How to Use Wood Chips on a Charcoal Grill
More than 75% of households in America own a grill of some kind. The most popular is gas because it heats up fast and is easy to use. However, there is no doubt that food tastes more delicious when it’s been made on charcoal grills.
You can easily make the food on you cook on your charcoal grill taste even better. An extremely popular way of adding extra flavor when using a charcoal grill is by switching things up and adding wood chips. How can you use wood chips on your charcoal grill? Let’s take a look!
Why a Charcoal Grill?
Wood chips can be used on pretty much every grill, but many people have a preference of using charcoal grills. This is due to the fact that charcoal grills are generally inexpensive and are super easy to find. Once you know exactly how to light the charcoal grill, they are also super easy to use.
In some cases, a charcoal grill will come with a handy smoker box, which makes holding wood chips easy and convenient. The smoker will push the smoke directly on the cooking chamber with ease. If your charcoal grill does not have a smoker, you can get a similar effect by placing the wood chips tight on top of the charcoal.
Types of Wood Chips
There are so many types of wood that is used for the purpose of smoking your food. Some will leave a sweet, mild flavor while others can leave a much more intense flavor. While there are so many options, it is best to make sure you are buying chips of wood that are specifically designed for cooking food.
The main types of wood chips include apple, cherry, peach, alder, hickory, maple, pecan, oak, and mesquite. Cherry is great for chicken, turkey, and pork as it leaves a mild, fruity flavor. Apple is perfect for smoking cheese and seafood because it has a mellow flavor.
Maple is another extremely popular wood type and the smoky, sweet flavor is commonly used for ham and vegetables. Oak also leaves a smoky flavor and is most commonly used when cooking beef, pork, fish, or wild game.
If you are looking for a specific flavor that you can’t get from just one type of wood chip, you can try experimenting with more than one type at the same time. For instance, try mixing cherry and maple or cherry and oak. Keep in mind that you can overdo your flavors, so be mindful with your mixtures.
Is There a Difference Between Pellets and Chips?
Wood pellets are pieces of hardwood that are compressed, heated, dried, and then turned into tiny little cylinders. They typically have a pretty slow rate of burning, but they can yield high temperatures consistently. This is why they are a highly popular option for smoking food.
It might also be possible that you see some wood chunks out there when you are shopping. Wood chunks are just pellets, but larger. Chunks might be beneficial to you if you are going to be cooking a brisket or any other large cut of meat.
Wood chips are small pieces of hardwood that go through a seasoning process to reduce the amount of moisture they hold. They are known to burn faster than wood pellets, but will make the area around the grill very smoky.
How Do I Know How Much I Need?
If you are cooking something at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, add about a handful of new wood chips about every half hour. This will allow for maintaining the best possible flavor.
If you are just planning on cooking up some chicken or beef real fast, you should be fine with just a couple of handfuls. This should be plenty to keep up the flavor for as long as one hour.
Do I Need to Soak the Wood Chips?
It is debatable on whether or not. you should soak your chips of wood before using them on the grill. Most people will recommend against soaking for a few reasons. The first reason is that it really doesn’t do much to soak them. In order to make a difference, the chips would need to soak for several hours before the water would get deep enough into the wood.
The second reason is the fact that wood chips are specifically treated before they are sold to get rid of all of the moisture inside. Soaking would just make it take longer for the wood to begin smoking. The wet wood chips can also cool down the charcoal, creating steam instead of smoke.
If you are concerned that the wood chips might catch fire and burn before they get the chance to add any flavor to your food, try the following method.
How to Use Wood Chips on a Charcoal Grill
First, you will want to make some foil packets. These aren’t completely necessary, but they are practical if you are worried about the wood chips burning too quickly. Start by wrapping about a handful of chips in two layers of foil. Poke several holes into the foil and place it to the side until you are ready to use it. You may need more than one packet.
You will then need to start your fire. You can do this using lighter fluid but by far the best way to avoid contaminating the food is to use a chimney starter, whichever you feel more comfortable with.
If you are using a chimney starter, take a few pieces of newspaper and roll them up. Put them at the bottom of the starter chimney and place charcoal. Light up the charcoal. Once they are hot, move them over to the cooking chamber.
If you are using lighter fluid, place the charcoal into the chamber directly and use the proper amount of fluid as directed.
When the charcoal is going, place the foil packets on top, directly under where you are going to be cooking the food. If you are not using packets, carefully place the wood chips directly onto the charcoal.
If your grill has a smoker box or you are using a universal box simply place the wood chips in the box and place it over the charcoal.