Smoking food in a smoker is the loved activity of most veterans Americans. Yet, it required a lot of care and time to cook delicious food according to requirement. Taking something easy will leads to an undesirable results. Among various factors of creating taste, the role of good quality wood chips can not be neglected, no matter whether you have an electric smoker, a pellet smoker or a charcoal grill. So, in this article I will share complete information for how to choose the best wood chips for smoking any kind of food in your smoker.
As the name represents, wood chips are small pieces of wood that are chopped of from the large branches, logs, stumps and other part of trees. These are actually wood pieces which are so small that we call them as wood chips. Wood chips are made by using a machine called the chipper.
Can you use wood chips in a Smoker?
The answer to that question is yes. Electric smokers not only use wood chips but also wood chips are of prime importance for their working. They give specific taste and aroma to the food in electric smokers. Different kind of chips give different aromas to the food.
Why wood is preferred in smokers?
You can use wood chips over charcoal for smoking the meat because wood burns slower than charcoal and it gives a unique flavor to the meat. It is a new and distinct type of flavor that cannot be achieved with charcoal.
With wood chips flavor of foods can be manipulated with superiority. Heavy woods are often used for smoking. As compared to charcoal, wood chips cost less and makes the food extraordinary unique.
Best Wood Chips for Smoking
Different kind of wooden chips are available in the market. Every Kind of wood has a different flavor and it is used for smoking different kind of foods. We have a couple of options available in the market that can be used easily in different kind of smokers.
Cedar wood is not of the top importance. Not many people use this wood. But it is used for smoking salmon.
It can also be used for different kind of fishes but it is not used for smoking red meat or chicken. It is best wood chips for smoking salmon.
As it is one of the hardwoods, it is abundantly used for smoking because it burns longer than other woods. It gives a delicate type of flavor to the meat. Best for smoking chickens and ducks. It can also be used for smoking pork as well.
Orange Wood Chips
These wood chips give food a smoky type of flavor that is somehow unique in its own way because of the presence of citrus.
By smoking the food with these chips, we can get a lemon and sour flavor in the food that is very exclusive flavor yet fascinating. These wood chips can be used with almost any kind of meat.
Olive Wood Chips
It is majorly used by mixing it with different chips to give food some mixed flavor. It has a kind of attractive aroma and it is best wood chips for smoking chicken and other poultry.
Lilac Wood Chips
Although it is not commonly used wood for smoking but when used gives a mild taste. Majorly used for smoking cheese, poultry and sometimes pork.
Almond wood Chips
These have a strong and intense smoke that enhances the flavor of food giving it a mild, sweetish, nutty flavor of almond. It is suitable for pork, poultry, beef and lamb. Sometimes it can be used for smoking seafood.
Maple Wood Chips
They give your food a great natural wood smoke flavor. Try the Maple Wood Chips with pork, poultry and fish. Maple wood produces a mellow smoke. It gives a delicate kind of flavor to the fish and other seafoods.
Plum Wood Chips
They are excellent for adding smoke flavor to fruit, beef pork and mutton. This wood gives and mild a unique flavor to the food. The flavor of this wood is similar to the hickory but its smoke is deep and intense
Cherry Wood Chips
Cherry wood chips give a mild fruity flavor that is similar to the apple but a bit more punch. It adds reddish tone to the food items. You can also use it for making a custom flavor by blending it with different chips. It is used for smoking vegetables, ribs seafood chicken and pork. It is perfect to be used with electric grills and smokers.
Hickory Wood Chips
They are the most commonly used wood chips that can be used with almost every kind of food. Most Americans calls it as the king of wooden chips. They have a savory and hearty flavor. Mostly used with pork and ribs.
Beech Wood Chips
These are not commonly used ones but they add a hint of smoky flavor to the food especially seafood. Their combination with other wood chips brings out ne flavors that a food lover would enjoy with relish.
These different blending techniques makes the smoking process more intriguing and interesting. Beech wood gives a nutty flavor. It is a best alternative for oak chips.
Pecan Wood chips
It is a hardwood. Its flavor is intense than any other woods available for smoking different food items. Its flavor is strong enough to be used for red meat. It can be used for ribs, but its best use is for pork. This wood gives a special flavor when it is used with turkey.
Oakwood is a hardwood that when used burns slowly and longer than all other woods. It gives some texture to the food but does not overcome the real flavor of meat rather it combines it self with the real aroma to create a new fragrance. It is best used with lamb meat.
