Using BBQ Wood Chips or Chunks for Extra Flavor

One of the great things about using a charcoal barbecue is that great smoky flavor that gets infused into the food. BBQ wood chips and chunks (or pellets) can add even more flavor to your foods. Many types of wood chips and chunk for smokers are available, and depending on the type of you choose, you can easily add different flavors to barbecued meat.

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Of all the BBQ tips available, figuring out which wood chips work best with what types of meat is one of the best ... just for the simple reason that it adds even more tastiness to the food!

  • Alder wood chips or chunks are the ideal choice for fish, although it also goes well with chicken or other poultry. It gives a light, sweet flavor that goes especially well with BBQ salmon recipes.

  • Apple wood chips and chunks also have a sweet flavor. It tastes and smells fruity, too, and is a good choice for salmon and other types of fatty fish, and delicious on pork. Also good for beef and chicken on the grill. We don't normally use apple wood chips on their own, but mix it with some other type (usually alder, when we barbecue salmon. Very tasty!).

  • Cherry wood chips and chunks give a mild, sweet flavor and are especially good with beef or pork, or for mixing with other types of wood chips.

  • Hickory wood chunks and chips give a strong, bold smoky flavor and is best used lightly until you know just how strong a flavor you like! Use it for beef, pork, and poultry.

  • Maple wood chips and chunks are mild with a touch of sweetness. Good for mixing with other types of wood chips with stronger flavors.

  • Mesquite wood chunks and chips give the strongest, smokiest flavor. Again, use lightly until you know just how much smoky flavor you like. Best with beef. We usually mix other, fruity type of wood chips into the mesquite so that it's not quite so strong. A little goes a long way!

  • Oak wood chips and chunks are a good bet for nearly any type of meat. Very popular.

  • Pecan wood chips and chunks are delicious for chicken (and other poultry) and fish, but also good on nearly any type of meat. Similar to hickory but not as strong.

Okay, now maybe we don't need to say this, but we will anyways: don't go out and pick up a piece of scrap wood, chop it up, and throw it in your barbecue. The wood you use should be just that, wood, without any weird chemicals, nails, glue, or any other strange (and inedible) stuff.

How to Use Wood Chips and Chunks

  • Soak the chips or chunks in water for an hour or two prior to use. Wet wood produces a lot of smoke, which is exactly what we want!

  • Before using, drain the chips (you don't want them dripping wet). If you don't want to use all of them at once, cover the remaining wood chips with a damp towel for later.

  • Start light - use only a handful or two of chips at first until you know just how much flavor it gives, and how much you like.

  • Read the directions for your barbecue - they all work differently. You might want to get a smoker box for your BBQ to make it easier. With the Big Green Egg, the cooker we use most of the time, we just dump the soaked wood chips along the edges of the charcoal.

  • Heat your barbecue to a nice, hot temperature to get the wood chips / chunks smokingly nicely. Then you can reduce the temperature to whatever temp you want to cook at.

  • Keep the lid closed on your BBQ. This will keep all that good smoke trapped inside, so that it can circulate and permeate your food with those wonderful flavors.

  • Smoking foods at lower temperatures for longer times helps to give it a premium smoky flavor.

  • Periodically check your wood chips... if they're all used up or no longer smoking, you can add more moist chips.

  • If you end up with leftover chips or chunks you didn't use, you can let them dry out and then re-soak them again later when you need them.


BBQ wood chips and chunks are one of the easiest ways to add great flavor to your grilled and barbecued meats. Experiment with different types of chips and different mixtures... that's part of the fun of barbecuing!



This website offers tips on how to BBQ as well as some of our favorite barbecue recipes. We barbecue with a charcoal grill in an outdoor kamado-style cooker called The Big Green Egg. We love food and we love the grill, and hope you enjoy our recipes!