Working with Wood Chips
How we tested
Adding wood chips to your grill imparts a deep, smoky flavor to your food as it cooks. In the test kitchen, we use wood in two different forms: chips and chunks. In either case, the wood needs to soak in water before being added to the grill in order to maintain a slow smolder rather than a quick burn, which can impart an acrid taste to your meat.
Wood chunks need to soak for at least one hour before using. Place them directly on the coals for long, slow-smoking Southern-style recipes such as brisket or ribs. Just nestle the soaked chunks into the pile of charcoal, set the cooking grate in place, and cover the grill for five minutes. Once the grill is hot, clean it and start cooking.
If you have a gas grill, you’ll want to use grill chips. Soak the chips for at least 30 minutes, then place them inside a foil pouch with holes cut into it for ventilation. You can also use a disposable aluminum tray. Place the aluminum pouch or tray directly over the primary burner, light the grill, cover it, and wait until the chips start smoking heavily, around 15 minutes or so.
If you’re a smoking fanatic, you may want to keep a supply of presoaked wood chips on hand. We found that after the initial soaking, wood chips or chunks can be placed in a zipper-lock bag and stored in the freezer indefinitely. Pull them out of the bag and use as is—there is no need to thaw.