Apricot Wood Chips
If you love to eat apricot and enjoy its taste and flavor then this one is specially for you. It adds to food a special kind of sweet flavor that is somehow similar to apricot but a bit sweeter. Possesses similar flavor to apple and peach. It can be used with beef, pork and lamb. It is used with the hard meats of wild birds like geese, ducks and partridges. The aroma is unmatched, very rich and pleasant. Its aroma penetrates into the food molecules and brings new flavors into the world of smoking.
Walnut Wood Chips
Walnut wood chips give a bitter and sour taste to the meat. It has a very intense hard kind of flavor. It has a very strong flavor that is overpowering and is majorly used for smoking wild animals whose meat is very hard. Walnut may be similar to mesquite. If you use it 100% you’ll find it bitter. It has a very heavy smoky flavor. It can be too much acidic that’s why it should be used in combination with other woods.
Apple Wood Chips
They are a great alternative for charcoal briquettes. The flavor of applewood is a bit light and fruity. Applewood must be blended with hickory to be used for pork. These infuse your food with subtly sweet flavor. These work on gas grills, electric grills and charcoal smokers. Apple smoke can give your smoked meats a bold new layer of flavor. These chips are made by the heat treatment of apple wood and then chipping the wood to give a robust flavor to every meal. Its major use is for smoking poultry.
Mesquite wood chips
It is a hardwood. These chips are ideal for smoking. They produce a strong earthy flavor. Enhances the flavor of beef and lamb. Also used for steaks and vegetables. They are used to prepare smoked wings, ribs and pork loins. These chips give a robust and boasting bold flavor. Most of people like to use mesquite for their briskets. Mesquite pairs well with Hickory, Red Oak, Apple, Cherry, Pecan and Grape wood on many cooks.
Grape wood chips
These wood chips require low heat to produce a continuous stream of smoke otherwise they will burn out quickly. They give the food a unique kind of aromatic fruit wine flavor that is liked by most of the people.
It enhances the flavor of food that penetrates the food and brings out the best of it. New flavors can be made by soaking the grape wood in grape wine, bear or tea. This wood can be used to smoke almost every kind of meat.
Alder Wood Chips
If you need your food to have a natural taste, then this one is specially for you. Alder wood has a very mild taste and its combination with apple wood is best to get a distinct aroma. It is specially used for white meats and fish. Pork can also be smoked with it.
Peach Wood Chips
Peach wood is strong durable and pleasing. It is used with lighter meats and vegetables. Gives a fruity taste to meat that is similar to apple wood. It compliments just about any food. This flavor takes the smoking experience to a new level that is somewhat amazing and astonishing. If you want sweet flavor in your food then its best to infuse it with the smoke of peach wood.
Pear wood Chips
Pear wood is similar to the peach wood. It also gives the meat a fruity flavor. Its flavor is also similar to apple wood. It can be used to smoke turkey. It can also be infused with other fruit woods like peach, plum or apple wood and then used for smoking ducks and poultry.
Sugar Maple wood chips
It gives a very sweet taste to the meat. It is used for smoking bacon. Sugar Maple Wood Chips bring out the nostalgic smell of summertime and camp. They are used at higher temperatures. Enhances the taste of beef, pork, vegetables and different kind of cheeses.
Nectarine Wood Chips
These wooden chips produce a spicy and bold flavor but if they are used in excess quantity they can also cause bitterness. They must be used sparingly and must be blended with other woods such as hickory or plum woods. These chips are very similar to peach wood but they have their distinct flavor. They can be used for pink and white meats like chicken and turkey.
Mulberry Wood Chips
They also produce sweet taste that is similar to the apple wood. It has a mild flavor. It is used commonly for poultry, fish and pork.
Pimento wood Chips
It is a tropical wood used for smoking fish and poultry. When it is used, it gives a combined taste of different spices including cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. It is majorly used for smoking chicken. They can also be used for smoking shrimps and other seafood.
