We all know that hundreds of thousands of BBQ enthusiasts prefer unique and intense smoke while grilling their food items over a charcoal grill.
Now, there are different techniques to achieve this task, and using wood chips with charcoal is one of them. In this scenario, many people come up with a popular question, can you put wood chips directly on charcoal?
If you are also curious about this, this is the guide for you in which you’ll come to know if it is really beneficial to use chips directly on the hot coals or if you should try another way of doing it.
So, let’s begin!
Can You Put Wood Chips Directly On Charcoal?
You will come across different opinions about whether you should place wood chips directly on charcoal or not when using a charcoal grill.
Some believe putting chips directly over hot coals works fine, while others argue that using accessories like a smoker box or a technique like an aluminum foil packet gives better results.
Quick Answer: Yes, you can put wood chips directly on charcoal, but if they are dry, they may burn out faster even before generating smoke for your food.
On the other hand, if you put soaked chips on charcoal directly, they might burn slower, but the amount of smoke they’d produce will be less satisfying.
That is why I suggest using a smoker box or the foil pan or foil packet method when using wood chips on charcoal.
To conclude, if you are in a hurry and you prefer a little smoky touch in your foods, you can choose to put wood chips directly on charcoal while grilling, but they must be soaked.
But if you have time and want a more authentic smoky taste from your grilled dishes, I recommend putting dry chips inside a smoker box, foil packet, or aluminum pan and then placing it on or near the hot charcoal.
How Using Wood Chips On The Grill Is Beneficial?
It can be beneficial in different ways. First and foremost, if you prefer intense smoky flavor in your smoked meats, using wood chips on the grill is the way to go.
Furthermore, various types of chips are available, each with a distinctive flavor. As a result, you can mix up their varieties to experiment with delectable and unique flavor combinations.
Last but not least, it is an easy task to accomplish in which you either need a smoker box or foil packet and your desired wood chips; the rest of the process is straightforward and requires minimal effort.
How To Put Wood Chips Directly On The Charcoal: Step-By-Step Guide
Follow the steps below to successfully put chips directly on the charcoal and infuse your grilled dishes with a delicious smoky flavor.
Choose The Right Wood Flavor
You will come across different chip flavors, but you should choose one to help you achieve the desired results.
Firstly, you need to choose a flavor according to what meat cut you are planning to cook. For example, I prefer hickory or mesquite for beef, which can add a rich and delightful smoky taste.
Moreover, look after the chips that have the ability to smoke for a longer duration, such as hickory, oak, and cherry. Also, consider the intensity of the flavor that you desire in your cooked food items.
Soak The Wood Chips
Once you have selected the chips per your requirements, you’ll need to soak them in the water for about 30 minutes before using them.
The soaking process ensures that they don’t burn too fast and produce a steady and controlled smoke throughout your grilling session.
It can also help create a moist environment inside the grill, ensuring better moisture retention in the food.
Prepare Your Charcoal Grill
Next, set up your charcoal grill by lighting the coals and letting them burn until they reach the temperature you want to cook at.
If you want indirect heat, set the burning coals on one side of the grill and place the food on the other. In contrast, if you prefer direct grilling, simply spread the hot coals all over the grill’s bottom.
Add The Soaked Wood Chips To Charcoal Directly
When you’ve set up your grill nicely, and it has reached the desired cooking temp, simply throw the soaked wood chips all over the burning charcoal.
Within a few minutes, the chips should smolder and start producing smoke which will then infuse into your meats.
Now, you can start grilling your favorite food items, and you’ll just need to keep an eye on the smoke level and add more chips if required.
Other Methods For Using Wood Chips On Charcoal Grill
Remember, I advised you not to put dry chips over charcoal as they will burn instantly without generating any kind of smoke. So, what to do if you want to use dry chips or don’t want to put them directly over the charcoal? Let’s discuss some alternatives.
Smoker Box Method
A smoker box is a small box made of stainless steel or any other heat-resistant material, which consists of many holes and is typically designed to hold wood chips or pellets. You can place it directly on a grill, whether it’s a gas or charcoal grill.
The primary purpose of this box is to add an extra layer of smoky flavors to your grilled foods. The best part is that it is convenient to use. Here’s how to.
- Fill the smoker box with your desired wood chips flavor (dry) and place it over the burning coals.
- Within a few minutes, the chips inside the box will start smoldering the clean smoke, which will then infuse into the food items you are grilling.
- Remember that you can refill the box again with chips if you prefer more smoke or your grilling session is going to be longer than the burn time of the wood chips.
Foil Pan Technique
The foil pan technique offers a convenient and efficient way to use wood chips on a charcoal grill. It can also add a good amount of smoke flavor to the dishes you are grilling.
Like the smoker box, this method is also simple and requires minimal setup. Here’s how the foil pan technique works.
- To use the foil pan technique, start by ensuring that the charcoal is burning hot and the grill has reached your desired cooking temperature. Take an aluminum foil pan and fill it with the desired amount of wood chips.
- Cover the pan with a foil sheet, create several holes in it using a needle or skewer, and place the pan over hot coals.
- The smoke produced by the chips will escape gently through the holes you created, infusing your meat with that delicious smoky flavor.
This simple and effective method allows you to enjoy the smoky taste without the need for direct contact between wood chips and charcoal.
Foil Packet Technique
It is another popular and straightforward method to use wood chips on a charcoal grill for that perfect smoky flavor.
To accomplish this task, you need to create a simple pouch using an aluminum foil sheet for which you will just fold the edges of the paper nicely and ensure it is properly sealed from the sides.
Once the packet is ready, place wood chips inside it and create holes all over it to let the smoke escape efficiently.
Lastly, place your sealed packet over the burning coals or on the cooking grates, and within no time, the chips will begin to smolder and produce a unique aroma of smoke to infuse into your meal.
Do Wood Chips Need To Be Soaked Or Not?
Soaking wood chips before using them on a grill is not mandatory. However, soaking them slows down their burning process.
So, if you prefer putting chips directly on the charcoal, you can soak them so they don’t burn quickly without producing smoke.
But when it comes to using them inside a smoker box, aluminum pan, or foil packet, there is no need to soak them first because soaking can impact the authentic wood flavor and start producing steam instead of smoke.
There are a few important considerations before deciding whether to place wood chips directly over charcoal. For example, if your grilling session is shorter, then you can put soaked chips (not dry) directly on the hot coals.
In contrast, if you are going to grill for a longer period and prefer using dry chips, I recommend using a smoker box, aluminum pan, or foil packet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do you soak wood chips?
One primary and beneficial reason for soaking wood chips is to delay their burning process, but it is not entirely helpful in producing more smoke.
How long do you need to soak wood chips?
If you’ve decided to use soaked chips on the charcoal, it is recommended to soak them for 30 minutes to 1 hour before using them on the grill.
Caspian James, the Founder and Chief Editor at FaveGrills, is passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise on the latest Smokers and Grilling Products along with mouth-watering barbecue recipes. He constantly researches new gear with a sharp eye for detail, providing the FaveGrills community with in-depth reviews.