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Should You Soak Your Wood Chips?

Posted by Jake Eller on

Should You Soak Your Wood Chips?
In the BBQ and smoking world, there are tons of debates.

What's the perfect temperature to smoke a brisket at?
What's the BEST charcoal to use?
What flavor of wood should I use for that perfect pork loin?
The list goes on.

Most of these come down to opinion of taste and many other factors. We’ll be discussing a hot topic in the smoking world. No pun intended.
I’m sure that if you’ve been in the ‘que game for a while, you’ve probably heard of using soaked or wet wood when smoking. There’s a handful of gurus that swear by it. They say it adds lifespan to the wood. Which can eliminate the hassle of replacing burned chunks. Specifically, on those longer and slower smokes. I’ve personally tested both ways and came to my own conclusion. And we all think our own opinion is correct.... right?
Let’s look at four facts:
Fact 1: When you soak your wood chips or chunks it slows the process of “smoking”. The initial   “smoke” you see is actually the water evaporating out of the chunks and chips. This steam is flavorless and useless. Your chunk will not start producing the desired smoke UNTIL all moisture is gone.
Fact 2: Soaked wood will increase the lifespan of that specific wood. This may be true, but not with a positive outcome. The steam that is created doesn’t have the same flavor of your desired wood. In fact, it can produce a nasty taste and texture on the outside of your meat.
Fact 3: Wood chunks don’t get that wet. The outer shell of the chunk may seem to be wet, but the inside isn’t “soaked”. It can take a VERY long time to soak the chunk clear through. Chips, however, get soaked very quickly.
Fact 4: Wet wood can cause temperature to be inconsistent. The steam coming off the wood can smolder the hot coals. This creates an unstable environment for the coals to burn. Which cools the overall temperature. We all know how tough it can be to keep a smoker at a specific temperature anyways. Let’s not add to the hassle by dropping wet chunks into the fire pit.
In conclusion, wet wood is useless. If anything, it hurts the smoking process.
Sure, your precious wood chunks may last longer. BUT you’ll be adding unwanted flavors to your meat that you’ve spent hours preparing for that family reunion. Let’s not add a reason for your in-laws to dislike you.