Do you have to use wood chips in a smoker?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “do you have to use wood chips in a smoker” with an in-depth analysis of the use of wood in different forms, such as wood chips, chunks, and logs, etc. in the smokers.

Moreover, we are going to highlight what happens when you smoke the wood, what different forms of wood can be used in smokers, what different stages can come in the pathway of smoke production, and how a smoker works.

Do you have to use wood chips in a smoker?

Yes, you have to use wood chips in a smoker for producing smoke but it depends upon the type of smoker you are going to use. Nowadays, a lot of alternatives to wood chips are being used extensively, such as wood pellets, logs, chunks, and charcoal. In the case of electric smokers, you do not even need wood chips or any other fuel source for heating purposes as they can operate and cook the food through heat produced by electricity.

The main purpose behind the usage of wood in a smoker is to produce smoke to serve as a flavor enhancer as well as aid the heating of food by main heating source, such as gas in propane or electricity in electric smokers.

Smoking with wood:

The wood in different forms, such as wood logs, chunks, pellets, and chips, is used to produce smoke in the smoker. It can also be used as a source of heat for cooking foods. Most of the meat products, such as kebabs or barbeque cooked on smokers are flavored with smoke, and combustion of wood particles can also produce heat to cook the food.

Different forms of wood:

Recipes cooked in smokers depend upon different variables, including fire control, temperature, cooking time, smoking time, types of wood, sizes of wood, and sauces and oils used. The wood can be chosen in one of the different forms available, such as chunks, logs, pellets, chips, sawdust, and disks.

The size of wood is completely chosen based on the cooking time for which you are going to cook your food. For instance, the foods that need a short cooking time can be smoked by using wood chips as these small pieces can ignite quickly but not be burnt.

Different sizes and forms of the wood used for smoking are:

Logs with sizes up to 18 inches long are used to produce large offset smokers in a commercial setting and can serve as both heating as well as smoke sources.

Chunks, having size up to 4 inches long, are used to produce smaller offset smokers in water, ceramic, gas, grill, and barrel smoking methods and can be used in a variety of smokers.

Chips, having sizes up to ¼ inch thick and 1 inch wide and long, are used primarily in gas and electric smokers and can easily be stored.

Sawdust is a coarse powder of wood and is used to produce smoke in electric, stovetop, and handheld smokers to produce instant smoke and cannot be used as the main heat source.

The disk is rounded flat-shaped compressed sawdust and is used in electric smokers to produce smoke quickly.

Pellets are also made from compressed sawdust and resemble chicken. They are convenient in producing quick smoke and are available in different varieties.

Stages of smoke production.

To produce the smoke, the wood has to be passed through different stages.

1.       Dehydration:

When the wood is heated to about 500°F, the moisture content from the wood starts evaporating as a result of which the wood starts becoming dry.

2.       Gasification and pyrolysis:

Further heating of wood to temperature in between 500°F and 700°F causes the compounds present in wood to become flammable gases that ignite when exposed to flame.

3.       Burning:

After that, the temperature increases to 700°F-1000°F and wood starts burning and smoke rings start to form due to the formation of nitric oxide gas.

4.       Charcoal formation:

Above 1000°F temperature, almost all the organic compounds are burnt and charcoal is formed. Once all the charcoal is burnt, there is no more smoke.

Best types of wood

Different types of wood can be used for smoking. However, it is important to be intentional about the type that you choose. This is because they each have a particular flavor that they impart, so choose wisely. Here are a few options that you can choose from:

Working of smoker:

A smoker cooks the food slowly by the smoke and heat produced by the wood that acts as a fuel source instead of using a direct heat source. This slow cooking allows the food products to develop an infused smokey flavor while they are still moist.

  • The first step is to prepare the food that needs to be cooked among which the most perfect food for smokers is meat. The meat can be prepared through dry salting or marinating, depending upon the smoker in which it is going to be cooked.
  • The second step is to prepare the fuel for smoking that may vary from one type of smoker to the other, as charcoal smokers use charcoal as a fuel source while pellet smokers use pellets.
  • Position your racks in the right places and smoke the meat to the desired temperature between 225°F and 250°F. The normal cooking time for meat is 1 to 1½ hours.

Moreover, different woods can be used for smoking as they impart different flavors. Some of the commonly used woods are hickory, applewood, cherry, pecan, oak, and peach. You can find more about the wood types here.


In this brief guide, we answered the question “do you have to use wood chips in a smoker” with an in-depth analysis of the effects of the use of using wood chips in smokers.

Moreover, we discussed what happens when you smoke the wood, what different forms of wood can be used in smokers, what different stages can come in the pathway of smoke production, what different types of wood can be used, and how a smoker works.

Citations: smoker%20works%20by%20 utilizing,to%20its%20final%20temperature%20slowly.

Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.