Do You Soak Wood Chips Before Smoking?

do you soak wood chips before smoking

You may have heard that you should soak your wood chips for at least 30 minutes before putting them on your smoker. The intention is, in theory, to prevent the wood chips from burning too quickly and to promote smoke production. The smoky flavor of moist chips penetrates the meat more thoroughly than that of dry chips because moisture slows down the rate at which the chips burn off. Are wood chips soaked before being smoked? To learn the answers, continue reading.

Why Do We Soak Wood Chips Before Smoking?

It is advised to soak wood chips in traditional charcoal smokers to help reduce the likelihood that they will catch fire. It’s necessary to expose meat to low temperatures for an extended period of time when smoking. It is believed that dampening them will make them last longer at a lower temperature.

This is a contentious practice, though, even for charcoal smokers. Despite the fact that some people frequently mistake steam for a smoke when they claim that it makes the chips produce more smoke, some may claim that it does so.

Due to the higher water content in the chips, when they are smoked, a lot of steam will escape your smoker as a result of the chips’ water evaporating.

Even if it did assist in increasing the amount of smoke that is expelled from the smoker, there is still a chance that it will allow water to drip onto the hot coals inside the smoker chamber, possibly cooling or even putting them out.

Conventional wisdom often dictates that soaked wood can help contribute more smoke, but personally, I think this comes down to the type of wood you use. For instance, oak and hickory are renowned for spewing out a lot of smoke.

Do Wood Chips Need To Be Soaked Before Smoking?


Although it’s not quite that straightforward, the quick response is no, wood chips don’t need to be soaked before use. In fact, soaking wood chips in any liquid before use even if you let them dry out again will cause the wood to retain more moisture than before you soaked them.

This can make the process more difficult than necessary because when you try to use them for smoking, they won’t start to smoke until that moisture has been drawn out of them once more.

If you want to impart a flavor from a liquid, like a whiskey or a bourbon, into the wood chips themselves, that’s the only time you should think about soaking them. For instance, if you’re using hickory, one of the best woods for smoking ribs, you could infuse whiskey before use to give the smoke, which the ribs absorb, a depth in flavor.

It should be noted that soaking wood pellets will cause them to fall apart more easily and could clog the auger if you use a pellet smoker to smoke them. Similarly, if you are using a charcoal smoker, it’s not recommended to soak your wood chunks as they won’t combust properly.

What Happens To Wood Chips After Soaking?

It is said that soaking wood chips or chunks before smoking will slow the combustion process and produce a more even smoke than using regular dry wood. This is a myth, and the wood chips actually go through a number of processes that actually DON’T SUPPORT the smoking process.

The wood retains more moisture when you soak it, use it wet, or even let it air dry again. Wood’s moisture actually slows down the combustion process. The moisture only absorbs on the surface or through any cracks; it doesn’t even pass through the wood.

This means that the excess moisture must successfully evaporate before the damper or wet wood begins to smoke. The quality of the smoke produced won’t be improved in the slightest, and because of the uneven combustion, it might even be less beneficial.

The Reasons You Shouldn’t Soak Wood Before Smoking

There isn’t really a reason to soak wood chips before use in all but a handful of situations, despite decades of advice from experts and even wood chip manufacturers.

The truth is that soaking your wood chips can actually prevent your grill or smoker from working properly, resulting in longer cook times and possibly drying out your meat. In many cases, soaking wood chips can impart unfavorable flavors and produce subpar results.

do you soak wood chips before smoking

For a moment, let’s discuss chemistry. The maximum temperature that water-soaked wood will reach when added is going to be close to 212 degrees, the temperature at which water turns into steam.

The temperature of the wood won’t rise until the moisture steams off. Wet wood can take anywhere between 30 and an hour to dry sufficiently to start smoking. The wood produces steam before it becomes hot enough to smoke.

In many cases, the steam action will draw moisture out of your meat, increasing the risk of overcooking. Steaming your meat is not what you are after.

You’ll notice that the temperature of your smoker changes as the wood steams. This is due to the fact that evaporating water is absorbing heat and removing it much more quickly than it would without water.

We are all aware that maintaining consistent temperatures is important when smoking meat. When wet wood is added and the temperature fluctuates erratically, it doesn’t make much sense.

Does More Smoke Equal Better Smoke?

You’re doing it right if your Apollo® Water Smoker produces huge billowing clouds of smoke. The best smoke, which is a thin, light wisp of white-to-blue smoke, is actually essentially invisible. Anything that is bright white, grey, or black won’t taste as good.

Why Soaking Doesn’t Work?

To examine the effects of soaking wood chips, the team at AmazingRibs.Com conducted some rigorous scientific research. Even a professor with degrees from Harvard and MIT was brought in to help with the puzzle of why soaking wood doesn’t seem to do much.

Even if we are unaware of it, the simple explanation for why soaking wood chunks or chips is ineffective is right in front of us. You see, the only types of wood you use for smoking are hardwoods like hickory, fruit woods like cherry, and nut woods like pecan.

By definition, these kinds have a tight grain that doesn’t absorb water. Therefore, teak and oak, not pine, are used to construct boats. The experiment involved soaking pieces of wood in blue-dyed water for a full day.

The wood was cut and checked for penetration after it had soaked. The findings demonstrate that even after a 24-hour soak, only the cracks in the wood’s surface allowed water to enter. Whether it was planks, chunks, or chips of wood, the water couldn’t get through.

When Should You Soak Wood Chips?

do you soak wood chips before smoking

Let’s now enjoy ourselves. Sometimes soaking your wood chips is actually a good idea. This is a technique for adding distinctive and intriguing flavors rather than lowering the risk of fires. Use something flavorful rather than soaking wood chips or chunks in water.

Soaking Wood Chips In Beer

One of the most popular liquids to soak wood chips in is beer. For best results when soaking wood chips in beer be sure to:

  • 30 minutes in a beer bath is all that is needed.
  • If you have the patience, remove them and let them air dry for 4 to 24 hours.
  • Despite the fact that you can use your preferred beer, craft beers with lots of fruity hopped, and strong flavors produce fantastic results.
  • Don’t forget to sample your own beer to ensure its quality.

Soaking Wood Chips In Juice

It should come as no surprise that certain juices can significantly alter the flavor and odor of wood chips. The best juices to use to soak wood chips are:

  • Apple juice
  • Orange juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grape juice
  • Juice made from carrots

Soaking Wood Chips In Rum

Usually, rum is aged in barrels to give it an earthy flavor by absorbing all the flavor of the wood. But today, we’re going to play the opposite hand. Rum can also impart those mouthwateringly sweet, sugary, and complex flavors that we all adore to wood chips. Attempt it; white rum or spiced rum both work well.

Soaking Wood Chips In Whiskey

Whiskey can be given a real deep heat with notes of caramel and oak by soaking wood chips, much like other spirits. Okay, so maybe we’re a little overthinking this, but wood chips do indeed work well when they’re soaked in whiskey. Just be careful not to consume too much—whiskey isn’t cheap!


Ignore the soak when you are getting ready to smoke something on your grill or smoker. It is unnecessary and probably has a negative net impact.

As a general rule, soaking wood chips is acceptable as long as you’re only doing it to ADD flavor to the wood. Additionally, it’s critical to thoroughly dry them so as to minimize the impact on the combustion process. If not, you’re essentially just slowing down the smoking process and making it more difficult to maintain a consistent temperature and smoke.

Useful? Share Now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.