How to Use Wood Chips for Smoking: Proper Usage on a Charcoal or Gas Grill

Barbecue season is upon us, and nothing enhances the flavor of your meats and veggies like smoking them. If you’re new to smoking or looking to improve your technique, using wood chips is an excellent place to start. Wood chips add depth and complexity to your smoking game, but knowing how to use them correctly is essential. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of using wood chips for smoking and concentrate on just how to use wood chips for smoking. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced pitmaster, keep reading to take your smoking game to the next level.

When it comes to smoking meat, choosing the right type of wood is essential to achieve the desired flavor. There are different types of smoking wood available. Still, they can be broadly classified into three sizes: chips, chunks, and logs. Each size of wood has its characteristics and is suitable for specific smoking applications.


Smoking chips are small, thin pieces of wood that are usually 1-2 inches long and can be used for short smoking times, typically 1-2 hours. They are best suited for small smokers or grills with limited space, and they burn quickly, producing a lot of smoke quickly. Chips are also a good option for adding a burst of flavor quickly or when smoking fish or poultry that require less smoking time.


Smoking chunks are larger pieces of wood around the size of a fist. They are ideal for smokers with a longer smoking time, as they burn slower and produce smoke for a longer duration. Chunks are a good option for smoking pork or beef, which require longer smoking times, and you can also use them in larger smokers or grills.


Smoking logs are the largest size of smoking wood and are ideal for those serious about smoking meat. Logs are typically around 16 inches long and 4-6 inches in diameter, perfect for large smokers or pits. They burn slowly and produce smoke for an extended period, making them perfect for smoking large cuts of meat such as briskets or whole hogs.

Which is Better: Wood Chips, Chunks or Logs?

When it comes to smoking meats, choosing the right type of wood is crucial to achieving the desired flavor. Three common sizes of smoking wood are chips, chunks, and logs. Each size has its benefits and drawbacks, so knowing which one to use for your specific needs is important.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding which size of smoking wood to use:

Smoking Time:

  • Wood chips burn faster than chunks and logs, making them ideal for shorter smoking times.
  • Wood chunks burn slower than chips and faster than logs, making them great for medium-length smoking times.
  • Wood logs burn the slowest and are ideal for long smoking times, but they require a larger smoker and more preparation.

Type of Cooker:

  • For electric smokers, wood chips are typically the best option due to their smaller size and ability to release smoke quickly.
  • Charcoal smokers can accommodate all three sizes of smoking wood. Still, chunks and logs are better suited for longer cooking times as they provide a more consistent level of smoke.
  • Pellet grills are designed to use only wood pellets, so chips, chunks, and logs are not typically used.

Overall, the best size of smoking wood will depend on each individual’s specific smoking needs. Understanding the differences between wood chips, chunks, and logs can help you make an informed decision and create the perfect smoky flavor for your meats.

Is It Better To Soak Wood Chips Or Leave Them Dry?

There is much debate on whether to soak wood chips or leave them dry when using them for smoking. Some people swear by soaking, while others insist that leaving them dry is the way to go. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what works best for you.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to soak your wood chips or leave them dry:

Smoking Time: If you plan on smoking something for a short period, such as chicken or fish, then soaking your wood chips may be the way to go. Soaked chips will produce smoke for longer, which is perfect for shorter smoking times. However, dry chips may be more suitable for longer smoking times, such as with brisket or pork shoulder. It is because they will burn slower and produce smoke for longer, giving your meat a more robust flavor.

Flavor: Soaked wood chips will produce a more subtle smoke flavor, while dry chips will produce a stronger, more intense flavor. It is because dry chips will ignite and burn faster, producing more smoke in a shorter time. So, if you prefer a milder smoke flavor, soaking your chips may be the way to go. However, dry chips are the better option if you’re after a more robust, smoky flavor.

Temperature: Soaked wood chips take longer to ignite and produce smoke, affecting the temperature inside your smoker. Dry chips will ignite faster, producing smoke and heat more quickly, which is beneficial for maintaining a consistent temperature. If you’re having trouble keeping the temperature inside your smoker up, then dry chips may be the better choice.

So, there is no right or wrong answer to soaking or leaving your wood chips dry. It all depends on your preferences and what works best for the meat you’re smoking. Experiment with both methods and see which produces the best results for you.

When Should Wood Chips Be Added To The Grill?

Wood chips should be added to the grill when the coals are hot and have turned ashy or when the gas grill is preheated. It ensures that the wood chips will start smoking immediately upon contact with the heat source.

For charcoal grills, the wood chips can be added directly to the coals before they are spread out, or you can add them after they have been spread out and are beginning to ash over.

For gas grills, the wood chips can be placed in a smoker box or wrapped in aluminum foil with holes poked in them to allow smoke to escape and placed on top of the grates or heat deflectors.

It’s important to remember that adding wood chips too early can result in them burning up quickly without producing much smoke while adding them too late can result in the meat not absorbing enough of the smoky flavor.

Additionally, adding too many wood chips at once can produce too much smoke, leading to bitter or acrid flavors in the meat. It’s best to start with a few wood chips and add more as needed to achieve the desired level of smokiness.

