Fine wood chips for smoking

Fine wood chips for smoking DEFAULT

How To Choose The Right Smoking Wood.

How much do I use?

Make sure to not use too much wood, especially with stronger wood types. A handful of wood chips is often enough for a short smoking session and you should start a long smoking session with just a few chunks. A slightly less intense smoky flavor still gives great results, but too much smoke can cause food to taste bitter. 

Smoking woods can come off as mild and some can come off as very strong. Mild smoking wood are the fruit woods like apple, peach and cherry. They’re good on white meat, poultry and pork.Middle of the road smoking woods are hickory, maple, pecan, and oak. They’re great with pork, and strong enough to stand up to beef and game meats. The strongest smoking wood is going to be mesquite. Make sure you only use mesquite if you are looking for a strong smoke flavor. Usually only reserved for large chunks of beef….and people from Texas!

Now onto the different types of smoking wood.


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wood for a smoker

Back in the day all barbecue was cooked with wood logs as the primary source of heat and smoke.

These days we love to over-complicate things.

Take a stroll through your barbecue store and you’ll be overwhelmed by choice. You need to pick from wood chunks, chips, pellets, discs and whole logs, and that’s before you even decide which of dozens of varieties of wood to use.

In your search for answers, you will come across plenty of conflicting information, from what woods must be matched with certain meats, to how to build a fire for smoking success, and everything in between.

In this guide to smoking wood we will cover just about everything you need to know about using wood for smoking. We’ll even debunk a few common myths that even veteran barbecue competitors fall for.

Smoking with wood overview

While you can burn just about anything to smoke your food (In Iceland they use dried sheep dung), wood is the most commonly used material.

There are two main ways you can use wood when you barbecue.

  1. As the main fuel source – The combustion of the wood produces heat, while also imparting a smokey flavor to your meat. Building a fire with logs in an offset smoker is an example of using wood as the fuel source. Pellet smokers are another example of using wood as both the fuel and the source of smoky flavor.
  2. As the source of smoke flavor – while using another fuel source such as gas or charcoal. Examples of this include placing a wood chips in an electric smoker, or adding some chunks of wood to your lit coals.

The wood you use to add smoke flavor to your meat comes in many shapes and sizes, such as chips, chunks, pellets or sawdust. The best way to use these different forms of wood will depend on your situation.

wood chunks for the smoker

Many barbecue aficionados out there go to great lengths to match the flavor of the wood they burn to the dish they are cooking. However, knowing how and when to use wood in its different forms is a far more worthy time investment. Understanding when and how to use chips as opposed to chunks, for example, will reap far greater rewards than memorizing a list of meats that “go well with mesquite”.

A quick word on smoke

Smoke consists of around 100 compounds. Some of these compounds exist as solids, others as gases and still others exist as liquids such as oils.

The exact makeup of the smoke you make on your barbecue will depend on the wood you have used, the temperature of combustion, the amount of available oxygen and the humidity.

Two of the gases that you might like to take note of are syringol and guiacol. Syringol is the gas that is responsible for the smokey aroma, while guiacol is the gas we can thank for the distinctive smokey flavor. These gases are only present in trace amounts, but they do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of creating that trademark barbecue smell and flavor.

Producing smoke on a weber smokey mountain

Let’s have a closer look at what is going on in the combustion process, in the hopes of understanding how and why smoke is produced. Wood goes through four stages as it combusts.

1) Dehydration – This is what is happening to the wood up to about 500°F. Dehydration takes place before the wood actually catches alight, so at this point the wood has to be exposed to heat from an external source, such as from lit kindling, or a match. By the time this stage is complete, any moisture within the log will have evaporated and the wood is left completely dry.

2) Gasification and pyrolysis – This stage takes place when the wood is between 500 and 700°F. Compounds within the wood start to change at this point. Some of these compounds become flammable gasses, so if these gases are exposed to a flame, they will ignite (at this point the wood itself is not igniting independently of these gases). So in everyday terms, this is the point at which it appears as if the wood “catches fire”.

3) Burning – Once the temperature gets to 700-1000°F, the real action takes place. The wood itself is in flames, and gases important to the barbeque cooking process are released. Once such gas is nitric oxide, the gas responsible for the formation of the smoke ring.

The best temperature range, as far as producing tasty smoke is concerned, is between 650-750°F. As the fire gets hotter, the compounds that are being broken down become bitter, and some can even be hazardous.

As gases are released from the fuel, they ignite as they combine with oxygen and are exposed to significant enough heat. If gases escape without burning, smoke is formed.

