Smoker Boxes and Wood Chips for Smoking

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Smoking adds so much to your BBQ experience and the varieties of woods and containers vary. Here’s some information on Smoker Boxes and Wood Chips for Smoking that might help you.

wood chips for the smoker

Smoker Boxes and Wood Chips

If you don’t have a smoker you can improvise using your grill and using or improvising a smoker box. My favorite woods are Alder, Cherry, Walnut and Hickory. The container that holds the soaked wood chips or pellets needs to restrict the air flow so the chips don’t catch fire and burn up, hold the ash when burned and allow you to move the chips so that they don’t burn too quickly if need be. Hopefully this will help in making some choices.

Do wood chips have to be soaked?

It isn’t necessary and probably does more harm than good. It certainly makes getting consistent and delicious results more challenging, and that’s not something anyone is trying to achieve when smoking. If you are going to soak wood chips, try using juice, beer, or whiskey to add flavor.

The truth is that soaking your wood chips can actually prevent your grill or smoker from working correctly, leading to longer cook times and potentially drying your meat out.
source ~ Bearded Butchers.

Here are three different approaches for getting that smoked flavor on the grill:

The smoker box that came with your grill is my first choice.


Second would be a foil packet. In this would be the wood chips and on one side cut several holes for the the smoke to come through.


Last resort would be to improvise and use a cleaned out soup can. Cut the lid off completely, place the wood chips inside and put the lid back on that has a few holes to allow the smoke to flow out.


Here are a list of the various wood chips for Smoking:

  • ACACIA – These trees are in the same family as mesquite. When burned in a smoker, acacia has a flavor similar to mesquite but not quite as heavy. Is a very hot burning wood.
  • ALDER – Very delicate with a hint of sweetness. Good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds.
  • ALMOND – A sweet smoke flavor, light ash. Good with all meats.
  • APPLE – Very mild with a subtle fruity flavor, slightly sweet. Good with poultry (turns skin dark brown) and pork.
  • ASH – Fast burner, light but distinctive flavor. Good with fish and red meats.
  • BIRCH – hard wood with a flavor similar to maple. Good with pork and poultry.
  • CHERRY – Mild and fruity. Good with poultry, pork and beef. Some List members say the cherry wood is the best wood for smoking. Wood from chokecherry trees may produce a bitter flavor.
  • COTTONWOOD –  It is a softer wood than alder and very subtle in flavor. Use it for fuel but use some chunks of other woods (hickory, oak, pecan) for more flavor. Don’t use green cottonwood for smoking.
  • CRABAPPLE – Similar to apple wood.
  • GRAPEVINES – Tart. Provides a lot of smoke. Rich and fruity. Good with poultry, red meats, game and lamb.
  • HICKORY – Most commonly used wood for smoking–the King of smoking woods. Sweet to strong, heavy bacon flavor. Good with pork, ham and beef.
  • LILAC – Very light, subtle with a hint of floral. Good with seafood and lamb.
  • MAPLE – Smoky, mellow and slightly sweet. Good with pork, poultry, cheese, and small game birds.
  • MESQUITE – Strong earthy flavor. Good with beef, fish, chicken, and game. One of the hottest burning woods.
  • MULBERRY – The smell is sweet and reminds one of apple.
  • OAK – Heavy smoke flavor–the Queen of smoking wood. RED OAK is good on ribs, WHITE OAK makes the best coals for longer burning. All oak varieties reported as suitable for smoking. Good with red meat, pork, fish and heavy game.
  • ORANGE, LEMON and GRAPEFRUIT – Produces a nice mild smoky flavor. Excellent with beef, pork, fish and poultry.
  • PEAR – A nice subtle smoke flavor. Much like apple. Excellent with chicken and pork.
  • PECAN – Sweet and mild with a flavor similar to hickory. Tasty with a subtle character. Good with poultry, beef, pork and cheese. Pecan is an all-around superior smoking wood.
  • SWEET FRUIT WOODS – APRICOT, PLUM, PEACH, NECTARINE – Great on most white or pink meats, including chicken, turkey, pork and fish. The flavor is milder and sweeter than hickory.
  • WALNUT – ENGLISH and BLACK – Very heavy smoke flavor, usually mixed with lighter woods like almond, pear or apple. Can be bitter if used alone. Good with red meats and game.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Types of wood that are unsuitable or even poisonous when used for grilling – don’t use any wood from conifer trees, such as PINE, FIR, SPRUCE, REDWOOD, CEDAR, CYPRESS, etc. Also ELM, EUCALYPTUS, SASSAFRAS, SYCAMORE and LIQUID AMBER wood is unsuitable for smoking.

For a comprehensive post about the best ways to use smoke wood to produce amazing barbecue, check out this article from Smoked BBQ Source.

And for a more extensive look at cooking times and other BBQ grilling information check out the Weber site, or over at Brinkmann’s where this list was originally compiled.

Photo credits: Soaked Wood Chip (burninlovebbq), the smoker box (1outdoorgasgrills), foil packet (insockmonkeyslippers) and the can (patiodaddiobbq).


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. i have a pellet grill and i used mesquite and it dried my meat out bad but i used compettion blend and it turned out great 2nd attempt was like a day ago and i was wondering can you tell me the temp to smoke with and when do you turn it up to 225 when cooking a brisket

  2. Wow! Fantastic stuff !
    Very informative series of articles. Thanks! But here is a related question: Nearly every time I’ve tried to buy chips or chunks locally (Home Depot or the local hardware store) I open up the bag and find they smell musty. Not very appetizing. Does anyone have a mail order recommendation for a reliable source, particularly for mesquite? Thanks in advance.

    Marco Auciello

    1. Hi Marco! I’ve never experienced moldy or musty wood chips, maybe that batch got wet in the warehouse or something. The brand I use one can pick up from Home Depot or Lowes here in the States. It’s Frontier Brand Wood Chips and they have a variety of “flavors.”

  3. I have always loved when I have experienced wood chips being burned. This list will help me know what scents I will acquire when I burn each. I’ll definitely have to save this list for the future. Where can I get these types of wood chips?