How Long to Soak Wood Chips Before Grilling

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Wood chips work as a great source to impart the desired smoky flavor to the grilled food. But, the question here is ‘How long to soak wood chips before grilling’? Why is it important? What are the benefits of soaking wood chips before the grilling session? The answer to all your questions is briefly discussed in this article.

Even, there are several types of wood chips available. Which one is best for grilling fish, burgers, and which wood chip type is best for a whole chicken? Apart from the answers to these questions, we have also mentioned very useful tips while using wood chips with a gas or charcoal grill. So, you just need to invest your next ten minutes to this article to get the complete detailed information.

Why is it Important to Soak Wood Chips Before Grilling?

It gets very important to soak wood chips before grilling. There are mainly two benefits of soaking wood chips before grilling. The first is that the wood chips will smolder better than usual and it also helps a lot to add the desired smoky flavor to your grilled food.

The second benefit is that soaked wood chips don’t catch fire quickly when they are in direct contact with the flames. In case, if you are willing to add heat quickly then unsoaked wood chips will perform the job very well. On the other side, if you love to get the traditional smoky flavor to your grilled food then you must use the soaked wood chips. Hence, we can say that it is inevitable to soak wood chips so that you will get the desired aroma to your grilled food.

This is also a great reason why most of the grilling enthusiasts love to use soak wood chips for grilling. As we all know that before the inventions of several grilling technologies even our ancestors used to cook food over an open fire. At that time, there were no propane or charcoal grills invented. In order to produce different flavors, they were using different woods. Hence, the firewood used is the same as important as the food. Therefore, you can also bring back the rich flavor to your grilled food by using wood chips.

Why is it Important to Soak Wood Chips Before Grilling?

How Wood Chunks are Different from Wood Chips?

Most people get confused when it comes to selection between wood chunks and wood chips. The most probable reason is that people don’t know about their practical usage. So, let’s clear here the concept that how wood chunks are different from wood chips.

In very simple words, wood chunks burn longer than wood chips. The wood chunks are the best option for a longer grilling session. For example, when you are grilling whole chicken and racks of ribs. In some of the charcoal grills, wood chunks are even used as part of the fuel.

On the other hand, wood chips are irreplaceable when it comes to grilling burgers, chicken parts, and fish. Basically, wood chips are good for short grilling sessions because they can burn quickly even when wet. You just need to place wood chips in enough heat area. You can place wood chips up on the grill or down in the coals. In case, if you are using a gas or electric smoker then be careful to read the usage directions. The reason is that wood chips can only be used in some gas or electric smokers.

Tips to Select the Best Wood Chips for Grilling

There are a few tips that you can consider to improve your grilling session productivity and emerge desired rich flavors to your grilled food. The foundation statement for the selection of wood chips depends on the type of food you are grilling and the flavor to wish to get in the grilled food.

You can also understand the whole scenarios by separating them into light woods, medium woods, and strong woods. Pecan, Alder or Cherry are the best examples of light woods. These are the irreplaceable option for meats like chicken and fish. Moreover, these will also impart a light sweetness to your grilled meat.

If you are quite hard serious about the flavor of your poultry then Peach and Pearwood also stand as the best options. These woods will also add a light fruity flavor to your fish and poultry. However, Peach and Pearwood is quite harder to find. If you get one then you are among the luckiest grilling enthusiasts.

In case, if you grill mostly dense meats then medium woods will be a great option for you. These medium woods will impart a strong smoky flavor to your food. Medium woods like Whiskey, Oak, and Hickory works best for ribs and pork shoulder.

The best example of strong wood is Mesquite. This wood is not that useful for grilling sessions because it burns fast and it can also impart an unwanted bitter taste if overused. Hence, Mesquite is a good option for longer grilling sessions.