4) Charcoal Formation – Once the temperature gets above 1000°F, many organic compounds are burned off and charcoal is left behind. Not much smoke is produced while the charcoal burns.

How long should you produce smoke when cooking?

There is an idea floating around out there that meat stops taking on smoke after a certain point, and there is no reason to continue creating smoke beyond that point. However, this is not the case. The meat itself will take on smoke as long as you serve smoke up to it.

What does change is the environment inside the cooker and the surface of the meat.

  • Smoke will stick to the surface of the meat readily if it is cool and moist.
  • Naturally, as the cook progresses, the surface of the meat will dry out and warm up.
  • This can be overcome by basting and spritzing throughout the cook. Just keep in mind that if you go overboard with the spritzing, you could wash off any rubs or sauces you may have applied.

Another thing to keep in mind is that coals will not produce as much smoke as wood, so if you want more smoke later on in the cook, you will need to add more wood to the fire.

Keep in mind, however, that just because meat can keep on taking smoke doesn’t mean it should. You don’t want your meat to taste like a lump of coal. There is such a thing as meat that tastes “too smokey”.

How to use the main types of smoke wood

This chart explains the different types and sizes of wood that’s typically used for smoking.

Guide to using different types of wood

How to add wood to your smoker

Generally speaking, a small, hot fire burning at a steady rate will produce the best smoke. Avoid the temptation to build something resembling a bonfire in your smoker. Lighting up all your fuel in one go will not yield good results.

How much wood you should add to the fire, and when you should throw it on will also depend on the type of smoker you are using, and whether wood is your primary heat source or not.

If you smoke on a Weber Smoker Mountain for instance, wood is not the primary heat source. In this case 2-4 fist sized chunks of wood should be enough to create the right amount of smoke.

If you are using an offset smoker, wood is the primary heat source. We cover what type of wood to use in an offset smoker further on in this guide.

Building a fire in an offset is a topic for another day. This helpful video from T-Roy Cooks to give you a good overview.

If wood is not the primary heat source, many pitmasters find that adding the wood chunks to the coals once they are hot, and the meat and thermometers are all set up, is the easiest way to start producing smoke. To ensure that you start getting good smoke right away, make sure the wood is touching the hot coals.

Some pitmasters bury the wood chunks in the unlit coals, whereas others layer coals and wood chips and then light the coals using the minion method.

Matching wood ‘flavor profile’ with what you’re cooking

Judging by the number of guides and charts out there which outline the flavor profiles of different wood types and what meat it should be matched with, you would be forgiven for thinking that this kind of knowledge is imperative to pulling off a successful barbecue.

What if I told you that the evidence points to the shocking fact that this obsession with wood flavors may actually be a little over the top.

In actual fact, where the tree grew is more likely to impact the flavor profile of the smoke than the type of tree it is. Meathead Goldwyn of refers to data from the Forest Encyclopedia Network when he makes this interesting statement:


Meathead Goldwyn, What You Need to Know About Wood, Smoke, And Combustion

“Smoke flavor is influenced more by the climate and soil in which they are grown than the species of wood.

This is very important to note, especially when you are caught up in the game of deciding which wood to use for flavor.

This means that the differences between hickory grown in Arkansas and hickory grown in New York may be greater than the differences between hickory and pecan grown side by side.”

Indeed, many budding pitmasters obsess over what type of wood they are smoking with rather than the more important factor of where it was grown. Steven Raichlen in his book “Project Smoke” reminds us of yet another important point to keep in mind that may be overlooked at times.

“The wood variety matters less than how you burn it. And while each wood variety produces smoke with a slightly different color and flavor, if your new to smoking, the major hardwoods (hickory, oak, apple, cherry and maple) all work equally well.”

Believing that certain types of wood can impart different flavors is mostly wishful thinking. The tables and graphics look nice, but it’s mostly companies copying the same information off each other to create nice looking graphics for marketing.

The bottom line is, learning the techniques behind creating good smoke is going to pay higher dividends than tirelessly matching specific woods with specific meats.

Which types of wood are best to smoke with

Your choice of wood is slightly more important if you use an ‘old school’ style wood burning smoker.

Most pitmasters these days use charcoal, electric or gas as their primary heat source and simply add wood chunks or chips for the flavor.

In this video Aaron Franklin runs through what wood characteristics he looks for for an ‘optimal smoke’.

The main points you need to consider:

  • If the wood has been left to dry out for around 6 months, it is just right for using on your barbecue. This is because there is still enough moisture in the wood to create smoke, without being too sappy.
  • Store bought woods are likely kiln dried, which means they will burn hot and fast. This may prove challenging when trying to control the temperature and length of your cook.
  • Another advantage of using wood with some moisture remaining in it is that the wood will burn slower at a lower heat. Clearly, this is good news if you aim to cook ‘low and slow’.

