How to Use Wood Chips for Smoking


Knowing how to use BBQ wood chips for smoking is highly essential because they are not only used for wood pellet smokers, but also in almost all other types of smokers.

So whether you are using a charcoal smoker or an electric one, there is a great chance that there is a wood chip tray present in your smoker. 

This is because wood isn’t just used as a heat source for smokers. It is what gives your meat a distinct flavor. 

Depending on the type of wood chips you use, your meat will have a flavorful smoky taste that will make it much better than it was initially going to be.

Therefore, we’re here to help you use your wood chips for the best possible results!

Choose a Preferred Type of Wood 

Wood chips are not the only type of wood that can be used for smoking your meat. 

There is also a more refined type of wood present called the wood pellets, which are just wood shreds pressed into a small cylindrical shape, and also wood chunks, which are of course many large pieces of wood as compared to wood chips and pellets.

Wood chips work best when you are using them to either smoke small cuts of meat that can be smoked in a short time, or are being used only for their flavor on other types of smokers.

Wood chunks are hence more suited to tougher cuts of meat, like the brisket, which can even take up to 22 hours to be cooked at times!

Different Types of Wood

All of these woods come in different flavors. The type of wood chips you are using determines the flavor that your smoke will give your meat.

The following are some of the most commonly used types of wood chips.

Type of WoodQualitiesMeat Type it is Best for
Oak– Good for beginners
– Has a medium to strong flavor
Hickory– Gives a rich sweet but savory flavor
– Tastes a bit like bacon
– Can make your meat bitter if overcooked
Red meat
Pork shoulders
Cherry– Imparts a fruity flavor to your meat
– Can be used with other types of woods for a richer flavor
Apple – Has a mild sweet taste
– Penetrates its flavor through the meat after a several hours
Wild foul
Maple – Best for subtle food flavor
– Has a sweet and light taste
Pecan – Extremely sweet
– Has a rich and nutty flavor
– Can be used with other types of wood since it has a very strong sweet taste
Mesquite – Has a strong and intense flavor
– Suitable for grilling as well
Red meat
Alder – Imparts a light and delicate sweet flavorFish

Also See: Mesquite vs Hickory Flavor Wood: Full Comparison

Using Wood Chips on Smokers

Wood chips are used in almost all types of smokers so that your meat can have a distinct flavor to make it taste even better.

Here we have explained how to use wood chips on charcoal and electric smokers.

Using Wood Chips in a Charcoal Smoker

  1. You can find a wood chip tray present in your charcoal smokers. This is where the wood chips will go.
  2. If your smoker doesn’t have a wood chip tray, simply place the wood chips on top of burning coals. As soon as the wood starts burning, it will start smoking your meat with its flavor.

Using Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker

  1. Almost all electric smokers contain a wood chip tray in them. You can place your wood chips in that tray.
  2. If the electric smoker that you are using doesn’t have a wood chip tray, you will have to put the chips inside either a metal tray or tin foil. This metal or foil is then placed on the bottom of the cooking chamber for best results.

Also Read: Guide: How to Pick the Best Wood for Smoking Meat

How to Use Wood Chips on Grills

Wood chips can also be used on grills to give your grilled meat a better flavor.

Using Wood Chips in a Charcoal Grill

  1. Simply place a small number of wood chips on top of burning coals. You can also use a chunk or two of the preferred wood type if you want it to burn for longer.
  2. Make sure that the smoke being produced is thin and blue, and not thick and white. Thick and white smoke will make your meat taste bitter.

This type of smoke can be prevented by closing the vents a little more and allowing less airflow to the coals and wood chips.

Using Wood Chips in a Gas Grill

  1. You will need a separate smoker-chip box for this type of grill. Place a small number of wood chips inside this box.
  2. Place this box on top of the gas grill grates, and wait until the wood chips start smoking.
  3. Use this smoke imparted to flavor your meat using either the direct or the indirect smoking method. If you are using the indirect method, remember to replace and renew the wood chips every 45 minutes or so.

How Much Wood Chips Do You Put in a Smoker?

This depends on your total smoking period.

However, usually, 2 to 3 handfuls of wood chips can burn fully for about an hour.

If you are smoking for long periods, it is best to replace your wood chips every 30 minutes with an adequate amount.

MYTH: You Should Soak Wood Chips Before Smoking

Soaking wood chips before smoking them is a very popular concept. However, there is only very little truth to this practice. 

Soaking wood will only elongate your smoking process, as it will first take its time to dry out and then start producing smoker later on.

It’s only useful to soak wood if you are trying to impart yet another flavor to the smoked meat, and aren’t just soaking your wood chips in water.

We recommend not soaking your wood chips ever. You can read more about the myth here.

Wrapping it Up

Wood has been widely used to give smoked meat distinct flavors for many decades now, and we’re here to keep the tradition alive.

With our help, you can make better choices and end up with better results!


Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled.

Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.