How to Pick the Best Wood Chips and Pellets for Smoking

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Wood chips are an important ingredient in the art of smoking food. They add a distinct, smoky flavor to meats, fish, and vegetables, enhancing the overall flavor and scent. Yet, with so many kinds available, choosing the best wood chips for smoking can be a daunting endeavor, to say the least.

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Wood chips or smoking

When we started out with smoking, we had no idea what the different kinds of wood tasted or smelled like. We were basically just stabbing in the dark. We ordered and tried a bunch of different types of wood and smoked a whole bunch of things to see how it went.

While trying them for yourself is always the best way to learn what suits you best, it does help to have a primer before you buy. This comprehensive guide will aid you in selecting the best wood chips for your smoking activities.

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The Fundamentals of Wood Chips

Understanding the many types of wood chips available is the first step in selecting the best wood chips for smoking. Wood chips are typically divided into two types: hardwood and softwood. They can be used in any type of grill, but one of the best is wood chips for an electric smoker.

a) Hardwood Chips

Hardwood chips are derived from deciduous trees like oak, hickory, maple, and cherry. They are dense, producing a long-lasting, slow-burning fire with constant, mild smoke. Hardwood chips are noted for their deep, strong flavors and are ideal for smoking many types of meat.

b) Softwood Chips

Softwood chips are derived from coniferous trees like pine, spruce, and cedar. They burn quickly and hotly, resulting in a lighter, more delicate smoke. Softwood chips should not be used to smoke meats since they might produce a bitter, resinous flavor. They can, however, be used for cold smoking or smoking fish and seafood.

Taste Profiles in Wood Chips

Various varieties of wood chips offer distinct flavors to the smoked food. Knowing these flavor profiles can assist you in selecting the ideal wood chips for your particular taste and meal.

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Hickory is one of the most popular hardwoods for smoking, as it has a strong, sweet, and savory flavor that pairs well with a wide range of meats.

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Mesquite is another popular hardwood for smoking, known for its bold and earthy flavor. It is especially well-suited for beef and other red meats.

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Apple wood chips have a mild, sweet, and fruity flavor that is well-suited for pork, chicken, and fish.

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Cherry wood chips have a mild and slightly sweet flavor that is similar to apple, but with a slightly more robust and fruity taste.

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Alder wood chips have a mild and slightly sweet flavor that is well-suited for fish and other seafood, as well as poultry and pork.

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Oak wood chips have a strong and smoky flavor that is well-suited for beef, pork, and game meats.

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Pecan wood chips have a mild and nutty flavor that is well-suited for poultry, pork, and beef.

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These are just a few examples of the many types of hardwood chips that can be used in an electric smoker. Experimenting with different woods can help you discover new flavor combinations and enhance the taste of your smoked meats and other dishes.

Size of Wood Chips and Soaking

The size of the wood chips and whether or not they should be soaked before usage are crucial considerations for good smoking.

Wood Chip Dimensions

Wood chips come in a variety of sizes, including fine, tiny, medium, and big. The length and intensity of the smoke created are affected by the size of the wood chips used.

Fine and small chips burn quickly, making them excellent for shorter smoking sessions, while medium and big chips burn slowly, making them ideal for prolonged, low-and-slow cooking sessions.

Whether to Soak or Not to Soak

Soaking wood chips before smoking is a hotly disputed topic among smokers. Some suggest that soaking wood chips causes them to smolder and produce more smoke, while others argue that it simply delays the burning process and has no effect on the amount of smoke produced.

Soaking wood chips for 30 minutes to an hour before usage can extend their burn time, especially for smaller chips. Larger chips or pieces, on the other hand, do not require this because they already have a longer burn duration.

Really, whether or not to soak wood chips is a matter of personal opinion and experience. Why not give both ways a try and see how you like it. That will give you the most information for next time.

Experimenting with Wood Chip Blends

You might notice that a lot of wood chips on the market are sold as blends. They’re on to something with that!

We like to experiment with various wood chip combinations to produce unique and bespoke flavor profiles. Combining wood chips can help balance out strong flavors, add complexity, or produce a perfect taste harmony.

I would suggest to combine apple wood chips with hickory for a sweet and savory combination, or maple with cherry for a delicately sweet and fruity smoke.

Side wood chip loader
Side Wood Chip Loader

Considerations When Buying Wood Chips

There are various aspects to consider when purchasing wood chips to ensure you get a high-quality product:

a) Source and quality of wood

Select wood chips from well-managed, sustainable forests and avoid chips that have been treated with chemicals or additions. Wood chips of high quality should be clean, dry, and devoid of mold, dust, and debris.

b) Storage and packaging

To preserve freshness and prevent contamination, buy wood chips in sealed bags. To maintain the quality of your wood chips and extend their shelf life, store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

c) Reliable Brands and Customer Feedback

When buying wood chips, look for trusted brands with high reputations in the smoking community. To make an informed decision, read reviews and ask opinions from other smokers.


It is critical to select the best wood chips for smoking in order to achieve the right flavor and aroma in your smoked dishes. You may make an informed choice for your smoking needs if you understand the many varieties of wood chips, their flavor profiles, and their best applications.

Experiment with different wood chip combinations and ways to establish your own smoking style, and remember to consider elements like as wood source, quality, and packaging when purchasing wood chips.

You’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of smoking and creating scrumptious, flavorful dishes that will please family and friends alike if you have the correct wood chips on hand.


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How to pick the best wood chips

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