Even though most evidence says that the belief different types of wood produce different flavors is mostly barbecue myth, there are some general rules of thumb that seem to hold true.

  • Oak – Burns slow and even, has a mild flavor, and is generally a good wood for smoking.
  • Hickory – Also good for smoking, with a stronger flavor than oak.
  • Pecan – With a stronger, smoky and sweet flavor, this wood is better for shorter smokes. If used for longer smokes, the flavor can become overpowering.
  • Mesquite – Strong flavored wood, which burns hot and fast, and produces a lot of smoke. Best used for grilling, or to burn down as coals.
  • Fruit woods – Mild in flavor, and can be used green.

We have a more detailed guide to the best wood for smoking you can check out.

Types of wood you should never smoke with

There are also some types of wood you should definitely not smoke with which we have listed below.

CedarOsage OrangeLamburnun
ElderberryRedwood (Conifer)Yew
ElmSprucePoisonous Walnut (other walnut wood is fine)
EucalyptusSweet GumFir
  • You should never use wood that has been painted, stained or treated in any way. You also should not use lumbar scraps, or bits of wood from old pellets, as there is no way of knowing what type of wood it is, or what chemicals it has been exposed to.
  • You can use cedar for flavoring your food like with cedar plank salmon, but I wouldn’t recommend using it as a primary smoke wood.
  • Avoid old wood that is covered in mold or fungus. Molds and fungi can contain toxins that, when released in the smoke and coated on your food, could make you or your guests ill.
  • Avoid softwoods. You may have deduced this when reading through our list of woods not to use. Softwoods are not a good idea because they are sappy, and contain terpenes. These can leave your meat tasting odd. Worse still, some people feel ill after eating meat smoked using these kinds of wood.

Tips to help generate a ‘smoke ring’

The smoke ring is caused when smoke from burning fuel hits your meat and reacts with the myoglobin to fix the ping / red color. While it doesn’t change the flavor, it’s still highly desirable and a sign of an expert pit master.

  • Use cold meat to start with, and keep the meat moist throughout the cook. You can accomplish this by spritzing (using plain old H2O is fine) and keeping the atmosphere humid by putting a water pan in your cooker. This will help the smoke stick to the surface of your meat.
  • Use a spice rub. Not only will it add to the flavor of your meat, but it will encourage more smoke to stick.
  • Add your wood early, when the meat is still cool. This is when meat takes up most smoke flavor without you having to intervene. One word of caution, while you want to get the wood on as early as possible, wait until the fire is hot and the coals have stopped smoking before you add the wood.

Wood controversies people love to obsess about

Soaking wood

Conventional wisdom tells us that wood should be soaked before smoking it. The idea is that soaking the wood will slow down the burn, and provide more consistent heat. We’ve even seen people suggest soaking wood chips in beer, wine or fruit juice to add “more complexity”.

We found this suggestion from the LA times especially laughable.

“The liquid will infuse the chips with flavour as they soak, giving the food more depth and dimension as it smokes. Try adding a little apple juice for light and fruity notes, perhaps a little red wine to add some spice notes. A touch of rum added to the soaking liquid can lend a nice hint of caramel when smoking something delicate.”

Let’s put this idea to bed for good. When in doubt I like to consult the experts, and if they all agree then there tends to be a good reason.


Malcom Reed, Dry Wood vs Soaked Wood

“People argue with me that “Soaked wood burns longer”, this statement may be true, but the smoke produced is not clean. The high moisture content keeps the combustion level of the wood down and the steam carries impurities of the wood with it.

So even though you might be increasing your burn times, your actually killing the taste of your ‘que because those impurities your steaming your meat with build-up on the outside and can give it a creosote taste”

Soaking your wood could adversely affect the quality of the smoke that is produced. The smoke you want is thin and blue. Soaked wood produces white, billowy smoke.

If you’re still not convinced, Meathead Goldwyn of conducted an experiment to see how much water actually gets absorbed by the wood.


Meathead Goldwyn, Myth: Soak Your Wood First

“I began by weighing two handsful of wood chips, and two handsful of wood chunks on a digital scale. Both bags were labeled “apple”.

Then I soaked them in room temp water for 12 hours, took them out, shook off much of the surface water, patted the exterior lightly with paper towels and weighed them to see just how much was actually absorbed.

Large chunks gained about 3% by weight and small chips about 6%. That’s not much.”

