A pack of high-quality wood chips offering a variety of flavors.
Set of 6 packs of wood chips holding 180 cubic inches per bag. Includes apple, cherry, pecan, post oak, hickory, and mesquite flavors. Chips are 100% natural. Work well with electric smokers and gas grills. Bags detail flavors.
May be better for beginners or someone who does not have a favorite flavor.
An affordable bag of wood chips that works well for meat and vegetables.
A 192-cubic-inch bag of apple-flavored wood chips. Also available in cherry, mesquite, and pecan flavors. Flavor is mild and sweet. For use with smokers and grills. From a trusted brand. Bag weighs 1.67 pounds.
Chips seem to burn a little quickly.
A variety pack of 6 flavors of wood chips that don't require soaking.
Works with outdoor grills and smokers. Food-grade pellets made with natural ingredients. Chips burn evenly. Each bag holds 1 pound of chips. Made in the U.S. Heat-treated to prevent contaminants.
Bags might not be large enough for a bigger smoker.
A 4-pack of extra-small wood chips packaged in resealable tubs.
Strong flavor. Works for indoor smoking. Each flavor comes in a resealable 1-pint container for easy storage. All-natural and made in the U.S. Easy to light and burn entirely.
Chip size may be too small for some users.
One bag of all-natural wood chips with a mild and sweet flavor.
Wood chips for electric smokers and charcoal, electric, or gas grills. Maple flavor with heat treatment to protect from rot and mold. Bag holds 180 cubic inches of chips. Can be used with all types of meat.
May not work well for someone who prefers other flavors.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Adding wood smoke to meats, fruits, and vegetables has been a practice literally since man discovered fire. Not only does smoke add a new flavor element to food, but it also kills harmful bacteria on the surface and extends shelf life. Wood chips are an important part of the smoking process because they generate the steady supply of smoke needed for low, slow cooking.
Wood chips used in commercial smokers and barbecue grills come from hardwood trees, either fruit bearers (cherry, apple, pear) or nut bearers (hickory, oak, maple). Each variety of hardwood imparts a different flavor profile to meats and vegetables. Some provide a lighter, sweeter undertone, while others provide a darker, more savory accent.
Finding the perfect pairing of wood chips and meat is one of the joys of smoking, and a quality buying guide should take some of the guesswork out of that selection process.
Many methods of preparing meat, such as roasting, broiling, and pan-searing, involve high heat (400°+ F) and short cooking times of less than an hour. These methods work best on pricier cuts with natural fat deposits that keep the meat hydrated as it cooks. Less-expensive cuts of beef, along with pork, poultry, and fish, do better with low heat (typically between 220°F and 230°F) and a much longer cooking time of three hours or more. This is where techniques such as smoking and barbecuing come in.
A commercial smoker is a compact outdoor cooking vessel that maintains a near-constant temperature below 250°F. Wood chips may be the single source of heat, or they may be added to generate a steady supply of smoke to the chamber.
The smoking process begins when the wood chips reach a certain temperature in the smoker and begin to smolder, not ignite. The smoke passes over the meat or vegetables, and the particles and gasses penetrate the surface. As the meat or vegetables slowly heat on the racks, the fibrous tissues break down, creating a more tender finished product. The smoke also creates a flavorful outer layer and helps preserve the meat.
Another sign of successful smoking is the appearance of a smoke ring.
Hardwood chips for smoking, grilling, and barbecuing can be divided into two camps: fruit-bearing and nut-bearing. The difference between fruitwoods and nut woods may be negligible in appearance, but it’s definitely noticeable in terms of the flavor profile.
Common fruit hardwoods include apple, cherry, pear, peach, and plum. Applewood and cherry are the most common on store shelves. Fruit hardwoods do not necessarily impart the flavor of their fruit during the smoking process, but they do tend to create a light, sweet undertone to the meat. They are often used to smoke pork, fish, and poultry.
Nut-bearing hardwoods for smoking include oak, hickory, maple, and pecan. These types of hardwood chips produce a stronger and more savory form of smoke and may not be the ideal choice for beginners to the technique. It is easy to over-smoke meat, and the results may be too bitter or intense for the consumers. Mesquite is often mentioned as a smoking hardwood, but it also has a strong flavor profile and can be challenging to control. It is a better choice as a heat source for grilling or barbecuing rather than smoking.
Some wood chips are available in single-use packages, ideal for adding smoke to a rack of ribs or a small pork shoulder as it grills. These smaller packages make it easier for new smokers to experiment with different types of hardwood before investing in a favorite.
Manufacturers also package wood chips in bundles weighing several pounds, enough for wholesale smoking projects or frequent outdoor grilling. It is also possible to order hardwood chips in bulk if you’re planning to smoke meat at a commercial level.
Regardless of the type of wood chips you choose to put in your smoker or grill, there is one important issue to consider. Conventional advice on wood chips suggests soaking the chips in water for at least several hours (if not overnight) before adding them to the smoker. The theory is that the soaked chips would not ignite, resulting in a longer period of smoldering and smoke generation. A number of manufacturers still include soaking instructions on their packaging, and some professional pitmasters also recommend soaking the chips.
However, there are those who believe soaking wood chips is not necessary and that, in fact, it hinders the smoking process. Hardwood does not absorb water easily, so the chips would only have minimal penetration. The water must convert to steam before the wood reaches its smoking point, and the wet chips can reduce the overall temperature of the coals or other heat sources.
In short, there is nothing inherently wrong with soaking wood chips before putting them in a homemade smoke pack or commercial smokebox, but unsoaked wood chips will also perform well if the heat is properly monitored.
Aromatic hardwoods for smoking can be sold in various sizes, from pellets and chips to chunks and full-size logs. Each size offers advantages and disadvantages.
Single-use packages of common hardwoods can be found on store shelves for $10 or less. The selection may be limited to popular fruitwoods (apple, cherry) or possibly a nut wood such as hickory.
Larger bags of fruit or nut-bearing hardwood chips typically cost between $10 and $25. This range includes a wider assortment of fruitwoods plus the more expensive oaks, mesquites, and hickories used in commercial smoking.
The rarest hardwoods used for smoking meats, primarily old-growth fruit trees, cost at least $25 per container. An assortment of more common hardwoods can also cost $35 or more, but it does offer home cooks a range of flavor options.
A. Softwood trees such as pine and cedar are not recommended for smoking because they contain volatile oils that impart an unpleasant flavor when the wood reaches its smoke point. It is much better to use prepackaged hardwood chips or create larger chunks from hardwood logs.
A. A quality smoke box or handmade smoke pack should provide some control over the smoke level, but sometimes, a wood chip will ignite rather than smolder. Reduce the amount of available oxygen in the smoker or grill by closing off the vents until the smoke lessens.
A. Smoking is considered a low and slow method for cooking “tough” meats such as pork shoulder, beef brisket, and ribs. Higher-end cuts that respond well to roasting or grilling should not be smoked, such as pork tenderloin and lean beef roast.
A. While many home cooks fashion their own smoke packets using perforated aluminum foil, commercial metal smoker boxes are also available. These perforated boxes hold a certain number of wood chips in a specific area of the smoker or can be placed on top of hot coals in a backyard grill. They are generally inexpensive and help produce a steady supply of smoke through the vents.
A. The matching of hardwoods and meats is more art than science, but master smokers have created a list of recommended pairings. In general, the flavor profile of the meat (sweet, savory, beefy, etc.) should be enhanced by the flavor profile of the wood chips. This information is often included with recipes or researchable online.