How Do You Know When To Add More?

Knowing when to add more wood chips while smoking can be tricky, as it depends on several factors, such as the type of wood, the smoker’s temperature, and personal preference. However, here are some general tips on when to add more wood chips:

Look at the smoke: As a general rule of thumb, add more wood chips when you no longer see smoke coming out of the smoker. The smoke indicates that the wood chips still produce flavorful smoke, so it’s best to keep them going until you achieve the desired flavor.

Check the temperature: Some smokers have a built-in thermometer that can help you determine when to add more wood chips. For instance, if the temperature drops below the desired range, it may be time to add more wood chips.

The time it: The duration for adding wood chips also depends on the type of wood and the meat being smoked. For instance, fruitwoods like apple and cherry tend to burn quicker than hardwoods like hickory and oak. Additionally, meats that take longer to cook, such as brisket, may require multiple wood chip additions throughout the smoking process.

Use your senses: Lastly, trust your senses when smoking. Peek at the meat to see if it has developed a good bark, and smell the smoke to see if it still has a good aroma. If you notice the bark is forming and the smoke aroma is fading, it may be time to add more wood chips to keep the flavor coming.

In summary, keep an eye on the smoke, temperature, time, and your senses to know when to add more wood chips while smoking. Experimentation is also key to finding the perfect balance for your desired flavor.

Reduce Oxygen to Make Wood Chips Smoke Rather Than Burn

When using wood chips for smoking, it’s important to ensure they don’t burn up too quickly. Burning wood chips will create a lot of heat and not enough smoke, which can result in unevenly cooked or flavored meat. It’s important to reduce the oxygen flow to the wood chips so that they smolder and create a steady stream of flavorful smoke.

Here are some tips on how to reduce oxygen to make wood chips smoke rather than burn:

Control the airflow: The amount of oxygen that reaches the wood chips is directly related to the airflow in your smoker or grill. To reduce the oxygen flow, close the air vents or dampers partially. It will limit the oxygen and keep the wood chips from burning too quickly.

Use a smoker box: If you’re using a gas grill, it’s important to use a smoker box to contain the wood chips. The smoker box will keep the wood chips from coming into direct contact with the flames, which can cause them to burn up too quickly. It will allow the wood chips to smolder and create smoke that will flavor your meat.

Soak the wood chips: Soaking them in water for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the grill can also help reduce the oxygen flow. Wet wood chips will smolder and smoke more slowly than dry wood chips, creating a more flavorful smoke that will infuse your meat with a delicious flavor.

Add wood chips gradually: Adding too many wood chips at once can cause them to burn quickly, leading to unevenly cooked or flavored meat. To avoid this, add wood chips gradually, waiting until the previous batch has stopped smoking before adding more.

Reducing oxygen flow is key to getting the best results when using wood chips for smoking. By controlling the airflow, using a smoker box, soaking the wood chips, and adding them gradually, you can ensure that your meat is evenly cooked and flavored with a delicious, smoky taste.

How Do You Know When The Smoking Process Has Ended?

Knowing when the smoking process has ended is an important step in achieving the desired flavor and texture of your smoked food. Here are some tips to help you know when to end the smoking process:

Check the internal temperature: When smoking meat, it’s important to use a meat thermometer. The temperature will vary depending on the type of meat you are smoking. Once the internal temperature reaches the desired level, you can remove the meat from the smoker.

Observe the color: Smoked food will develop a distinct color when ready. For example, smoked salmon will turn from bright pink to deep orange. Ribs will have a reddish-brown color, and brisket will have a deep brown or black exterior. Use the color as an indicator to determine when the smoking process has ended.

Check the tenderness: You can use a fork or a knife to check the tenderness of the meat. The meat should be tender and easily pulled away from the bone. If it’s still tough, it needs more time in the smoker.

Observe the smoke: When the wood chips have stopped smoking, it’s a sign that the smoking process is ending. The smoke will also change from white or light blue to a darker gray.

Taste test: The best way to know if the smoking process has ended is by doing a taste test. Take a small piece of the meat and taste it. The smoking process has ended if it has the desired smoky flavor and tenderness.

So, these tips ensure that your smoked food is perfectly cooked and has the desired flavor and texture. Remember, practice makes perfect, and with some trial and error, you’ll soon become a smoking expert!

5 Steps to Smoking With Wood Chips on a Charcoal Grill

If you’re looking to infuse your grilled meats with delicious smoky flavors, using wood chips on a charcoal grill is a great way to do it. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Choose the right wood chip flavor: The type of wood chips you use will affect the flavor of your food. Some popular options include cherry, hickory, mesquite, and apple. Consider which flavor will best complement the meat you’re grilling.
  2. Prepare your charcoal: Grab a bag of high-quality lump or charcoal briquettes. Then, put some charcoal in a chimney starter and light it.
  3. Create a wood chip pouch: Take several layers of aluminum foil and create a pouch for the wood chips. Fill it with the wood chips, seal it up, and poke some holes so smoke can escape and air can circulate.
  4. Start the fire: Once the charcoal in the chimney is hot and ready, pour it out and start the fire. Place the wood chips directly beneath the meat if you’re cooking fast-cooking foods like burgers or steaks. For slow-cooking meats like roasts or ribs, use indirect heat by placing the charcoal on one side and the wood chip pouch on top.
  5. Add your meat to the grill: Place the cooking grate over the fire and add your meat. If you’re grilling with the lid on, leave a small gap to allow for airflow, but only lift the lid if you need to flip your meat.