Certainly not enough of a difference to warrant calling off your barbecue plans because you forgot to soak your chunks.

While some pitmasters still claim soaking chips is worth it, most agree that soaking chunks isn’t. Ultimately, you may need to experiment yourself to make a call on this one. But don’t lose any sleep over it.

Should you use green or seasoned wood

Many will advise you to use wood that has been dried, arguing that too much sap will produce pungent smoke and can burn irregularly. Also, the flavors that excessively sappy wood produces can be unexpected, and not in a good way.

On the other hand, some moisture in the wood can help the wood burn slower, which can make temperature control a little easier. And if you are after a stronger smokey flavor, the extra smoke that comes off the moisture in the wood isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It really comes down to what taste you are after.

Should you leave the bark on or bark off

Many pitmasters take the bark off the wood, claiming it will affect the flavor and the way the wood burns. Others leave it on and report no ill effects. Of course, each piece of wood will have differing amounts of bark, so sometimes this decision needs to be made on a case by case basis.

Blending woods to create unique flavor combinations

People get hung up on what type of wood they use to smoke, so you can imagine the angst that ensues when the suggestion of mixing woods is brought up.

To keep things simple when you are starting out, it might be a good idea to stick with on type of wood and get a feel for the flavor each type of wood exhibits. Once you have an idea of what to expect from each variety, mix it up. Enjoy experimenting, and you might just come up with something that really works well for you.

Where to buy wood

Of course, in an ideal world, we would all have a supply of free, perfectly aged wood at our disposal. But for most of us, this isn’t the case and we will have to purchase our wood.

BBQ stores: Your local BBQ store is a good place to start. Wood is likely to be sold by weight or volume in pre-packed bags. If your local BBQ store sources wood locally, you might even be able to save on shipping costs. While hickory and mesquite can be purchased at most hardware stores, specialty BBQ stores are also likely to stock alder, apple, cherry, oak, and pecan as well.

Amazon: You will find a wide variety of smoking wood chunks and chips on Amazon, which will come pre packaged, much like you would get from a BBQ store. There is likely to be a minimum weight you will have to purchase. Make sure you have enough room to store the amount of wood you purchase. Just keep an eye on shipping costs before you buy, as shipping can often cost as much as the wood itself.

If you don’t go through a lot of wood then the wood chunks by are a decent option. You can get a 3.5lb bag of apple, cherry, hickory, mesquite or pecan.

It’s worth shopping around though, especially if you want to stock up. This 10lb bag is a good option if you want a good sppply.

Wood suppliers: Aside from wood suppliers you may already know of in your local area (search “wood supplier + your area in Google), you can find suppliers using this list If you find a good supplier, you should be able to access more specific wood types, and the supplier may even be able to give you more information about how old the wood is and where it comes from.

Forage for it: If you’ve got the time and live outside the city, then going out and collecting your own wood could be an option. Turan from Coldsmoking Cookery School suggests going out foraging after fall or spring winds.

You will need to have a keen eye for different types of wood though, as you don’t want to accidentally smoke with some elm or pine.

If you need to use the wood straight away your best option is to harvest during the winter when the sap content is lower.

11 Tips for smoking with wood

The following tips should give you a good quick guide to using wood on your barbecue. Our suggestions have been thoroughly tested and backed up by experts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment.

If you want to try soaking your wood chips in craft beer first, by all means go ahead. Part of the fun of learning about barbecue is experimenting with all the different methods.

