Let’s break this down by equipment and method of smoking so you have a good place to start in answering the above questions.
Get A Food Scale- Step #1 in Adding Wood for Food Smoking
As a reminder, wood should not be sold or referenced by weight so I always recommend you keep a food scale handy to weigh pieces of wood or handfuls of wood chips until you get comfortable with eyeballing your needs. After practicing on your specific equipment, you’ll develop a sense of how much will produce a smoke infusion level you and your food guests like.
To make easier understanding of the amount of wood needed, I will be referencing by ounces in my breakdown lists.
Adding Wood for Food Smoking in The Traditional Smoker
If you adhere to the basic rule of low temperature cooking on a smoker, then you’ll likely be cooking between 225° and 250°F. You will also likely be using lump charcoal or traditional charcoal known as briquets, for the fuel or heat. That is the material that keeps the smoker at a steady temperature.
Regardless of whether you use the snake method, minion method, or simply dump the charcoal in the smoker’s charcoal area, adding wood for food smoking will be needed in some form to provide the actual smoked flavor to the foods. Why? Because it is what gives foods that smoky flavor and distinct texture and appearance.
For the smoker, here is a guide on the quantity based on food being smoked and for using wood chunks. Note, you can smoke different foods at the same time with small adjustments to these amounts.
For placement of the Double Filet chunks, these can go directly on the hot coals with some banked to the side to catch as the hot coals spread.
Adding Wood for Food Smoking Using the Charcoal Grill
Essentially, you will be doing the same steps as above for the traditional smoker. The main difference between these two units is that smokers are for hot smoking and generally don’t do well when used for grilling. In fact, I would highly recommend you never try grilling on a smoker. Charcoal grills, on the other hand, can do both but you will have to make some airflow adjustments with the unit’s venting to ensure that you can maintain a low temperature consistently for smoking. You also may find adding a heat insulator like bricks or stones works well to attract and use radiant heat.
Here is the guide on quantity based on food being smoked as well as type of wood product. Remember, a wood chip product will combust faster so you will need more chips on hand when hot smoking.
For placement of the wood chunks, these always go on top of the charcoal. You should have a piece on the hot coals and then stage some on unlit coals that will ignite during the cooking process and keep the flavor going.
Adding Wood for Food Smoking Using the LP/Gas Grill
I think the key misnomer is that LP/Gas Grills can only use smoker chips if you want to attempt to do wood-fired cooking. That has certainly changed with the advent of dual fuel or multi-purpose grills on the market today, as well as the development and design of diffusers over the gas burners for traditional grills. The heat covers on burners are the perfect place for wood chunks.
Even if you don’t want to add chunks directly to a component of the grill, you can use a standard chip smoker box and simply put chunks in the box versus chips. Usually these boxes will hold 3–4 small chunks of Double filet. The box also aids in capturing ash.
Here are the options for placement:
- smoker wood chips in a foil pouch placed over a hot burner or directly on a heat bar/diffuser
- smoking wood chips in a smoker box placed on the grill grate with the heat under it
- smoking wood chunks in a smoker box (these will be small pieces about 2×2-inches) place on a grill grate with the heat under it
- smoker wood chunks directly on a heat bar/diffuser (3–4 pieces) with the heat on medium
Here is a guide on the quantity based on food being smoked as well as type of product. Remember, a wood chip product will combust faster so you will need more of it on hand than wood chunks when hot smoking.
Also, keep in mind that if you’ve purchased a “green” wood or air-dried wood, it likely holds more moisture than a kiln dried products. This will change the weight. Pieces of wood that fall into the “green” category, even if they are the same size, will weigh differently. Work with wood long enough and you’ll develop a feel for what is just about at the perfect weight for smoker or direct-fired cooking.
Adding Wood for Food Smoking to Dual Fuel or Hybrid Grills
With technologies advancing in the grill world you now have so many more options for using charcoal and wood in the convenience of a gas fired grill. For those looking to have that level of ease but the flavors of charcoal and wood at your fingertips, those equipment manufacturers are to be considered. Just get ready to make a substantial investment as these models do not come cheap.
We hope this article provided you with new information about adding wood for food smoking. Leave a comment and remember to follow us on social media for additional tips, techniques, recipes, and great photos. As always, your suggestions on other article topics are always welcome. Hope you can use our blog.
Our Readers Are Asking…
How often should I add wood to my smoker?
There is no fixed rule. The quantity/quality with the right kind of wood, wood that is “moisture managed” produces the best smoke possible. With a consistent cooking fire or heat source, the familiar phrase “less is more” is your guide on adding wood for food smoking, especially when using chips or chunks. When smoke diminishes, add a bit more.