How to Use Wood Chips in An Electric Smoker Like a Pro

When it comes to smoking your favorite meats, there is no better option than opting for an electric smoker. Whether it is low and slow cooking or a high heat recipe, an electric smoker with some flavored wood chips will bring the best out of your meats, keeping you sitting idle. 

If using wood chips in an electric smoker seems a new concept to you, scroll below to know all on how to use wood chips in an electric smoker.

You may be wondering why an electric smoker should need wood chips as it is supposed to use electricity to heat up and cook food. You are right. 

An electric smoker needs electricity to provide heat, but it needs wood chips to smoke and flavor the foods. 

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But how can you use wood chips in your favorite electric smoker to get the best result from your smoked foods? Will all electric smokers allow you to smoke with wood chips? 

If so, how much should you use? I know hundreds of questions are pushing you towards google. So let me answer one by one.

Getting Your Smoker Ready For Use

If you have just received your cherished electric smoker and, with prior preparation, are planning to start smoking some meats, you have yet to take some more preparation.

Because if you are using your electric smoker for the first time, you have to prepare it for the smoking session first. 

What you have to do is season it. However, if you are not familiar with seasoning a machine, don’t worry. 

You just have to coat the parts of your machine with cooking oil lightly and run the machine for some time. For your convenience, I am discussing it in brief.

How to Use Wood Chips in An Electric Smoker | Seven Effective Ways You Can Follow

If you have bought an electric smoker that has been made keeping wood chips in mind, the process will be quite straightforward. 

However, most electric smokers are designed to work with wood chips that will provide your dishes the smokey taste you desire. For your convenience, I am discussing the process here.

  • First, Load your wood chips in the chip tray or buy a pellet tube/smoker Box
  • Preheat your electric smoker
  • Add water and flavor to the water bowl
  • Place the marinated meats
  • Add more wood chips during the process
  • Allow the smoker to cool down and clean it properly
  • Add the wood chips promptly

Not clear yet? No problem. I’m going to unfold your confusion layer by describing all the steps. Let’s go further discussion- 

As your electric smoker is designed for wood chips, you will find a tray near the bottom part of your smoker to hold the wood chips. 

Your electric smoker may also have a built-in wood chips storage; you can buy a pellet tube or smoker box for it. 

A pellet tube will continue the smoking for four hours, while a smoker box will continue up to 11 hours smoking. 

It will cost you some extras, but you will not need to take the hassle of changing your wood chips continuously.

You also have to raise the desired temperature before putting the meat in your smoker. Set the temperature at 225F and preheat it for about 45 minutes.

Before placing the meat into the smoker, add water to your water bowl. Add about ½ cup of water if the smoke has gotten timid. The steam created from this water will moisture the cooking area and tenderize the meat

If you like any specific flavor (like orange or apple juice) or other aromatic ingredients, you can add that into the water pan. 

You can add another cup of wood chips in the meantime. Do not overcrowd your chip tray and make things messy. 

While adding the wood chips, make sure you adjust the temperature control to avoid a sudden temperature rise.

When the temperature of your smoker is around 225F, it may beep or make some other noise depending on the model you are using. 

Now, since there is enough smoke, place your marinated meat in the smoker tray on the rack and let it smoke properly. 

This process can be 3-8 hours long. Any kind of meat is supposed to be properly smoked in this period with the desired smokey taste and texture.

Since you have handed over your meats to your electric smoker, it will finish the cooking itself. You have to just ensure consistent smoke throughout the whole process. 

So, do not hesitate to add more chips if needed. Whenever you hear a spitting or choking noise, remember it is time to add some more wood chips. 

Only make sure you add a cup of wood chips at a time and check if it produces enough smoke. If you notice the smoke is going thinner, consider adding more wood chips. 

Whenever you add more chips, you will observe a rise in the temperature. It is nothing serious. It will change to the previous temperature in a while.

Now, when you are done with it, let the smoker cool down. Then clean it out thoroughly to avoid stubborn build-ups so that you do not have to struggle with it before the next smoking session. 

When you add wood chips to your smoker during the cooking process, it will cool it down. If yours is an offset smoker, adding more chips will not affect the temperature.

Now, You’re clear about using wood chips in an electric smoker, aren’t you? But the question is – 

How To Use Wood Chips When Your Smoker Is not Meant For It

While most electric smokers will allow you to use wood chips, you should not worry if your smoker is not meant for it. If your electric smoker does not have any built-in wood chip pan, you can still use the wood chips using an empty tin can.

  • Turn a tin can into a smoker box and load the can with wood chips
  • Close The Lid of The Can
  • Place the Can on Lava Rocks
  • Refill The Can With Wood Chips As Needed

Take a can and cut the upper side off three quarters and let the rest of it be attached. Then all you have to do is load the can with the dry wood chips. 

You can bend the lid down because if the lid is open, the chips get in contact with plenty of air. 

As a result, the wood chips can burst into flames turning the temperature too high. Keeping the lid closed will allow the chips to smolder smoothly.

Then place the tin can on the lava rocks (in between the coils). Use a long pair of tongs while doing so. With the tongs, gently grab the can. 

