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Smoking wood chips explored and explained

A close up picture of freshly cut smoking wood chips

The BBQ culture is always on. New trends, techniques and tastes spring forth. Fresh experiences open up. It’s a dynamic and vibrant realm. Smoking wood chips aren’t a new entity per se. However, due to the BBQ smoking renaissance, the popularity of our chippy chums has skyrocketed. So what do you know about BBQ smoking wood chips? Gimmick or full of flavour? No need to indulge in some deep musing, we’ll explain how to see the wood chips for the trees.


What is BBQ smoking?

If you are gearing up for some smoking action, it’s beneficial to know a little more about what you’re walking into. Smoking meat has been around for yonks – we’re talking Palaeolithic era yonks. Over thousands of years the products may have changed, but the premise has remained the same. BBQ smoking is all about cooking meat at low temperatures using the indirect heat and smoke produced from burning wood. Think BBQ smoking wood chips, chunks and logs. This differs from regular barbecuing <LINK>, when we grill hot and fast using direct heat from the charcoal underneath the grill.

There are two types of BBQ smoking: hot smoking and cold smoking. We will be focussing on hot smoking for now. That being said, hot smoking delivers temperatures of around 300 degrees Fahrenheit to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal is to impart a smoky flavour and cook the meat simultaneously. This low and slow technique is perfect for heavier and thicker cuts of meat like ribs , pork shoulder and brisket.


How does BBQ smoking create flavour?

Not to demystify the process too much, but it all boils down to basic chemistry. Wood smoke is essentially made up of trillions of microscopic particles, from water vapour and gases to organic matter. Some of these particles are compounds of the natural chemicals found in wood, such as lignin and cellulose. These are taste makers, imparting that smoky goodness we all know and love. How? The compound particles engage with, and penetrate through, the meat in a process of infusion.


What are the different kinds of BBQ smoking chips and wood?

So now you know the smoking basics, it’s time to get a little more specific. Let’s look at all the woody wonders out there. It’s all about about size and grades people. In other words, the size of the wood pieces affect aroma and flavour. We have wood logs, often called ‘stick burners’, that you can use in offset barrel smokers and pretty much any regular barbecue grill. Next up we have wood chunks and chips – perfect for most bbq smokers and conventional grills. Got a pellet smoker? Then you’ll be reaching for the smoking pellets made from compressed hardwood saw dust.  If you’re deep in the electric smoker game, then you’ll probably be all about your coarse sawdust, or sawdust discs. And finally, for the handheld and stovetop smoker users, regular hardwood logs will work nicely.


A pile of smoking wood chips that has been freshly made See copy above for insertion point


Smoking chips explained

To keep things clear and concise we will be lavishing our attention onto lovely smoking wood chips. Now, wood chips are simply a bi-product from cutting larger pieces of wood. The size of chip can vary from less than an inch to about 2 inches in size. Obviously wood chips aren’t as dense as logs or chunks, however they combust quicker. This means your smoky infusion will begin faster, and therefore earlier, within the smoking process.  Wood chips are also very versatile, so you can add them to the majority of barbecues and smokers with no issues.


What types of wood chips are there?


Where do wood chips come from? Wood. So in fact, it’s the wood itself that is of importance. The best woods for smoking come from deciduous trees –  especially nut tress like – hickory and pecan. Fruit trees, such as apple and cherry, produce amazing wood for BBQ smoking too. We should avoid pine and softwoods as they give foods a slightly bitter and tar-like taste. Sounds appetising. Here’s a quick wood chip run down for your BBQ notebook.


Best wood chips for smoking?

Maple and Cherry

Burns creating a sweet-ish smoke. Perfect for cooking chicken and pork, imparting a subtle sweetness in the meat.


This wood produces a sweet aroma, delivering a fruity and slightly zingy taste to your meat. Pairs perfectly with chicken and pork.


Experience a light and nutty flavour complimenting beef, pork and chicken


Meet the most popular kid in BBQ smoking school.  Hickory smoking chips deliver a deep, rich and spicy smokiness into the mix – ideal for any meat especially beef. It goes well with seafood too.


Our beech friend is a smash in Germany and Scandinavia, mostly being used to smoke pork dishes.


Make way for some seriously dynamic, earthy flavours and smokiness. Mesquite is massive in the American Southwest, Texas, and Hawaii for beef and seafood


Introducing a Jack of all Trades! Oak produces a subtle yet effective base layer of smokiness to all dishes from meats and seafood to vegetables.

Allspice wood:

If you’re looking to get your Jamaican Jerk on this spicy and b=vibrant wood is a must.


How to use wood chips in a smoker or grilling on charcoal?

If you have any kind of BBQ smoker, we’re assuming that you’re probably at a certain level of BBQ IQ. So you probably don’t need us to hold your hand through the process. However if you have a conventional barbecue, and you’re angling for some lo-fi smoky flavour, here’s a few quick pointers to help you out.

  • Get your charcoal going and wait until it is white hot. Then simply add 1-2 handfuls of smoking wood chips to your charcoal pile.
  • Wait until your chips are starting to emanate a constant and light smouldering smoke.
  • Now add your meat.
  • If you’re grilling using indirect heat, you’ll need to add about 1- 2 cups of wood chips every 45 minutes
  • Make sure to open all the air vents in your grill. The increased airflow helps control the smoulder, keeping things nice and gradual.
  • If you’re seeing mega white plumes of smoky smog then your wood chips are burning too fast, so look to reduce the temperature of the grill.

You can also create a smoking ‘packet’ by wrapping your chips in tin foil and placing the ‘packet’ on your coals in the same way outlined above. This wrap acts like a mini smoking box of sorts.


Big K has all the smoking wood chips you could possible need

Looking for BBQ smoking chips? Look no further than We are definitely pros in the wood chip smoking game. Don’t just take our word for it. Check out our chips for yourself.


A product shot of restaurant grade cherry smoking wood chips


Restaurant Grade Cherry Wood Chips £25.00

  • 100% Natural Cherry Wood Chips
  • Add a deep fruity flavour to your foods
  • Blend with hickory for a taste sensation
  • Soak in water, wine or herb infused liquids
  • Natural flavour enhancer
  • Unlimited combinations


Product shot of the full range of restaurant grade smoking wood chips


Restaurant Grade Hickory Wood Chips  £25.00

  • 100% Natural Hickory Wood Chips
  • Add a deep smoky flavour to your foods
  • Blend with other wood chips for a sweeter flavour
  • Soak in water, wine, or herb infused liquids
  • Natural flavour enhancer
  • Unlimited combinations


Restaurant Grade Oak wood chips £25.00

  • 100% natural Oak Wood Chips
  • The most popular choice for adding depth of flavour
  • Blend with apple and cherry
  • Soak in water, wine or herb infused liquids
  • Natural flavour enhancer
  • Unlimited combinations

Whichever wood chips you choose, we would suggest soaking your chips for about 30 minutes before use. This will ensure the best smoking experience possible – with just the right of smoky goodness. Want to know more? Feast your eyes on even more wood chip info here.

We have come to the end of yet another trip down BBQ lane. We do hope that you have picked up some new knowledge along the way. Keep your eyes peeled and your grills open for more insights coming down the digital pipe soon.