How To Use Wood Chips In An Electric Smoker

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Electric smokers are the innovation of the modern world. But smoking meat is a traditional practice that has been used for thousands of years. Though these types of smokers cost more than traditional smokers, there is no doubt they are far better.

An electric smoker uses electricity to generate heat for food while it uses wood chips to add flavorful smoke. During smoking, you need to be very careful because with minor negligence you’ll ruin the whole taste of food.

For the process, you’ll need a well-functioning electric smoker, dry wood chips, and some basic cooking skills but with strong skills, you’ll get your meal to the next level.

In this article, we’re providing a detailed guide on how to use wood chips in an electric smoker and also what kind of wood chips you should use in your electric smoker.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Wood Chips In An Electric Smoker?

Using wood chips in an electric smoker can be very beneficial for adding smoke flavor to the food that you’re actually looking for. Wood chips create white thick smoke inside your smoker for enhancing the flavor of food. You can easily get a southern barbecue taste by just adding some wood chips inside the wood chip tray.

By trying out different types of wood chips, you can enjoy different tastes such as apple, cherry, mesquite, and hickory.

If you’ll only rely on a water pan and heating element, then you’ll be deprived of the real taste of smoky food as wood chips produce a lot of smoke to make your dinner more appetizing.

How To Use Wood Chips In An Electric Smoker- Methods

How To Use Wood Chips In An Electric Smoker

Here are different methods you can try to use wood chips in an electric smoker. You can choose one specific process according to your ease.

Method 1. Wood Chip Tray:

Prepare your smoker:

The first step involves the preparation of the smoker by cleaning and running it at a temperature of almost 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep your smoker getting hot for about 30 to 40 minutes. To measure temperature, you should use a thermometer probe.

Fill water tray: Fill the water tray of your electric smoker to maintain the moisture in the food. To enhance the taste of the smoking chamber you can also add spices and some herbs to the water.

Add wood chips: Now is the right time to add wood chips inside the wood chip tray of your electric smoker. Use dry wood chips and the amount of them will vary depending on the hours of cooking.

Keep adding wood chips after every hour and fill it to make it last for hours.

Place food on racks: Once the smoking process starts, place your meat on the racks. To monitor the smoke output open and close the vents every time by checking on the wood chips in the tray and keep adding more when needed.

Method 2. Foil Pouch:

Prepare the unit: The smokers without a designated tray can go with this method. Prepare your grill and turn it on to generate heat. Add water to the tray for moisture.

Take a piece of aluminum foil: Place a piece of aluminum foil on the counter and trim it to the required size. Then place 1 cup of wood chips in its center.

Fold wood chips in foil: Fold the foil properly around the wood chunks to keep them in the foil pouch during smoking. Turn the foil and poke holes on its top to allow smoke to come out. You’ll need to make extra pouches to keep adding during the whole process.

Place pouch on the heating element: Now place the pouch directly over the heating element inside your electric smoker. When the element heats the pouch, smoke will come out automatically to initiate the smoking process. We’ll highly recommend checking on the pouch after a couple of hours.

Check out our guide about how to cook a brisked

Method 3. Smoke Box Method:

Step 1: You can buy a smoker box for this method but you can also make one on your own. It is like stainless steel or cast iron box to hold wood chips. You can also go with this method by using a tin can.

Now heat your smoker to the desired temperature.

Step 2: You can use any kind of stainless steel box to make a smoker box and after choosing one, poke holes in it. It’d be better to use an old tin can without a lid.

Step 3: To make holes use a hammer and nail so that you can allow oxygen to pass into the wood chunks area. You can also use other tools to poke holes.

Step 4: When your smoker heats up to a certain temperature, place wood chips inside that tin can. You can add chips according to the need and keep on checking to add more if needed.

Step 5: Now place the smoker box on the heating element. It will smolder the wood chips to release smoke. Remember to keep the door closed for maximum time to avoid smoke escaping from the chamber.

How Often You Should Add Wood Chips?

Though many smokers lack the capacity to hold a large number of wood chips. To handle this, you’ll need to keep on adding the chips frequently inside the wood chip tray.

It depends majorly on the amount of smoke you want to produce. The heating process won’t be affected by wood chips, they’ll only add smoke.

