Wood Pellets vs. Wood Chips (What’s the best for Smoking BBQ Meat?)


Choosing the perfect firewood for smoking is a tough task for most. The obvious choice is between wood chips and wood pellets. While both provide the same amount of smoky flavor to your meat, there are few standard differences in both of them.

Depending upon them, one needs to finalize what to use. The firewood is also dependent on the type of smoker used.

Wood chips are suggested for some smokers, while wood pellets are for other grills and smokers. Firewood is a deciding factor for various offset smokers at BBQ parties.

Wood Pellets: All You Need To Know

The origin of pellets is one of the first things under consideration to the users. A wood pellet stems from finely ground hardwood. The pellets available in the market could tamper with additives. It is essential to buy wood pellets that are pure and do not affect the taste.

The pellets are usable in both smokers and grills but suitable for smoking meats. The advantage of wood pellets is that they can burn out a lot more. Regulating the temperature is easy as the pellet takes longer to burn. Cooking time is an essential parameter of smoking meat.

Woman Holding Wood Pellets in Hand

The other important feature of pellets is that they consume much less fuel to regulate the temperature. The additional time required to cook the meat becomes insignificant to the monetary benefit.

The pellets have consistent smoke and minimal ash. It allows even smoking of the meat and enhances the flavor. They are locally available in various flavors, where one can choose which firewood suits the meat best.

The chances of overcooking the meat are minimal with wood pellets. They cook the meat just perfectly and enhance the flavor. Therefore it is an automatic choice for people who prefer their meat perfectly cooked. It makes the meat more tender and juicy.

One of the essential factors of pellets is the cost. They are slightly more costly than regular wood since they require manufacturing. When bought on a per-pound basis, they become cost-effective.

Wood Pellet Uses

Wood Pellets, as discussed, are slow burners. They are thereby the ideal choice for cold smoking. They are also used to convert Gas grills to smokers.

A pellet tube smoker is used to burn the pellet and create a smoky effect for 3 to 5 hours. It often doubles up as an efficient way to add a smoky flavor to the meat without using a smoker.

Pellets are used in pellet grills and smokers, and it is tough to get similar results in other grills. They end up giving the meat a bitter taste.

For beginners, it is essential to know the effects of firewood on cooking meat with regards to the smokers used. A fundamental step-by-step guide of smokers for beginners here.

Wood Chips: All You Need To Know

They are created by chipping hardwood pieces. The rough texture around the edges gives them a varying size and shape. A pack of wooden chips is irregular in appearance due to irregular shapes. However, it does not affect the taste of the meat cooked.

Unlike wood pellets, wood chips do not give a uniform smoking flavor. It provides an intense burst of any flavor for a shorter grill session. This adds taste for users who prefer a strong sense of smoky taste. It not only saves time but increases taste for a few users.

Smoking Mullet Fish Using Wood Chips

The flavor of the smoked meat changes according to the wood used. A mild, muted flavor by the fruitwoods and a bolder flavor by woods such as hickory adds to the meat. Charcoal briquettes, in addition to wood chips, give extra flavor.

Wood chips burn faster than pellets leading to quicker cooking. Generally, wood chips are soaked in water before using them to let them burn longer. It helps generate a lot more steam allowing the meat to become moister. Soaking it in water gives a more tenderly cooked meat.

Various smokers are explicitly designed concerning wood chips. The design of these smokers helps maintain an ideal temperature for the meat to be cooked in.

One of the disadvantages is that they produce a bitter taste when used for smoking. They are preferred a lot more for grills. Smoking meat using wood chips often ruins the delicacy beyond repair.

It is easier to overdo the meat with wood chips if the temperature is not regulated well enough. Compared to pellets, chips provide a higher risk factor of spoiling the flavor of your meat.

Wood Chips Uses

Wood Chips give an intense smoky flavor while grilling. One can use them in various types of smokers, including kettle grills, electric grills, and barrel smokers. When the chips are placed atop hot charcoal, they produce an excellent smoky flavor which adds to the inherent taste of the meat.

Wood Chips vs Wood Pellets

Wood chips and pellets are both made from hardwood. Wood pellets require an additional step of converting them to pellets. Pellets do not burn as fast as chips giving them a smoky flavor. The main differences between them are enumerated below-

1.  Taste

Both wood pellets and chips are available in various flavors. The taste depends on the flavor used. The intensity of the smoky flavor in the meat varies with wood type.

2. Convenience

Wood pellets are easier to use than wood chips. Pellets provide a more consistent and regulated burn with respect to chips. The fuel does not burn out quickly like wood chips.

With wood chips, regulating and monitoring the temperature is a hassle and needs to be checked. Adding other materials to the already hot smoker is often tough with wood chips.

3. Cost

The cost of both is almost similar. When analyzed on a per-pound basis, wood pellets are cheaper than wood chips. Pellets are generally bought in large quantities and deliver much more durability than wood chips.

4. Brand

The choice of electric smoker brand is critical to decide which one to use. The question of wood chips or pellets for electric smokers is dependent on the brand of smokers we are using.

For the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, it is always advised to use wood chunks or chips. The pellets are only used in their pellet smokers. The general feedback from users, however, states that using wood pellets does not alter the taste much. The choice is dependent on personal preferences.

The Pit Boss Electric Smoker has no specific rules with regards to what firewood to use. They have a different brand of Wood Pellets which they sell. Using wood chips in place of pellets has delivered good enough results, as reported by users.

Further Discussion

One needs to remember few essential points before using wood pellets in place of wood chips in smokers.

  1. Use: One should use them just as wood chips.
  2. Temperature: Wood Pellets heat up faster than wood chips. Cold smoking is recommended, and one needs to keep a look at the temperature regularly.
  3. Smoke: There could be a massive amount of smoke emitted in a short time. Thereby it is advised to add small bits at a time.
  4. Storage: Storing the pellets in a dry area is essential for longevity.
  5. Choice: The flavor of wood is essential when smoking the meat. It is advised to use wood chips that compliment the taste of the meat and enhance it.

Concluding Remarks

The end product is to ensure that the meat is cooked deliciously. Both wood chips and wood pellets have their pros and cons and bring their taste to the meat.

It is totally on the user to fix the firewood of their choice and flavor they feel the best. It’s not always the meat that ensures the best BBQ, a lot of it depends on the other factors like wood.

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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.