How to Use Wood Chips in a Charcoal Grill?

People who love authentic barbeque taste prefer charcoal grills. Charcoal grills are better than gas and electric grills when it comes to aroma and flavor. However, there is still room for improvement, which can be …

How to Use Wood Chips in a Charcoal Grill

People who love authentic barbeque taste prefer charcoal grills. Charcoal grills are better than gas and electric grills when it comes to aroma and flavor. However, there is still room for improvement, which can be compensated by adding wood chips to a charcoal grill. Wood chips bring different taste sensations. There are different wood chips available to be used with a gas grill.

In this article, we will discuss how to use wood chips in a charcoal grill. This article also focuses on different types of wood chips and some other aspects of using wood chips in a charcoal grill.

Let’s make your food tasty!

How to Use Wood Chips in a Charcoal Grill?

The following steps will take you through the process of using wood chips in a charcoal grill.

Step 1: Select your favorite wood chips to use in the charcoal grill. Wood chips are easily available at supermarkets and online. Make sure you check the flavor sensation and strength before buying and get the chips recommended with the meat type.

Step 2: It is now time to light the charcoal. The method of starting a grill won’t affect the wood chips. You can either go for a chimney start-up or lighter fluid.  It is better to avoid match lighting charcoal briquettes. The chemicals used in their composition can enter the food during grilling.

How to use a Chimney Starter: If you know how to use a chimney starter, ignore this step. For beginners, you can roll up some sheets of newspaper into compressed rings (make a tight ball out of them). Place the newspaper ball at the bottom of the chimney. Now place the charcoal in the chimney and light the newspaper using a stick lighter. Wait for some time and let the coals burns. You will notice some smoke in the beginning, but it will vanish once the coals are hot. Now wear heatproof gloves and pour them into the cooking chamber of your grill.

How to light the coals with lighter fluid? If you are using lighter fluid to light the charcoal, place them in the cooking chamber and pour the recommended amount of lighter fluid. Don’t go beyond the recommended limit. We don’t want you to start a big fire. You just need to lighten up the coals. The rest of the work will be done by air in the surroundings. Once the coals are heated, you are good to go.

Step 3: The next step is to add the wood chips. There are a couple of ways to do this. Let’s look at them.

Aluminum Foil Pouch: You can use an aluminum foil pouch for adding wood chips. Make a pouch (like a ball) with aluminum foil sheets. Add wood chips in it and wrap it tightly. Now poke some holes in it. The holes must be large enough to let the smoke escape and allow some air to support the burning process.

Direct Application: You can also place the wood chips or chunks over the burning coals directly. If you are going for this method, it is better to use wood chunks instead of wood chips. Wood chips burn faster than chunks. Please keep in mind that you will need to add the wood frequently because direct application will burn the chips faster.

Just a Pro Tip: Reduce oxygen content in your grill to make wood chips last longer. Wood chips ignite at around 400F. To make sure chips don’t burn quickly, you will need to reduce the temperature. If you keep the temperature low, the wood chips will only smolder and not catch fire. If you are using a smoker box or an aluminum pouch, you don’t need to do this. It is helpful when you are placing wood chips directly over burning coals.

Smoker Box: Another way to add wood chips to a charcoal grill is to use a smoker box. It is only possible if your grill has enough space. It makes the process easy and less time-consuming. All you have to do is to place the wood chips in your smoker box. Place it on the most heated spot of your charcoal grill or gather some burning coals around the smoker box. Smoker box will need more heat as compared to directly applied wood chips and aluminum foil. It will also take more time (10-20 minutes, if the coals are at full heat). Once the smoke starts to come out from the smoker box, you are good to go.

Step 4: Once everything is set and the smoke production has started, it is now time to grill. If you are grilling a slow cook meal like ribs or roasts, you will need indirect heat. The wood chips and charcoal must be placed at one side of the grill and the meat on the other side. The charcoal and wood chips must not be under the meat. For fast-cooking meals like burgers, steaks, chicken breasts, and fish, you will have to place the meat right above the charcoal and wood chips.

