Wed 12 Jul 2017
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HOW MUCH WOOD TO ADD
One of the most common questions asked when it comes to smoking foods on a gas grill, traditional charcoal grill or smoker is, how much wood do I need? Likely the second most common question is where does the wood go? Click To Tweet
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
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 working with wood 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.
How Much Wood to Add to 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 hardwood 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, wood will be needed in some form to provide the actual flavor to the foods being smoked. Why? Because wood is what gives foods that smoky flavor and distinct texture and appearance.
For the smoker, here is a guide on wood 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.
|2-4 ounces||4-6 ounces||8 ounces||10 ounces with additional needed during cooking|
For placement of the wood chunks, these can go directly on the hot coals with some wood banked to the side to catch as the hot coals spread.
How Much Wood to Add to 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 wood 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.
|Chips||2 ounces||6 ounces||10-12 ounces||16 ounces|
|Chunks||2-4 ounces||4-6 ounces||8 ounces||10-12 ounces|
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.
The LP/Gas Grill
I think the key misnomer is that LP/Gas Grills can only use wood 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 wood chip smoker box and simply put chunks in the box versus chips. Usually these boxes will hold 3-4 small chunks of wood. The box also aids in capturing ash.
Here are the options for wood 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 wood 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 of it on hand than wood chunks when hot smoking.
|Chips||2 ounces||6 ounces||8 ounces with replenishment needed as they reduce to ash||8 ounces with replenishment needed multiple times|
|Chunks||2-4 ounces||4-6 ounces||8 ounces – may need to add an 1-2 pieces||8 ounces with replenishment needed at least once|
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 wood. 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 wood-fired cooking.
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.
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