  1. Get your smoke from wood – This may seem obvious. However, if your charcoal is smoking, don’t assume that the smoke coming from it is just as good as smoke from wood. Remember that tasty smoke comes from wood. And don’t worry if your smoking wood catches alight. The thin, clean smoke from burning wood is better than fluffy white smoke from incomplete combustion.
  2. Store your logs outside – In order for your wood to dry out a little, outside is the ideal place for it to be stored. Keep in mind that you should store your wood up off the ground. This will stop your wood from becoming damp, getting moldy or rotting out completely.
  3. Consider the size of your chunks – The longer you want to cook, the bigger your wood chunks should be. For short cooks such as chicken or fish, wood chips or pellets are ideal. For a longer cook, wood chunks anywhere between the size of a golf ball and a baseball will produce consistent smoke for longer.
  4. Don’t use wood that smells bad – If your wood smells musty, don’t assume that the smell will burn off. It won’t, and the flavor of your cook will be affected. Remember that moldy wood is also not safe to burn due to the toxins that certain molds release.
  5. Learn to control the oxygen – A layer of gray soot all over your meat is not the result of good smoke, but rather the result of burning coals with insufficient oxygen. The good news is that this soot can be washed off your meat, and you can try again. Before putting the meat back in the cooker, make sure you have got your oxygen flow right. Another tip is to get rid of ash in the fire, as this can smother the coals and lead to a sooty outcome.
  6. Practice makes perfect – If you are new to this, don’t underestimate the wisdom of a couple of “dry runs” without food. This way you will learn to control the temperature of your barbecue, how to light it and when to add more wood to get the smoke you are after.
  7. Invest in good thermometers – If you read the section on how smoke is formed, you likely picked up that the temperature has a lot to do with the type of smoke you are getting, let alone knowing where your meat is up to as far as the cooking goes. This is not something you can guess. A good digital thermometer will tell you exactly what is going on in there, and armed with this knowledge you will be able to react accordingly.
  8. Keep your cooker clean – Black, sticky residue will not add a good taste to your barbecue. In fact, the smoke that billows off this substance will most likely be full of creosote. Also, grease that drips off dirty grates into the fire will make some nasty smoke.
  9. Trust your senses – Your barbecue should smell good, and by that I don’t mean like a burnoff. The smell of the meat and the spices you have used should be distinctive, and the smell of the smoke should be sweet.
  10. Cook indirectly for longer cooks – Cooking indirectly means the heat source is in a chamber separate to where your food sits, like in an offset cooker. If you cook indirectly there is no chance of the moisture or fat from the meat dripping onto the fire. For shorter cooks, this isn’t such an issue. But when cooking low and slow, cooking indirectly is best.
  11. Drain and dry unused soaked chips – If you decide that soaking your chips is worth the effort, then make sure you drain off and dry out any soaked chips that you do not use. Otherwise you will soak the flavor right out of the chips before you get a chance to smoke them.

Get the gear

Particularly if you plan on using wood as your primary fuel source, you will need a bit of gear to make your life easier. Here are a few products we recommend.

Firewood rack – It’s a good idea to store you wood off the ground it from rotting. Check out our article on wood racks if you would like a complete run down on the benefits of using a wood rack. We really like the Woodhaven range, as they are sturdy, and come with a lifetime structural warranty.

Another great feature of Woodhaven racks is that they come with a cover to protect your wood from the elements. The clever design also means that the cover moves down as your pile becomes smaller.

We recommend the smaller 3 foot rack if you’re not turning out a lot of barbecue. It will hold ⅛ cord of wood and is about half the price of the larger Woodhaven rack.

Axe – A reliable axe and a great swing are important if you plan on buying larger logs and then splitting them into chunks. Friskars have a range of axes. For taller people, the 36 inch axe is designed for maximum efficiency. Weighing 5.85 pounds, this axe comes with a lifetime warranty.

If you have split wood before, you likely understand the frustration of getting the blade stuck in the wood. Friskars have designed an axe head that is shaped to avoid this from happening so much, as well as adding power and efficiency to the blow.

Metal scoop – Cleaning out the ash in your smoker is very important to keep your oxygen flow healthy, and your smoke sweet. A metal scoop will help you get the job done.

The Grabbin Ash Pan is an example of a quality metal scoop. Made in the USA out of heavy grade steel, this scoop will be around for a while. It has an ergonomically designed handle, which will make a task that could become tedious a little more comfortable.

The scoop itself is large, meaning you can get the job done quicker, and the closed sides mean you don’t lose half of the debris you just collected over the scoop’s edges.

The curved bottom works particularly well for cylindrical shaped cookers. While this item is not an absolute necessity, cleaning out the ash from your cooker is. A sturdy, well designed scoop is going to make this job a lot more enjoyable than if you use a scrap of cardboard you reclaimed from your trash.

Leather work gloves – It is easy to forget how much grief a simple blister can cause. It’s easy to avoid if you don a pair of gloves. Besides, when it is cold out, a thick pair of gloves will keep your hands warm too.

Gloves don’t need to be fancy, just well sewn and sturdy. These leather work gloves are perfect for the job. These gloves are made from 100% cowhide, have a reinforced palm area and a handy drawstring so you can pull them in at the wrist to fit.

Keep in mind that if leather gloves seem a little stiff at first, wear them in for a while and they will soften up.

Wrapping it up

We have covered a lot in this article! While wood is integral to barbecue, it need not be something that intimidates a new (or not so new) pitmaster. After grasping some of the basics about how wood burns, the role of smoke, and what types of wood are out there, all that is left to do is practice and have fun!

Do you have any more questions that we have not covered in this post? Or do you have any further tips and tricks that you would like to share with us? Please be sure to comment below. And if you found this article helpful, please be sure to share!