Step 5: Complete the grilling process according to the meat type and recipe. Adjust the air vents accordingly and cover the grill. The smoke from wood chips must not escape the grill and must permeate the meat. If it escapes the grill, the aroma and taste will not infuse in the meat. Check the temperature of the food with the help of the thermometer. We suggest you don’t try other methods such as testing the outlook of the meat, tenderness, or the color. The most reliable way is to go with a food thermometer. The recommended target temperature is 200F for pork, 155F for pork tenderloin, 230-260F for pork ribs, 200F for beef brisket, 160F for turkey and chicken, 140F for fish. Once you have achieved this temperature, serve the meal with your favorite sides.

Which Wood Chips are the Best?

select a type of wood chips

There are a lot of wood chips available in the market. Each has a different flavor strength and sensation. It may take you some time before you finally decide on your favorite wood chips for each type of meat. For beginners, we have some suggestions.

Alder: It comes with a mild flavor and has a sweet scent of smoke. It is recommended for fish, chicken, and turkey.

Almond: For a medium nutty flavor, almond chips are recommended. They are best for all types of meat, including beef, chicken, turkey, fish, and pork.

Apple: It gives a sweet and fruity taste. Apple chips are recommended with all types of meat other than fish.

Mesquite: For a strong and intense flavor with red meat, mesquite wood chips are highly recommended. Please avoid mesquite chips while grilling chicken and fish.

Hickory: A perfect wood for pork and red meat. It is one of the most loved woods for strong and intense flavor.

Pecan: Pecan chips are excellent all-purpose grilling chips. It goes with all meat types and imparts a mild flavor to the meat.

Cherry: Another commonly used wood is cherry. It brings in a sweet and mild flavor. You can also use it with other wood chips and is suggested for pork, ribs, chicken, turkey, and fish.

Oak: Oak is recommended to be used with pork and gives a smoky sensation and mild flavor.

Never go with your backyard wood or any wood which is not recommended. It can be poisonous, or it might have been sprayed with weed killer. It is best to always buy commercial wood chips for smoking.

Do I Need to Wet the Wood Chips for Charcoal Grill?

Some people believe that you must soak your wood chips before placing them in a grill. Others believe that it doesn’t make any difference. Let’s look at the arguments of both sides.

In Support of Soaking: Soaked wood chips last longer than dry chips. Soaking wood chips also stops them from catching fire.

Against Soaking: There is no difference between wet or dry chips. The chips are soaked in water for 30 minutes-24 hours. They just get wet in this time and don’t actually take up water. Even if they do, the water will burn first, and then the wood will burn. It will just delay the smoke production process and not make it last longer.

Science tells us that water boils at 212F, and wood catches fire at 400-500F. First of all, grills don’t reach this temperature, so the wood-catching fire is out of the question. Yes, it will start to burn and give smoke and not catch fire unless you throw lighter fluid on it. Secondly, the oxygen content in packed chips or smoker boxes is very low, and it stops the chips from catching catch fire. Therefore, we suggest you use the wood chips dry. If you aren’t satisfied with our arguments, go ahead and try dry and soaked chips and stick to the method which gives you a better taste. Remember, it’s all about the perfect taste.

How to Add More Chips to a Gas Grill?

Add wood chips to the smoker

You may need to add more chips to your grill halfway through a smoking session. If you are using a smoker box, you can open the box with the help of long handle tongs. Don’t forget to wear gloves while doing this. Grab some of the wood chips with tongs and place them in the smoker box. Adjust the amount according to the amount of meat left to be grilled. Close the smoker box and you are good to go.

If you are using aluminum pouches, it is best to make a new aluminum pouch with wood chips. Vary the number of wood chips accordingly. If you have placed the wood chips over burning coals, just add some more and smoke production will start soon. Recently added wood chips would take some time to start smoking.

Final Words: The Perfect Meat

A perfectly smoked meat depends on several factors such as grill temperature, quality of wood chips, quality of meat, and the spices and sauces used to marinate the meat. Once you master these techniques, you will cook delicious meals for your friends and family. Just be patient and learn; deliciousness and perfection are not far away.

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