You can also cook the meat inside an electric smoker without using wood chips, and you can also use a minimum amount of wood chips for the process. But wood chips only matter if you want a smoky delicious taste in your meat just like charcoal or other traditional smokers.

Wood chips aren’t there to add flame but to produce smoke slowly just to enhance the flavor.

The number of wood chips needed will also differ when you’ll be panning to smoke a small piece of chicken or fish. You’ll have to add only a few wood chunks to generate the required smoke.

You should also keep in mind that using too much amount of wood chips can spoil the taste of your food. Your meat can be bitter and too much smoky with extra wood chips.

If you don’t want extra smoky dishes, then remove the wood chip tray after 30-45 minutes of cooking.

Honestly, you’ll have to do a number of experiments to decide the right amount of wood chips that will be sufficient for your meal. The condition also varies from model to model.

Unit with smaller wood chip tray will accommodate a small number of wood chips that can only provide you short time smoking, while smokers with larger trays will be enough to hold wood chips for 8-10 hours of smoking.

Is Soaking Wood Chips Is Necessary Or Not?

I’ve found many people confused about soaking wood chips in water or not. I’d say it totally depends on you whether you want to soak them or not.

Let me explain what happens when you soak wood chips. Soaking wood chips is usually done to enhance the amount of smoke. A cloud of smoke starts coming out from soaked wood chips. But what you’re considering smoke is actually steam.

Before building the smoke inside the chamber, wood chips will dry up first by raising steam that has nothing to do with smoke.

So this is the reason why some people don’t soak wood chips. But there are some that do it due to some benefits such as many people soak wood chips inside liquids like juice or wine that match the flavor of wood chips.

To get more of a specific taste, it’d be better to soak chips in that particular flavor of the liquid. But as you know it’s not mandatory because wood chips already have flavor and when you simply soak them inside water the taste will remain the same.

Soaking wood chips will be a better idea if you want to smoke your meat on a wood plank. The steam will raise the temperature and also add extra moisture to your smoker.

You can also soak wood chips if you want to smoke meat at low temperatures for a long period of time.


  • If you already have flavored wood chips, you’ll lose the original taste if you soak them inside liquid other than plain water.
  • You can also skip soaking when you don’t need extra smoke. For regular cooking, you can rely on dry chips as many people build moisture by using a cotton cloth or something like that.
  • If you have decided to soak wood chips, then it’d be better to soak them for at least 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Kinds Of Wood Chips You Can Use

Most of the consumers go for choosing maple wood or mesquite wood chips in the process of smoking. However, many other types are also available to provide various tastes and for different smells. You can try hickory, cherry, plum, and alder. There are the following types of wood chips present:

  • Oakwood chips
  • Hickory wood chips
  • Walnut wood chips
  • Applewood chips
  • Cherry wood chips
  • Mesquite wood chips
  • Alder wood chips
  • Maple wood chips
  • Pecan wood chips
  • Plum wood chips

Important Tips

Whether you are experienced with smoking or a newbie, by following the below-mentioned tips, you can do your job easily.

  • Always check previous batches of wood chips before adding more chips inside the tray. If the previous ones are still generating smoke then wait a bit before adding new chips.
  • Never overload wood chips tray because some of them will fall onto drip tray and it won’t be good.
  • Remove burnt ashes after every session otherwise they will restrict the smoke.
  • Add wood chips promptly because when you open the door, a lot of heat and smoke will escape by lowering the temperature inside the unit. So it’d be better to avoid it to save energy and heat.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

How can you keep wood chips from catching fire in an electric smoker?

To keep your wood chips safe from catching fire, you can either soak them in water or wrap them in aluminum foil. You can even use a smoker box for this purpose to avoid their direct contact with the heating element.

What is the amount of wood chips you need in your smoker?

For 4 to 5 hours of smoking 4 cups of wood chips will be sufficient. But it can vary due to different sizes of wood chip trays and the type of food you’re planning to smoke.

At what lowest temperature do chips start smoldering?

It depends on the distance between the chip tray and lava rocks or heating elements. Roughly, at 570 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, the wood begins to smolder.

What are some of the best wood chips?

For an electric smoker, cedar, cherry, apple, mesquite, hickory, and plum chips are some of the best wood chips to use. These are specifically best for certain meats and fishes.

Samy is an industrial engineer and fellow meat enthusiast. He works as a graphic designer and content manager for

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