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Soaking and Smoking Guide for Wood Chips and Pellets

You can get great smokey flavor on your gas grill by using a smoker box and your favorite wood chips or pellets. Use our guide to smoking on a gas grill to make sure you get a good, clean, and consistent smoke.

How do I get thin blue smoke on a gas grill?

Getting a thin, blue smoke is key to achieving a great smoke flavor. The color of your smoke is an indicator of what’s happening inside your grill. As wood creeps closer to combustion, the smoke will change in intensity: a fine blue-white smoke, a billowy white smoke, a brown billowy smoke, then flame, and finally, thin smoke again. For the best results, feather the heat output so you’re seeing either fine blue-white or billowy, white smoke. You may even need to cut the power at times to damper the intensity.

The cleaner the smoke the better the flavor and the longer it will deliver that smoke. If your smoker box comes with a damper like the Broil King Imperial Smoker Box, close it at least 3/4 of the way to allow as little airflow as possible.

Why should I soak wood chips before putting them on the grill?

Thanks to dedicated grilling researchers like the team at we know that soaking kiln-dried hardwood chips for a reasonable amount of time only lets them take on 3% water. So when you put your soaked chips on the grill, the surface will quickly dry up, taking what little water was absorbed with it. Once dry, the wood gradually gets hotter and drier and runs the risk of catching fire.

Here are the key temperatures to remember:

Water boils at 212F (100C). Before that water evaporates and the wood won’t get hotter than 212F (100C). According to, the average combustion temperature is around 575F (301C); it can happen anywhere above 450F(232C) given enough time. In essence, wet wood doesn’t smoke until it dries.

Should I soak wood chips?

Soaking wood chips is a good idea as long as you’re soaking them to delay smoking. The next time you fire up your Broil King grill to smoke some ribs, use these soaking guidelines.

And a nifty trick … the Broil King Imperial Smoker Box has two chambers that allow you to create some smoke now and some later. Terminology-wise, avoid saying soaking your chips gives you more or better smoke; your wood just starts smoking later.

Soaking Test Guidelines

Constant temperature: 500F (260C) – this is hot but it illustrates the point in a hurry
Control knob setting: Broil King Regal S520 Commercial – Low / Low / Low / Med / Med
Pellet Flavor: 100% Hickory
Wood Chip Flavor: Hickory
*For this test, drenched pellets and chips had 1/2 cup of water added to their chamber

If you feather the burner output these times can be greatly extended. Think about this test as a worst-case scenario with the least amount of smoke. A quick note about combustion, once the chips or pellets ignite your internal grill temperature can jump a lot.

The grill fairly quickly shot up to 600F (315C) from 500F (260C) with the chips burning. The pre-heat below is the time that it takes for the chips or pellets to start smoking. Lastly, since there are two chambers to the smoker box we’re going to call them side A and side B since some of the tests mix one chamber of wet wood with one chamber of dry wood to create a longer overall smoke.

Side ADry Pellets12 Minutes11 Minutes13 Minutes
Side BDrenched Pellets27 Minutes21 Minutes7 Minutes
Total smoke time 32 minutes
Side ADry Chips7 Minutes7 Minutes12 Minutes
Side BDrenched Chips14 Minutes5 Minutes7 Minutes
Total smoke time 12 minutes
Side A & BSoaked for 1 hr Chips17 Minutes8 Minutes10 Minutes
Side A & BDry Pellets7 Minutes6 Minutes13 Minutes
Side A & BDry Chips6 Minutes4 Minutes12 Minutes

Wood pellets obviously burn longer and produce smoke for longer because of their size and density. By weight, you can get twice as many dry pellets into a smoker box as chips ~8.85oz (250g) vs. 4.4oz (125g). But a combination of wet pellets and dry pellets produced smoke for much longer. The same applies to the wood chips. Soaked wood chips only produced 8 minutes of smoke while a combination of one side drenched and one side dry produced 12 minutes of total smoke. Water can put off smoking by roughly 10 minutes even at high temperatures.

