on trial and error methods before gaining full knowledge on the best wood chips.

Factors such as seasoning ingredients, temperature configuration, and time required for smoking are also important to note in your first smoking attempts. Record what works for you as well as the factor combination that gives your smoked meat the desired flavor and texture.

The smokey flavor achieved during smoking differs from one type of wood chips to another. Hickory wood chips have a distinct difference from oak or cherry wood chips, in terms of the smell of the smoke produced.

Size and the amount of wood chips used in the smoker also play a role in the density of the smoke produced. Some types of meat require thick smoke while others require less smoke. The type of tree used to produce these wood chips determines how rich in flavor the smoked meat will be at the end of the activity.

Wood can be chopped into logs, wood chunks, or processed to produce small-sized particles such as wood chips or wood pellets. These are available in local stores in packages of different sizes. You can also make your order for them from online stores.

This article is centered on equipping you with information on how to use wood chips for smoking.

Here’s a list of the best woods chips for smoking in 2021

Should Wood Chips be Soaked Before Smoking?

Should-Wood-Chips-be-Soaked-Before-Smoking
Photo credit: smokerbeat.com

Many people argue that it is necessary to soak wood chips before putting them in a smoker. While this may be helpful in reducing the flammability of the wood chips, it is not deemed effective for long. This is because the water dries up at some point and the wood chips go back to being dry, sometimes bursting into flames.

The boiling point of water is 100° C or 202° F. If the wood chips are dipped in water before ignition, it means that they will produce thick smoke until the water on them is dried off at 202° F. This, therefore, may be a temporary solution.

Smoking experts suggest that instead of soaking the wood chips, a low temperature should be set on the burner. This gives the wood chips time to smoke before they are ignited.

Wood chips are good for smoking meat that require a short smoking period. This is because they are lightweight and likely to catch fire faster than thick wood chunks. The type of meat commonly smoked using wood chips are chicken, fish among other soft meats.

A big smoker box is another solution to curb the quick ignition of wood chips, but may not be good enough for long smoking. The good news is that there is a permanent remedy for this issue.

For a fire to ignite, there must be the availability of oxygen. This means that, if we deprive the wood chips of oxygen, they will keep smoking for as long as they can last in the smoker.

How to Reduce Oxygen on Wood Chips

Oxygen is the main factor that supports combustion. Without it, ignited wood smolders into a smoky lump without getting flamed up.

The main ingredient during meat smoking is smoke. This means that we have to get smoke inside the smoker by all means. It is achievable by the deprivation of oxygen from the wood chips.

One way to get rid of oxygen from the smoker is by using a smoker box that has few air spaces. This way, the oxygen flow will be restricted and the air getting in and out of the smoker box will not be enough to burn the wood chips.

Another way is by using a meshy smoking bag. It is made of wire mesh whose spaces are not large enough to allow too much oxygen inside it. This limits the penetration of oxygen to the wood chips.

If the above options are out of reach or not readily available for you, you can embark on a DIY activity and come up with a homemade smoker pouch. An aluminum foil works well for this project.

How to Create a DIY Smoking Pouch

You’ll need:
  • Aluminum foil
  • A large pin or nail
  • Wood chips
Steps to Follow
  1. Spread the aluminum foil on a flat surface.
  2. Put a handful of wood chips on the foil.
  3. Wrap the foil up, enclosing the wood chips inside it.
  4. Make holes on the wrapped aluminum foil. Be careful not to make the holes too big such that there’d be a free flow of oxygen.
  5. Place the aluminum foil on a burner inside the smoker and turn it on.

When the aluminum foil is placed on the burner, it gets heated up and transfers the heat to the wood chips wrapped inside it.

The wood chips start smoldering but they can’t burn up because they are enclosed in an oxygen-restricted space.

As stated earlier, some people prefer soaking the wood chips in water before placing them in the aluminum foil while others put them there dry as they are. It all narrows down to your preference. If you like the wood chips soaked, go ahead and do that. It doesn’t interfere with your smoking activity.

Types of Wood Chips Available for Smoking

There is a variety of wood chips to choose from. Every tree produces a different type of wood. The quality and properties of these woods differ from how each is used, the flavor they give the meat, and the strength of their smoke.

Wood chips from apple trees produce smoke that is mild. The flavor from this smoke is fruity and it is ideal for smoking pork and poultry.

Pecan tree wood chips give out a nutty smoke flavor. The chips are suitable for smoking beef, poultry, and pork.

Hickory and Oaktree wood chips release medium-strength smoke. The smoke has a smoky flavor and is recommended for smoking beef and pork.

Other types of wood that are suitable for the production of good quality wood chips are mesquite, maple, and cherry. The latter has a sweet flavor that smokes pork and poultry desirably. Mesquite wood produces strong smoke with a smoky flavor. It works well on red meat.

There are many other wood types that produce ideal smoke for smoking meat. It is advisable to first learn about the wood’s characteristics before making a purchase or using it in your smoker. Also, note that using excess wood chips causes the meat to get overpowered by the smoke.

Steps to Smoking on a Charcoal Grill Using Wood Chips

  1. Take the wood chips of your choice and wrap them up with aluminum foil.
  2. Create holes on the foil to turn it into a smoking pouch.
  3. Place enough briquettes or coal in the chimney and light them.
  4. When fully lit, pour the charcoal from the chimney back to the charcoal burner.
  5. Place the aluminum smoking pouch on top of the hot charcoal below the grill.
  6. Place the meat that’s meant for smoking on the grate.
  7. Let the grill cover down and leave the meat to smoke.

Smoking on a Gas Grill Using Wood Chips

Most gas grills don’t have inbuilt smoker boxes but with a few adjustments, they can be improvised to work as well as electric smokers.

A smoker box is an important part of any smoker as it holds the smoking wood chips in place during the activity.

You can buy a smoker box and place it between the burner and the gas grill whenever you want to smoke meat. Likewise, you can make your own smoker pouch using aluminum foil. You can also create a homemade smoker box using a metal box.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Place the wood chips of your choice inside the smoker box.
  2. Turn on the gas grill burner to about 225° F.
  3. Let the gas grill preheat as the wood chips in the smoker box catch the heat. They should start producing smoke after a while.
  4. Put an MK4 Thermapen thermometer on the grate to measure the grill’s temperature.
  5. If the temperature is between 225° F to 250° F, place the meat on the grill for smoking.
  6. Close the top of the gas grill and wait for the recommended time till the meat is well smoked.

Note that some gas grills have over four burners. It’s upon you to decide on which burner configuration gives the required heat for smoking. Stick to the suitable combination to prevent too much heat or too little heat.

If you are smoking for a long time, it is advisable to keep refilling the smoker box with wood chips. This will ensure that the gas grill doesn’t run out of smoke.

Conclusion

Smoking meat requires careful choices in terms of which type of wood chips to use.

The use of backyard wood is highly discouraged especially when you are unaware of the tree’s properties and characteristics.

Once you figure out the wood chips that work for your smoking, you’ll have few to no problems during the preceding meat-smoking activities.

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