You need to be very careful while doing this because you will not want the tin can to be open, and the wood chips are on direct coals. 

The wood chips will get enough heat from the lava rock and will smolder nicely, so you do not need to keep the can touching the coils.

Once the wood chips start making smoke, you should keep an eye on it, whether it is working or not. After an hour, check the can and refill if needed. Keep refilling it as needed until your meats are completely cooked.

How Often to Add Wood Chips to An Electric Smoker

It depends. Generally, most electric smokers do not have the capacity to hold many wood chips. So, you may need to load extra wood chips frequently. The following facts will determine how often you should add wood chips to your smoker.

You can use as much wood chips as you need for The Amount of Smoke You Want. The wood chips do not affect the healing process of your electric smoker. 

And that is why you can cook the meat in your electric smoker without the wood chips. And for the same reason, you can complete your cooking with either a sufficient amount of wood chips or just 1/2 a handful of chips.

They will burn slowly and create smoke but not flame. And that is how they will influence your dishes to get that smokey flavor. So, the more wood chips you will provide, the more smokey taste your dishes will offer.

The next thing to consider is what you are smoking. When you smoke a fish or small pieces of chicken, you may have to add a few wood chips, that too, only at the beginning.

As these dishes will be cooked easily, the smoke coming from the initial batch of wood chips will be enough to smoke them. Because too much smoke can turn your tasty meats/fishes into bitter dishes.

It also depends on how smoky you want your dishes to be. So, if you are one of them who does not satisfy their pallets without an intense smokey flavor, keep adding more wood chips as needed.

But, if a hint of smoky taste is all that you need, then smoke your meat only for the first 30-45 minutes and then remove the chip tray. 

And needless to say that you may have to do many experiments to hang with the right amount of smoke you need. You may have to add more batches of wood chips depending on the model you are using. 

Some models feature a small chip tray that can accommodate a small number of wood chips that will give you a short time smoking, while some smokers feature a large chip box that will hold enough wood chips to provide up to 8 hours of smoking.

The Other Popular Methods to Use Wood Chips in An Electric Smoker

There are other popular methods of how you will put wood chips in your electric smoker. You can try the following methods.

  • Wrapping The Wood Chips in Foil

Get a piece of foil and lay it flat on a flat surface. Put a small number of wood chips in the center and fold all four sides of the foil to envelop the wood chips completely. 

With any sharp object, poke 4 small holes in the upper side of the foil pack. These holes will work as the ventilation system and allow the smoke to come out and smoke your meat properly. 

Now place the foil pack on the lava rocks. The foil will not let the wood chips burn up immediately. Make more foil packs/balls to readily use when needed. Since they are super easy to make, you can also make them quickly when you need them.

When the foil pack/ball will stop creating smoke, remove it out with a tong, and toss a new pack/ball.

  • Throwing The Wood Chips on Lava Rocks

You can toss your wood chips directly onto the hot lava rocks. They will offer a smoky flavor. You can soak them up in the water before tossing them on the wood chips.

  • Buying a Separate Wood Chip Box

You can buy an additional wood chip box for your electric smoker that will let you put the wood chips safely and directly on the lava rocks and heating elements. 

All you have to do is to throw the chip-loaded box carefully with a pair of tongs. Char-Broil-Cast-Iron-Smoker-Box can be a good pick for you to use your wood chips.

When You Use Wood Chips In Your Smoker, It Is Better to Soak Wood Chips or Not 

I have noticed many people get confused about whether they should soak their wood chips in water or not. Whether you will use dry wood chips or soaked, it solely depends on you. 

Instead of getting confused let us see what happens when you use the soaked wood chips. Soaking wood chips is supposed to increase the amount of smoke from your wood chips. 

When you are starting the smoking process, you will notice a cloud of white smoke coming off the soaked wood chips. But, do not get excited so much because it is not smoke. What you see is steam. 

Before starting the smoke, these soaked wood chips will be dried up first. Therefore this steam will not contribute to the amount of smoke. 

To be honest, the origin of the wood chips you are using influences the amount of smoking, not the soaked wood chips.

So why do people soak their wood chips then? What is the benefit of soaking wood chips before using them in the smoker? Well, these are the reasons.

  • You may see many users soak their wood chips in other liquids like wine or juice. You can do it when you want to add that specific flavor to the wood flavor. 
  • If you want a specific flavor in your smoked dishes, you would better soak your wood chips in the liquids you prefer. It is not mandatory because wood chips have their flavor, and you will get it simply by soaking them in plain water. 
  • Soaking the wood chips in water will not allow the wood to burn away and exhaust quickly that will be good for shorter recipes. But, if you want to smoke your meat for several hours with the wood chips, it does not matter a lot.
  • If you want to smoke your meat on a wood plank, soaking your wood chips is a good idea. Besides creating more smoke, it checks the plank from burning quickly. The steam coming from the soaked wood raises the temperature and moisture in your smoker.
  • When you want to smoke your meat at a low temperature for a long time, you can soak your wood chips.

