How Long to Soak Wood Chips for Grilling & Smoking Meat?

Are you one of the many people who prefer to use some wood chips when grilling and smoking meat? Well, you have a good reason for using wood chips. Many say that they can create a delectable smoky aroma in meat. Incorporating wood chips into your grill will enhance the authenticity of the meat. Whatever you are cooking, the wood chips can be infused with a smoky taste that is inconceivable to imitate.

However, most of the people who grill and smoke meat using wood chips express that it is necessary to soak the wood chips prior to cooking. But the common question is – how long to soak wood chips for grilling & smoking meat? Is this really required?

Soaking Wood Chips before Cooking

Many people say that it will only take around 10 minutes to soak wood chips. This should be enough to enjoy that enticing smoky taste. Some studies emphasized that solid pieces of wood could ingest minimal water even if they are soaked for several hours. Wood chips, on the other hand, absorb more water consider their greater surface area.

However, there are some arguments with regards to the process of soaking the wood chips. When you put drenched wood in a grill or smoker, you will notice that it does not easily burn. It happens because the water content should evaporate first from the wood.

This scenario takes place at a boiling point of water or 212 degrees Fahrenheit until such time that the water becomes steam. The wood can only initiate heating once the moisture has been eliminated from the wood. This is the time that the wood finally creates smoke and provides your meat with a smoky taste.

Why Is It Necessary to Soak Wood Chips?

Since wood will not immediately smolder once wet, soaking your wood chips for grilling can give them the advantage of lasting longer. The drenched wood will burn while it ignites, providing you a steady and slow production of smoke.

If you decide not to undergo your wood chips soaking, there is a big chance that they will immediately catch fire. Because of this nature, they can possibly burn up even before they could provide any authentic smoky flavor. Of course, you have the choice to constantly put additional chips, soaking your wood chips can be more convenient and affordable over time.

The moment you put the wood chips to the smoker or grill, closely check the kind of smoke created. If you notice that the smoke is white, then it is an indication that the wood has lots of water vapor. You can see bluish smoke if you are using dry wood. The white smoke you see means that the chips were soaked at the appropriate time.             

Can You Soak Wood Chips Longer?

If you are curious to know whether it is fine to soak the wood chips longer, then yes, it is. However, it is recommended to soak the wood chips for a maximum of 24 hours before using them for grilling.

Although some people are quite sure that 10 minutes of soaking is enough, this does not provide the wood enough time to take in the moisture. Having said that, you should then know that this will forfeit the reason for soaking the wood chips to start with.

If you think it is possible, you should soak the wood chips one day before using them. The key is good planning. Planning well can save you from trouble and offer you satisfying outputs. In case your wood chips are very small, then you should consider preparing them for your grill for at least 8 to 12 hours.

The bigger chips can be soaked for up to 24 hours. It wouldn’t be good if you soak them longer as it can only cause the mineral to leach out the chips. Once this happens, the flavor of your meat can be affected and you can no longer achieve that delectable, smoky flavor.

Can You Soak Wood Chips Shorter than the Recommended Time?

The other question now is whether you can soak wood chips shorter than the recommended time. For shorter applications, it is okay to soak the wood chips shorter than what is recommended. For instance, if you are cooking some bratwurst and you only like to get a hint of smoky aroma, then you can only soak the wood chips for one hour. Moreover, sausages are already pre-cooked so you do not have to grill them longer.


So, how long to soak wood chips for grilling & smoking meat? You should know the answer to this question now. Soaking the wood chips does not intend to add more work to your grilling task, it can certainly help improve the taste of your meat. Although the process is not mandatory, it gives you the chance to discover new combinations of flavor.

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