Electric smokers are fantastically convenient since they let us simply set a timer and then leave it to do all the work for us. Being electrically operated though, we do find ourselves asking “Can you use wood chips with an electric smoker?” and “Do you soak wood chips for electric smokers?”
In short, yes you can absolutely use wood chips in an electric smoker, and when it comes to soaking wood chips before smoking, this is simply a personal preference. We’ve found that the only real time that you should soak the wood chips in beer, wine, or juice beforehand is when you’re looking to add a bit more complexity to the flavor.
Soaking wood chips before smoking is also believed that it can help maximize the amount of smoke that you can draw out from the wood; however, we’ve found that the most influencing factor in smoke production is less about the soaking and more focused on the type of wood and the smoker you’re using.
That said, we will provide you with tried-and-tested food-smoking tips and tricks as well as give a list of some of the most recommended wood chips that you can try out
Our Tops Tips for Smoking Food
Whether you’re new to the world of smoking or you’re a seasoned chef who specializes in smoked dishes, there are always some great tips and tricks that you may not have been aware of. Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite tips and tricks to get the most out of each session.
1. Wood Chips and Electrical Smokers
Now, just to point out, most electric smokers are designed to accommodate wood-chip smoking, but if your smoker doesn’t allow such, it’s not a problem. All you need to do is, rather than recycle tin foil like most people do, get yourself an empty metal can and drill a series of holes across the lid. You then simply place your wood chips inside and place it between the heating coils.
For those looking to really get the most out of the wood chips, you could even buy a pellet tube or box smoker, as they would allow for around four or 11 hours of smoking, respectively. Although this is an additional cost to your smoking hobby, it will spare you a ton of time as you won’t need to change out your wood chips continuously.
2. Soaking Wood Chips
Most people are often fooled by the plume of white smoke that comes off of soaked wood chips at the start of the smoking process, when in fact, this isn’t smoke at all but steam. The wood chips will initially have to dry out before beginning to smoke, so this initial plume won’t really add to your smoke volume but instead, is great for adding some flavor to your food items. As mentioned, soaking wood chips in a variety of liquids can add a new level of complexity to your smoking, but if you’re using flavored chips, it’s best not to do this as you’ll lose a lot of that delicate flavor found in the wood.
3. The Classic “Less is More” Technique
When it comes to smoking food, people generally associate more smoke with more flavor, but this isn’t the case. Too much smoke can become overwhelming, and the flavor of both the wood chips and the item you’re smoking will be lost. It actually only takes an incredibly small amount of smoke to create genuinely flavorsome food.
All meat, smoker, and wood chip combinations will require a phase of trial and error in order to find the sweet spot in regard to producing the best result, but that’s half the fun of it.
4. Cooking Poultry
When it comes to cooking items such as chicken, it’s essential to adopt a slightly different style. Firstly, overstocking is extremely common and will often leave the food completely inedible. Secondly, forget “low and slow” as chicken needs to be thoroughly cooked at a higher temperature to ensure it’s evenly cooked throughout. This is when your internal temperature gauges come in handy as the chicken should reach a central temperature of around 165ºF in order to be safe to eat.
Our Top 10 Wood Chip Flavors
- Apple: With a subtly sweet and obviously fruity flavor, apple wood chips are great for all meats (especially ham) and even some seafood.
- Hickory: A strong, sweet, and mellow flavor that lends itself particularly well to pro-based meats such as hams or bacon.
- Maple: Surprisingly not as sweet as you may originally anticipate, this mild smoky flavor goes well with ham, small game birds, and even cheeses.
- Walnut: A strong and slightly bitter flavor, walnut typically isn’t for everyone, so it is often mixed with other wood varieties for a milder taste.
- Pecan: This sweet and nutty flavor is perfect when paired with a variety of fish or poultry.
- Cherry: Slightly milder than apple, cherry delivers a sweet and fruity flavor that’ll leave a rose tint on lighter colored meats.
- Orange: Fantastic for fish and other seafood products, orange wood chips will leave you with a mildly tangy and citrus note.
- Mesquite: One of the hottest burning woods, using mesquite will leave a strong earthy flavor, making it great for red meats.
- Jack Daniel’s: Made from filter charcoal, these Jack Daniel’s coals leave an aromatic taste that is strong and sweet.
- Mulberry: Very similar to the apple wood but with more of a tang, mulberry is great for pork or ham as well as fish.
When answering the question “Do you soak wood chips for electric smokers?”, the exact degree is more of a myth above all else, and while it can prevent the wood from burning right away, it doesn’t really make much of a difference when you factor in that you’ll be burn wood for many hours. Instead, we see soaking wood chips as a great way to add a variety of new and original flavors to your food, creating a new level of diversity that you may not have considered trying before.
Whether or not soaking wood chips before smoking would really depend on your goals as a cook and what you want to provide those who will eat the smoked food. So, go ahead and try it out! Just remember that if you do soak the wood, it’s typically a good idea to leave it in the liquid for at least 30 minutes.
Additionally, if you want to skip the soaking process but want to add other flavors, try out the different flavored wood chips we presented above.