With these steps, you can achieve delicious smoky flavors on your grilled meats using wood chips and a charcoal grill.

7 Steps to Smoking on a Gas or Electric Smoker with Wood Chips

Smoking your meat with wood chips on a gas or electric smoker is easy if you know the proper steps. Follow these seven simple steps to get the perfect smoky flavor:

  1. Choose the Right Wood Chips: Pick the flavor of wood chips that best complement the meat you’re cooking, such as cherry, hickory, or mesquite.
  2. Fill the Smoker Box: Fill the smoker box with the wood chips. If you don’t have a smoker box, make a foil pouch or grab a disposable smoker box from the store with the wood chips inside.
  3. Light the Fire: Turn on the gas grill or electric smoker and light the fire.
  4. Place the Smoker Box: Place the smoker box on the grill. Usually, the smoker box is placed on the grates directly over the burners.
  5. Wait for the Smoke: Wait until the chips begin to smoke, which usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Add the Meat: Place your meat on the grill and cover the grill or smoker. You can use either direct or indirect heat grilling methods to cook your meat.
  7. Keep the smoke In: Keep the smoky flavor in your meat. Lift the grill lid or open the smoker door as little as possible.

Here are some additional pointers to keep in mind when smoking meat with wood chips:

  • Usually, two to three handfuls of chips on direct heat takes about half an hour to give up all the smoky goodness.
  • Soaking wood chips will only slow down the start of the burning process, not add more smoke.
  • Use caution when opening the grill or smoker to prevent the smoke from escaping.


Avoid Unfamiliar Backyard Wood Chips

Using wood chips to smoke your meat can add a delicious and unique flavor. However, it’s important to be careful about the type of wood chips you use. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use wood from your backyard: While it may seem convenient to use wood from your backyard, it’s not worth the risk. The wood could be contaminated with old poison ivy vines or weed killer overspray that can poison your food.
  • Avoid pine wood: Pinewood leaves sooty smoke that can ruin the flavor of your meat.
  • Buy wood chips from a reputable source: You can buy wood chips at most stores that sell grilling supplies. These affordable chips come in various flavors, such as cherry, hickory, and mesquite.
  • Ensure the wood chips are clean: Before using them, inspect them to ensure they’re free from debris, insects, or other contaminants.
  • Use the right amount of wood chips: Adding too many can make your food taste bitter or overpower the flavor. Follow the instructions on the package to determine the correct amount to use.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your food is safe and has a delicious smoky flavor that everyone will love.

Safety Precautions​

Smoking meat can add a delicious flavor to your meals. However, before using wood chips for smoking, there are a few safety precautions that you should follow to avoid any accidents or health risks.

Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

  1. Read the manufacturer’s instructions: Always read the instructions before using any new smoker or grill. It will help you understand how to use it safely and correctly.
  2. Wear protective gear: It’s important to wear protective gear, such as heat-resistant gloves and goggles when using a smoker or grill. It will protect you from any potential burns or injuries.
  3. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby: A fire can quickly get out of control, so it’s important to have a fire extinguisher nearby in an emergency.
  4. Avoid over-smoking: While smoking can add great flavor to your food, over-smoking can make it bitter and inedible. Follow the recommended smoking time and avoid adding too many wood chips.
  5. Proper ventilation: Proper ventilation is essential to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never use a smoker or grill indoors; make sure to use it in a well-ventilated area.
  6. Keep children and pets away: Smoking can be dangerous, so it’s important to keep children and pets away from the smoker or grill to avoid any accidents.

Following these safety precautions, you can smoke wood chips and enjoy delicious, flavorful meals.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, adding wood chips to your grilling game can take your meals to the next level. Whether using a charcoal or gas grill, properly using wood chips is key to achieving that perfect smoky flavor. Remember to choose the right type of wood chips, decide whether to soak them and follow safety precautions to ensure a safe and delicious grilling experience. 

With these tips, you’ll be able to master the art of smoking and impress your guests with flavorful, perfectly smoked dishes. Happy grilling and happy smoking with How to Use Wood Chips for Smoking!

Z Hashan

Z Hashan

Hi, my name is Z Hashan, and I’m passionate about smoking the best BBQ. There’s nothing more satisfying than cooking a delicious piece of BBQ and seeing the joy on people’s faces while they have a bite of it.

Z Hashan

Z Hashan

Hi, my name is Z Hashan, and I’m passionate about smoking the best BBQ. There’s nothing more satisfying than cooking a delicious piece of BBQ and seeing the joy on people’s faces while they have a bite of it.

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