Ben – Culinary Director
Broil King

How to Smoke with Wood Chips

Our 7 Picks

When it comes to smoky flavor, it is a matter of personal preference. Some people use wood chips that produce more robust smoke, while others look for lighter smoke. Others use a combination of wood chips for a bolder taste. Here are some of the best wood chips that you can use for smoking ribs:

Oklahoma Joe's Hickory Wood Smoker Chips, 2-Pound Bag
Oklahoma Joe's Hickory Wood Smoker Chips, 2-Pound Bag
  • Oklahoma Joe's hickory wood chips are the best way to get a long last burn in the cooker and to infuse great taste into meats
  • For use with smokers and electric, gas or charcoal grills
  • Ideal for smoking meats, poultry, vegetables and fish
  • Made of all natural wood chips
  • Measures 179 cubic inches

Whether you are smoking ribs or steak, you can’t go wrong with this wood chip. It provides a more robust smoky flavor that perfectly works well for ribs. One good thing about hickory wood chips is that they tend to burn for a more extended period in the cooker. Additionally, hickory wood chips are compatible with smokers, charcoal, gas, or electric grills.

However, one downside of this wood chip is that it tends to generate a lot of smoke. Hence, it would help if you were careful when using hickory wood chips. Remember, ribs don’t have much meat, unlike smoked brisket. So it doesn’t need much smoke; otherwise, it will overpower the ribs’ natural flavor.

Another best wood chip for smoking ribs comes from an oak tree. The flavor of oak wood chips is relatively lighter than the previous wood chip, but it is more potent than fruit woods, such as cherry wood chips. It has a medium smoky flavor, which works only for ribs and all meats.

If you want to smoke ribs for a more extended period, this wood chip will be ideal. 

If you are looking for a wood chip that provides earthy and robust flavor, then the mesquite wood chip is what you need. The good thing about this wood chip is that it works well for all types of meat. Nevertheless, it has its drawbacks. One of the disadvantages of mesquite wood chips is that it tends to burn faster due to its natural oil content. 

Additionally, using this wood chip in larger quantities can overpower the flavor of the ribs. 

It is one of the lightest smoking wood chips that provide a subtle smoky and sweet flavor to your ribs. For this reason, applewood chips can take a while to infuse the desired flavor. It will further slow down the cooking time for your ribs. We have a post on">cookingthod.

WESTERN Premium BBQ Products Cherry BBQ Smoking Chips, 180 cu in (28066)
WESTERN Premium BBQ Products Cherry BBQ Smoking Chips, 180 cu in (28066)
  • Cherry BBQ Smoking Chips for a charcoal, gas, or electric grill. See description for cooking instructions.
  • Cherry wood heat treated to eliminate and prevent pests, mold, or rot.
  • 180 cubic Inches of large sized Cherry BBQ Smoking Chips per package.
  • Use to make a variety of cherry smoked meat. Delicious with Beef Sirloin or Filets, Salmon or Trout, Braised Brisket, or Pork Loin.
  • Try Western Premium BBQ Products Cherry BBQ Smoking Chips with these American favorites: Hamburgers, Whole Chicken, BBQ Smoked Wings, or Baby Back or Spare Ribs.

Cherry wood chip also has a sweet and mild flavor, and you can use it for all types of meat. When mixed with other hardwood chips, the cherry wood chip provides an incomparable flavor to your ribs. Moreover, it can help to color your meat. If you want some mahogany layers when smoking ribs, then you should consider this wood chip.

When it comes to the flavor, this wood chip is similar to the applewood chip. But the difference between them is that this wood chip has a richer flavor. You can also blend it with other hardwood chips for an enhanced balance between sweet flavor and earthy smoke. 

Western Premium BBQ Products Maple BBQ Smoking Chips, 180 cu in
Western Premium BBQ Products Maple BBQ Smoking Chips, 180 cu in
  • Maple BBQ Smoking Chips for a charcoal, gas, or electric grill. See description for cooking instructions.
  • Maple wood heat treated to eliminate and prevent pests, mold, or rot.
  • 180 cubic Inches of large sized Maple BBQ Smoking Chips per package.
  • Use to make a variety of maple smoked meat. Delicious with Beef Sirloin or Filets, Salmon or Trout, Braised Brisket, or Pork Loin.
  • Try Western Premium BBQ Products Maple BBQ Smoking Chips with these American favorites: Hamburgers, Whole Chicken, BBQ Smoked Wings, or Baby Back or Spare Ribs.

Another best wood chip for smoking ribs is the maple wood chip, which creates a lovely sweet and lightly smoked flavor. You can also blend it with other wood chips when smoking ribs. 

Difference between smoking chips, smoking chunks, and wood logs

It can be confusing between these terms, especially if you are a beginner. Wood chips are the smallest compared to the other two, but they tend to burn out pretty fast. The best thing about wood chips is that they ignite quickly and are readily available.

When it comes to wood chunks, they are relatively more significant than wood chips. Additionally, they burn longer than wood chips. On the other hand, wood logs come in different wood varieties, which you can use for building a campfire. The advantage of wood logs is that they burn the longest compared to wood chips and chunks. Nevertheless, they produce less smoke. So if you are going to smoke ribs using wood logs, we recommend adding either wood chips or smoking chunks.

