How Do I Use Barbecue Wood Chips?

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  • Written By: David Bishop
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 09 May 2018
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Adding barbecue wood chips to a grilling session can help boost the flavor of the food without adding any extra calories or saturated fat. Use of the chips depends on the type of grill, the kinds of food being cooked and the length of time the food is going to be on the grill. When grilling with chips, it is important for the grill operator to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid potential fire hazards. The cook also should make sure the food has reached its recommended internal temperature before removing it from the grill.

The first thing to consider when using barbecue wood chips is what type of wood to use. Some woods, such as mesquite and pecan, will give food a strong distinctive flavor, while others will impart a lighter amount of smokiness. If the cook is using a smoker or smoker box, then he may wish to purchase larger chunks of wood that will last longer. The cook should purchase hardwood chips that are appropriate for grilling. Wood that has been pressure treated or coated in creosote should always be avoided.

Before starting the grilling process, the grill should be moved to a location with good ventilation away from the house. Using barbecue wood chips produces significantly more smoke than regular grilling. Depending on the type of cooking fuel and cooking time, the chips may need to be soaked in water or other liquids before being placed in the grill.


For charcoal grills, barbecue wood chips can be placed directly on top of the coals after the initial fire has died down. This is a good method to give extra flavor to burgers, steaks and other grilled meats. Grills that use natural gas or propane generally require more preparation.

Cooks who are planning on regularly using wood chips may wish to purchase a grill with an internal smoker box. The chips also can be loosely placed in an aluminum pouch with several holes punched in it to allow the smoke to escape. This will make clean-up easier and avoid damage to a gas grill’s heating surfaces.

The chips may need to be replaced as the wood is burned to ash during grilling. This process may need to be repeated several times if the cook is planning on smoking the meat for several hours. Soaking the barbecue wood chips will help them last longer. The chips also can be placed on a cooler part of the grill so they will not burn so quickly.



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