If you always wish to get some new flavor then experimentation is the best deal. For example, you can soak Alder chips in apple juice. These will give a quite rich flavor to your fish and chicken. Similarly, you can also try to make various combinations. The good thing is that wood chips are not expensive and experimenting with different combinations of wood chips will make you get deeper in the flavors.

How to Grill with Soaked Wood Chips?

Simply, take a large glass bowl and fill it with cold water. Now, put the wood chips in it. Proceed these steps at least 30 minutes before you are ready to grill your food. In case, if you are quite desirable then the water can be replaced with whiskey, beer, or apple juice.

Once, the time countdown of 30 minutes is over just drain the wood chips. Make sure to not rinse them. The soaked wood chips must not be too dry that they will catch fire easily or not so wet that they will drip onto your fire.

The most basic but always applicable rule here to get the desired smoky flavor is to keep the lid closed as much as possible. Also, make sure that wood chips don’t get burn quickly. The fast-burning wood chips will also result in flare-ups. Simply, use a water spray bottle to dampen any unusual flare-ups.

Tips for Using Wood Chips on a Gas or Charcoal Grill

If you have a gas grill then you will need a smoker box for using wood chips. Most of the gas grills include a smoker box. If your gas grill has this metal compartment then you are good to go. You just need to place the desirable wood chips in there. Now, the wood chips will heat up with the burner.

However, if your gas grill doesn’t include a smoker box then you can simply buy one. While selecting a smoker box make sure that to select a heavy and thick aluminum box. Also, ensure that the bottom part doesn’t have any holes because your wood chips may catch fire easily. The lid must be easy to open and close. Now, simply put in 2.5 cups of wood chips in it.

The good thing is that you can also make your own smoker pouch. Rather, you can consider it as a quick solution whenever the grilling need arises. Simply, make a cup shape out of the foil then put your damp chips inside. Now, pinch the top closed.

Don’t forget to leave some space for the smoke to escape. If required, a fork can also be used to make more holes. Now, place the pouch on the grill directly over a burner. Another best thing about this quick solution is that it is super easy to clean up. You just need to throw the pouch away after use.

If you have a charcoal grill then simply place the soak wood chips on the charcoal. The aromatic smell of the wood chips will be easily noticeable within one minute. You can also use a smoker box or make your own quick solution ‘smoker pouch’ as already discussed above.

Where Can You Buy Wood Chips?

There are mainly three places where you will be going to easily find wood chips to buy. You can also buy wood chips without leaving your comfort zone via Online. E-commerce websites like Walmart and Amazon offer a good variety of wood chips and sizes to choose from. Make sure to read the reviews as well to get some practical ideas about them.

The second option is the large hardware stores. These stores that sell grills and outdoor equipment also deal with wood chips.

The third option is the large grocery stores. These grocery stores that sell charcoal most probably have wood chips available as well. Whatsoever option you will select for purchasing wood chips, you can also look for combination packs that offer you three to four types of woods.

The Best Way to Store Wood Chips

Storing the wood chips is quite easier but you just need to keep a few things in mind. Wood chips are quite vulnerable to molds and rodents if not stores well. If you have bought wood chips in their dedicated bags then you will find small holes in the bags to allow for air to get in and prevent mold growth. You don’t need to worry. Just store wood chips in these dedicated bags until use.

However, make sure to not leave the bag wide open because it will invite rodents. You can also use a clip used in the kitchens in order to seal the top of the bag. In case, if you have more than one bag of chips then simply transfer them to a 5-gallon drum with a lid. Make sure to punch a few small holes in the top so that air will get in. The drum must be clean and dry.


Above, we have briefly discussed how to soak wood chips before grilling. Why is it important to soak wood chips and how to select the best wood chips for grilling. We also mentioned very useful tips while using wood chips on a charcoal or gas grill. If you also have some great tips for the selection of wood chips for grilling then make sure to share them in the comments section below. This will help in making the community bond stronger. Share your valuable thoughts with us in the comments section. Stay tuned with us for regular updates.

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