Do you need to soak your wood chips before smoking ribs?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. Some people recommend soaking the wood chips to increase the burning time. Additionally, they say that the water will help the chips to release the flavor better when smoking ribs.

On the other hand, others do not recommend soaking the wood chips. The reason is that your wood chips need to get rid of the moisture before producing smoke. In this way, it will extend the cooking process. 


To sum up, smoked ribs are one of the most favored recipes for any outdoor cooking activities. Nevertheless, you need to choose the right type of wood chips to enhance the flavor. The above-listed points are some of the best wood chips, you can also read the best smoker for ribs. 


Wood for smoking chips fine

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Building Soil with Composted Wood Chips

What's the Difference Between Wood Chips and Wood Chunks?

Adding wood to your fire is the only way to get the true smoke flavor in your smoker. Whether you have an electric, gas, or charcoal smoker, you can add wood for the authentic barbecue flavor. Fortunately, wood chips and wood chunks come prepackaged for your convenience, but which should you use?

Wood Chips

Chips are very small pieces of wood that are great for short, quick bursts of smoke. Chips, even soaked in water, will burn up pretty fast, create smoke, and then disappear. If you are not smoking for a very long period, or if you only want a small amount of smoke flavor, then go with chips.

Make sure to read the instructions for your smoker. Some electric and gas smokers are designed for wood chips only. You won't want to use chunks with these units.

Wood Chunks

Chunks are large pieces of hardwood. Usually less than 2 inches, these pieces are best for creating smoke for extended periods. You’ll get more smoke throughout your cooking time without having to run out and add more every 30 minutes. Be sure to check whether your smoker can use wood chunks.


When buying wood for smoking, aside from getting a hardwood with a pleasant smoke, look for good quality wood. Large amounts of bark, resins, and impurities will produce noxious smoke that will be counterproductive, regardless of the type of wood you are using. Good quality wood for smoke is as essential as selecting the right kind of wood for the food you are smoking.


Whether you are using chips or chunks, you don't want it to burn away too quickly. Fast burning wood creates intense bursts of smoke that can make your food taste bitter. By soaking wood in water, you slow down the combustion and lengthen the time the wood smokes.

Soak wood chips for about 15 minutes, and chunks for at least 30 minutes. Make sure to let the wood drip dry for a few minutes before adding it to the fire. You want the wood to be moist, not dripping wet.

When to Add Wood

When using a charcoal grill, add the wood directly to the coals once the fire has died down and you're ready to grill. Don't add it before you're prepared to cook, or you will be wasting the smoke.

A vertical gas smoker has a tray or pan above the burner to hold the wood. Add the wood after the unit is up to temperature and allow the smoke to develop before you add the food.

If you are adding wood chips or chunks to a gas grill, you need to keep the wood isolated from the fire. Look for a device, such as a cast iron box, to hold the smoking wood chips so ash doesn't collect in your gas grill. Or, you can use a sheet of foil. Place the soaked wood on the foil, wrap it, and punch a couple of holes in the foil for the smoke to escape. Place this packet on the grill with your food.


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Camerons Hickory Smoking Wood Chips Extra Fine Cut Sawdust


Camerons (USA)


Camerons Products is the leader in Smoke Cooking Technology and the creator of great innovative grilling products to show both the home and professional chef the easiest way to infuse a smoked or grilled flavor into all foods. We have developed and found products to do this outdoors on the grill or camping, indoors on the stovetop, or on a basic campfire.

Camerons has been extremely careful in selecting the actual size of wood chips that should be used for the different smokers and smoke boxes in order to create the best flavor infusion possible with the least amount of smoke escaping when the smoker is opened upon completion. Wood chunks and pellets in the different flavors are available for use in all outdoor BBQs and Smokers.

Understanding the flavor of smoke can take cooking familiar foods to a completely new level. With smoke, foods are infused with flavors that are both together familiar and alluring, making a fascinating combination. (Country of origin: USA)


We are talking serious BBQ! This is a classic hardwood that creates a lot of depth in its flavor yet is not harsh. A perfect choice when using BBQ sauce on pork ribs or chicken.


Manufactured ByCamerons Products 1660, South Circle Drive, Colorado Spring, Co 80910 USA.

Imported & Distributed byChenab Impex Pvt Ltd. J1-A, Ansa Industrial Estate, Saki Vihar Road Sakinaka, Andheri(E), Mumbai 400072 INDIA.


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