How to Use Wood Chips on a Charcoal Grill

Smoking and barbecuing are like sports – the more you practice, the better you will get. There are a lot of variables including cooking temperatures, time, burner control, dry rub recipes, sauces and type of wood that can affect the food you are cooking on a charcoal grill. Different heat sources can also make a difference in the flavor of the meal you are cooking.

But once you get accustomed to cooking on a charcoal grill, you will be able to make delicious, smoky flavor meat. Friends and family members would love to attend your barbecue party to enjoy the tasty food you prepare on the grill. That irresistible flavor and aroma of smoky barbecue can be mesmerizing.

Learn How to Use Wood Chips on a Charcoal Grill

However, to achieve that smoky flavor on a charcoal grill, you need wood. Choosing the right type and size of wood is imperative to the success of your barbecue party. The three sizes of wood that you can choose for smoking on charcoal include logs, chunks, and wood chips. These are easily available at local stores so you can buy them without a hassle. In this article, we will focus on wood chips specifically and show you how you can use them on a charcoal grill.

Two to three handfuls of wood chips

Should Wood Chips be Soaked or Left Dry?

Some people say that wood chips should be soaked before use while others advise against this. Whether you want to leave wood chips dry or soak them, it is entirely up to you. Since wood chips quickly burn out, soaking them will slow down the burning process. Water boils at 100°C. If you soak the wood chips, all the water will first have to evaporate before the chips can ignite at 180°C. This means that soaking the wood chips will increase the time it takes for the chips to start smoking.

We suggest you experiment and see what suits you. If you get smoky and delicious meat flavor without soaking the wood chips, then there is no need to soak them.

Reducing Oxygen Will Make Wood Chips Smoke

Wood chips smoke when they reach temperatures between 299°C and 399°C. Smoke is a mixture of compounds which create the aroma and flavor people love so much. Burning wood mostly produces heat with little smoke. To reduce the flame, you will have to lower the oxygen so that the wood chips only smolder, producing more smoke.

To lower oxygen levels, place the wood chips inside of a metal smoker box or make your smoker pouch with aluminum foil and put wood chips inside it. The container or pouch will prevent oxygen from coming inside so that the wood doesn’t burst into flames.

How to Make a Smoker Pouch?

Make two layers of aluminum foil and put some wood chips right at the center. Wrap up the foils nice and tight so that there are no open spaces for the chips to fall out. Poke holes throughout the foil to allow air in and smoke out. The aluminum foil will restrict oxygen, turning the wood chips into charcoal while releasing maximum smoke rather than burning the wood chips and turning them into ash. Place the smoker pouch on the fire in the same manner as you would place the wood chips. The smoke should last longer now and less wood will be used.

Or, you can make things really simple, and get a smoker tube. This will allow you to contain the chips very easily within your charcoal grill.

Experiment with Different Kinds of Wood

Wood chips from different types of trees are available in the market. Pairing the right type of wood chips and food will enhance the smoky flavor of your meat. You should mix and match different combinations to see which works best for example. A few types of wood chips that you can use with your charcoal grill include:

  • Apple for a mild fruity flavor. This type of wood can be used for poultry and pork.
  • Mesquite for a strong smoky flavor. This type of wood Ideal for red meat.
  • Oak for a medium smoky flavor. These wood chips are good for pork and beef.
  • Pecan for a mild nutty flavor. This type of wood may be used for beef, pork,and poultry.
  • Maple for a mild sweet flavor. This type of food can be used for pork and poultry.
  • Cherry for a mild sweet flavor. These wood chips are ideal for poultry.
  • Hickory fora medium smoky flavor. It is great for pork and beef

There are several other wood types but you don’t have to experiment with all of them. Once you are familiar with the characteristics of a few different wood types, you can mix and match them to sample different flavors and scents. You now have an idea about different types of wood, how to make a smoker pouch and whether to soak the chips or not. The only thing that is left is to show you how to use wood chips on a charcoal grill to smoke your meat.

Using Wood Chips on a Charcoal Grill

The first thing you need to do is select the wood chips that would be best for your food. You can choose from cherry, mesquite, hickory, maple, oak, pecan, apple or others depending on the type of flavor you want. Next, grab your favorite charcoal and put a few of them in the chimney. Now light it.

Create a pouch with aluminum foil, put some wood chips in it, seal it tightly and poke a few holes for the air to enter and smoke to escape. Pour charcoal from the chimney and ignite the fire. For fast cooking meals like burgers, pork chops, chicken breast, or steak, place the chips directly below the food. For slow cooking food like roasts or ribs, use indirect heat – place charcoal on one side while keeping the pouch of wood chips on top. Next, place your grate over the fire and then place the meat on top of it. Cover the grill. For low and slow cooking, keep adding more wood chips.

Some Things to Note

Two to three handfuls of chips that are on direct heat would take approximately half an hour to produce that smoky flavor. If you are using soaked wood chips, the burning process will slow down. In simple words soaking wood chips won’t add more smoke but only add more time to the burning process as soaked wood chips will take more time before they start making smoking. Avoid lifting the grill lid and opening the smoker door to ensure that the smoky flavor stays in your meat.

Don’t Use Backyard Wood

You might think that the wood in your backyard can be used for smoking. However, we advise against using backyard wood for cooking in a charcoal grill or any other grill. The reason is that those woods could be poisonous – poison ivy vines might cling to them or they might have been sprayed with weed killer. Also, avoid using pine wood because pine leaves make sooty smoky that’ll make your meat inedible.

Wood chips can be bought from almost anywhere and they are reasonably priced. So it doesn’t make any sense to take the risk with backyard wood or pine wood.

When you are smoking your meat on a charcoal grill with wood, you have two important decisions to make. The first is the type of wood chips you would use – oak, hickory, apple, cherry, etc. – and the other is whether to soak wood chips or not. Experimenting with different types of wood chips will help you determine which flavor blends well with your food. So keep cooking with different types of wood chips and keep a journal to keep track of all the good ones.

Our Final Thoughts

The charcoal grill doesn’t offer the same kind of convenience as a gas grill or an electric grill, but it does give one benefit that makes it a great option for many – smoky flavor. The dry heat of charcoal quickly sears the meat, creating a smoky flavor, and caramelized exterior. You can use wood chips, logs or chunks to cook on a charcoal grill. We have shown you how you can use wood chips to cook food on a charcoal grill and achieve that smoky goodness regardless of what you are cooking.

If you follow our advice and do everything we have discussed above, you should be able to cook delicious food on a charcoal grill using wood chips. Your friends and family members would love to eat the tasty treats you prepare for them on your charcoal grill.

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