Sea weed is not used a lot. It gives an intense and a greenish flavor to the seafoods like lobster, shrimps, crabs and mussels. Seaweed must be properly cleaned and dried before using it for smoking food.
|Wood chips||Flavors they impart||Strength of flavors||Best usage|
|Cedar||Spicy, fragrant, smoky||intense||Red meat and chicken|
|Birch||Sweet||mild||Chicken, ducks and pork|
|Orange wood||Smoky, citrus, sour||moderate||All kinds of meat|
|Olive Wood||Smoky flavor that is typical||Moderate, mild, intense||Chicken and other poultry|
|Lilac||Sweet smoky flavor||mild||Cheese, poultry and pork|
|Almond wood||Mild, sweetish, nutty||Strong and intense||Poultry, fish and other seafoods|
|Maple||Mellow smoke, natural flavor||mild||Pork, poultry, fish and game birds|
|Plum Wood||fruity||Deep and intense||Beef, pork and mutton|
|Cherry Wood||Fruity like apple and a reddish tone||mild||Ribs , seafood, chicken and pork|
|Hickory||Savory and hearty flavor||stronger||All kinds of meat|
|Beech||Smoky and nutty flavor||mild||Seafood especially salmon|
|Pecan||Sweet, nutty and rich||Intense and strong||Red meat, ribs and pork|
|Oak||Smoky flavor||Intense and strong||Beef or Lamb meat|
|Apricot Wood||Rich and pleasant And sweeter||moderate||Beef, pork and lamb Geese ducks and patridges|
|Walnut Wood||Bitter, sour, acidic||Intense hard flavor||Hard meat|
|Mesquite Wood||Earthy, robust and bold flavor||Intense deep||Wings, ribs, pork loins|
|Grape Wood||Fruity wine, sweet flavor||Mild and light||Almost all kinds of meat|
|Alder||Natural taste||mild||Pork and fish|
|Peach Wood||Fruity taste similar to apple||Mild and light but deep||Lighter meats and Vegetables|
|Pear Wood||Fruity sweet flavor similar to plum||Delicate and simple||Turkey, ducks and poultry|
|Sugar Maple Wood||Sweet sugary flavor||Mild and light||Bacon, Beef, pork, vegetables and cheeses|
|Nectarine Wood||Spicy and bold flavor||Bold and intense||Pink and white meats such as chicken and turkey|
|Mulberry Wood||Sweet fruity taste||mild||Poultry, fish and pork|
|PImento||Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg||Bold flavor||Shrimps and other seafoods|
|Seaweed||Greenish flavor||intense||Lobsters, crabs, shrimps and musses|
Wood Chips to Avoid for Smoking
If you are looking for different wood chips to use for your electric smoker in order to enjoy different tastes so that smoking experience can be felt at its peak, you should take care of the different kind of toxic woods that must never be used in a smoker.
- All of the woods containing larger amounts of sap and terpenes must be avoided.
- Avoid using green woods
- Avoid poisonous woods such as tambootie and laburnum
- If you do not know about the wood then don’t use it
- Avoid using any kind of painted wood
- Never use moldy woods
- Synthetically treated woods must be avoided because they contain lead
Best use to use Wood Chips
First of all you have to make sure that the wood you are using is all natural and not synthetically processed. Electric smoker must have a digital thermometer so that temperature can be noted at various time intervals. Make sure to do experiments with different kind of hardwoods and softwoods to find what is best for you. Every kind of wood chip require a specific temperature. For example: if you are using hardwoods, they require higher temperatures but if you are using fruit woods, they require low temperatures. Make sure to add the wooden chips at the right time interval.
|Soaked chips||Dry chips|
|They burn slowly so that food can be smoked efficiently||They burn out quickly|
|Provides less heat for slow cooking process||Provides large amount of heat for rapid cooking|
|Will not catch fire||They can catch fire easily and burn the food.|
|Will produce less smoke and more steam||Will produce more smoke and no steam|
|Will take a lot of time to produce adequate amount of smoke||No time is required for smoke production|
|Accurately controlled temperature is not required||Accurately controlled temperature is crucial for its working.|
|Soaking wood chips require additional time||No additional time is required|
How to Use Wood Chips
We should soak the wood chips for at least 35-40 minutes before using them in a smoker. At this time interval they absorb adequate amount of water that will help them not the catch fire and produce adequate amount of smoke with heat that is required for slow smoking of different kinds of meats and vegetable. The wood chips can also be served to an electric smoker when while preheating.
Soaked chips must only be used when the smoker attains a specific temperature. They must not be added before that.
Hardwood chips or Fruit wood chips
It depends upon the flavor you need. If you like sweet, light and fruity flavors then fruit wood chips like peach, plum, grape wood etc are your thing. But if you like to taste something strong, intense and earthy then you should go for hardwood chips like hickory and oak.
Finally, selecting the wood chips depends upon the taste you love. Many of us loves the taste that we inherent from out ancestors. On the other side, many of us loves trying new things. But, going through what we have experienced and experimented several time is worth it. So, it is recommended to go among those which we have listed to avoid any time and money loss.