Notes-

  • In case you have bought flavored wood chips, you may lose the natural wood flavor if you soak your wood chips in any liquid other than water.
  • When you do not need extra smoke, you can skip soaking your wood chips. For regular cooking, you would better use dry wood chips. You will see many people use completely dry chips in their smoker. They even bring the excess moisture out with a cotton cloth piece or something.
  • If you decide to soak your wood chips in the water, leave them in the water/liquid for at least 30 minutes or up to 1-2 hours.

So, now as you know the difference, whether you will soak your wood chips before using them in the electric smoker is up to you.

You Do Not Need to Add Wood Chips After 6 Hours of Cooking

Although you may like intensely smoked dishes, smoking over 6 hours will not bring much difference in the taste. Therefore, smoking your meat for 4-6 hours is enough. 

After this period, smoke does not stick to the meat anymore, and it hardly adds a little extra flavor. So, you may cook a large brisket for up to 15 hours or more, but there is no need to smoke it after the first 6 hours.

Keep Doing Experiments

You can check the manual to get an idea of approximately how long your model will smoke with the first batch of wood chips. After seasoning your new smoker, you can add the chips to the tray and test how long the smoke continues.

While using the smoker for the first time, try with only a little amount of wood chips to continue the smoke for the first hour only.

If the taste is too much smokey for you, continue the smoke for only 45 minutes the next time. In case you are not satisfied with the smokey taste, raise the time to 90 minutes for the next session. Thus, make adjustments to smoke, and hopefully, you will get the right idea.

Some Tips To Get Better Result

Whether you’re an experienced cook or a newbie, the following tips will make your job easier.

  • Before adding more chips, always check if the previous batches of wood chips in your smoker are completely burnt out. If the previous ones are still making smoke, take time to add more chips.
  • While adding new chips, you have to do that promptly. When you open the door, you will allow the heat to go out. So, the temperature will fall and that will take more time to make your food ready. 
  • Do not overload the chip tray; otherwise, it may fall onto the drip tray. Just put a handful of chips.
  • After completing each session, do not forget to empty the wood chip tray. Otherwise, the burnt chips and ashes will restrict the smoke.

FAQ’s

  • Do you preheat an electric Smoker with wood chips?

Depending on the weather of your area, electric smokers take up to 45 minutes normally to heat up to the temperature you want for your meat. So you have to preheat your smoke with wood chips before placing your meat in it.

  • How do you keep wood chips from catching fire in a smoker?

To prevent your wood chips from catching fire in your electric smoker, you can try different ways. You can soak the wood chips in water. You can also load the wood chips in a can or smoker box or wrap them in aluminum foil, curbing the amount of air getting in contact with the wood chips.

  • How Much Wood Chips Do You Need For Smoking?

Again it depends. The exact amount of wood chips you will need depends on your preferences. 4 cups of wood chips will give you smoke for 3-5 hours. So you should calculate and add wood chips as needed. 

As I mentioned, the decent period of smoking most meats is 6 hours. And for 6 hours, 6-8 cups of wood chips will be enough. Thus, you should keep enough wood chips in stock when you are going to start smoking.

  • Should you upgrade your chip tray for longer smoking?

If you are an avid foodaholic and prefer the intense smokey taste, instead of investing in a new smoker with a big tray, you can upgrade your chip tray to a larger smokebox to get longer smoking which can give you up to 8-12 hours of smoke.

Such a smoke box is designed to fit most smokers and will give both hot and cold smoke for smoking anything-cheese, poultry, fish, or big steaks, etc.

  • What is the lowest temperature wood will start smoldering?

Answer: It depends on how close you keep your chip tray to the lava rocks and heating coils. At 570-750, °F (299-399 °C), the wood will begin to smolder. 

The temperature of the cooking area is much lower than the wood. However, depending on the woods you are using, the minimum temperature can be slightly different.

  • How long do wood chips last in an electric smoker?

There is no exact answer for how long wood chips last in the smoker. But it is recommended that you can change the chips after 5-6 hours and add 1 or 2 cups of fresh chips.

Besides, there is a good way to understand whether your wood chips are still usable or not. 

When your wood chips will stop smoking and turn into burnt black color, you should replace them. So, when your wood chips start making thinner smoke, get ready to replace them with fresh ones.

  • How can you get more smoke from an electric smoker?

Using slightly damp wood chips in your electric smoker can give you a little more smoke. The moisture of the wet wood chips adds more vapor to your cooking area, so your meats are juicy and soft. 

You can also opt for a pellet tube that will give some more smoke to your dishes (available online and hardware store). They’re a great way to add smoke to your food and maintain a nice juicy flavor. 

  • Which wood chips will be good for smoking in an electric smoker?

Answer: Cedar, Hickory, Adler, Cherry, Apple, or Plum chips all will go well with smoking. Each of them is especially great for certain types of meats/fishes. So, all you have to do is to choose the best wood for your favorite meats.

Conclusion

So, if you are planning for the next barbecue night, try smoking your favorite meats with wood chips to get the best smokey taste. You may have to do a good number of experiments on how to use wood chips in an electric smoker or which wood flavor goes with your taste. But once you find the right wood chips for your electric smoker, it will be a life-mate on your barbeque journey.

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