How to Use Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker (3 Easy Methods)

If you’re wondering how to use wood chips in an electric smoker, you’re in the right place!

In this guide, you’ll learn: 

  • How to use wood chips in an electric smoker
  • Different types of wood chips available for smoking
  • And much more!

Using Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker

So, you have an electric smoker but want to enhance the smoky flavor of your meats? Using wood chips can give you just what you are looking for.

Before you start adding in your wood and firing up the smoker, there are some important things you should know. These factors could make the difference between delicious smoked meats and ones that taste just a bit off.

There are several different methods of using wood chips in your electric smoker, and there are several different types of wood you can use. Read on to learn all about using wood chips in your electric smoker.

Why Should You Use Wood Chips with an Electric Smoker?

Most grillers know that if you want the best smoky flavors in your meats, the best way to do that is to use wood chips. This is because wood chips, depending on the type you use, can add in not only a smoky flavor but also a bit of individual wood flavor as well. 

Using a barbecue grill to create tasty meals has been done for many years with great success for those who take the time to learn. Using a smoker for some of your meat cuts will add variety to your grilled meals.

Supplies You Will Need to Use Wood Chips in Your Electric Smoker

When it comes to getting your electric smoker ready to cook, there are not many supplies that you will need to have at the ready. This is because your smoker should come equipped with all of the things you need.

You will, however, need to have picked out the wood chips that you are planning to use for the meat you are going to smoke. Keep in mind that the last thing you want to do while you are actively cooking is to run back and forth to grab things you need.

It is always best to ensure that you have everything you need ready to go especially when you are cooking for more than your family. Once you start the smoking process, you will need to make sure you have your wood chip tray loaded and everything else ready.

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How to Use Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker (3 Methods)

Learning to use wood chips in an electric smoker can be an overwhelming process if you have never used one before. Like other ways to grill, using an electric smoker can be a great way to create delicious meals for your family.

While there are straightforward ways that you can use the electric smoker, there are three common ways that people tend to use wood chips. 

Using the Wood Chip Tray

Most electric smokers come equipped with a wood chip tray that you can use to load in your wood chips. This is the most standard way to use wood chips in your electric smoker and the method that is suggested by most manufacturers.

Here are the steps to using your wood chip tray:

Step 1: make sure your electric smoker is clean and ready to use before you begin to avoid any delays. 

Step 2: Preheat your smoker to the desired temperature for the meat you are preparing

Step 3: Fill the water tray with water. This will keep moisture in the chamber and your food. Additionally, the water tray is a good place to add a few spices that will stick with your meat.

Step 4: Remove the wood chip tray and add your desired wood chips to the bottom of the tray. You will need to ensure that you have enough wood chips in the tray for the entire cooking process. 

Step 5: Continuously monitor your wood chip tray and smoke content to ensure that it is all working properly. This will ensure that you are getting the best smoky flavor in your favorite meals.

Smoker Box Method

Another popular method for using wood chips in your electric smoker is by using the smoker box method. It is important to note that you can either purchase a smoker box or with a little bit of effort, you can create your own.

A smoker box is just a contraption that is used to store your wood chips during the smoking process. It is typically made out of either stainless steel or cast iron. Many people often will use a tin can to create a smoker box if they do not have anything else.

Here is how to use the smoker box method to create deliciously smoked meals:

Step 1: Make sure your electric smoker is clean and ready to use.

Step 2: Preheat the smoker to your desired temperature.

Step 3: Whether you have made your smoker box, or purchased one, you will want to ensure that it has plenty of holes in it. This allows oxygen to enter the box which creates a phenomenal smoking effect.

Step 4: Fill the box with your desired wood type.

Step 5: Place the smoker box over the heating element to begin the smoking process.

Step 6: Make sure the door to the chamber stays closed at all times.

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Foil Pouch Method

Some electric smokers do not come equipped with a wood tray for you to place your wood chips in. If this is the case, don’t worry, because you can still get that smoky flavor to your meats by using this method.

While many people will invest in a smoker box or create their own when they do not have a wood tray, others prefer a simpler method. The foil pouch method can be used on the fly and is just as effective.

Here is how to use the foil pouch method to add wood chips to your electric smoker:

Step 1: Make sure your electric smoker is clean and ready to use, for the best results.

Step 2: Preheat your smoker to the desired temperature.

Step 3: Fill the water pan with water to allow for moisture to circulate into your meat.

Step 4: Place a sheet of aluminum foil on your counter and add your desired type of wood to the center. The amount you add depends on the size of your foil, however, you do not want to add too much or too little. Typically, 1 cup of wood chips is plenty to start with.

Step 5: Fold and crimp the aluminum foil around the wood creating a kind of pouch that allows the wood to stay firmly. 

Step 6: Poke holes directly into the top of the aluminum foil pouch to allow smoke to escape.

Step 7: Prepare additional pouches just in case you want to smoke your meats a bit longer than the one pouch will last.

Step 8: Place the pouch directly on your heating element. This will heat the pouch and produce smoke that will rise into your meat for a delicious smoky flavor.

fact about electric smokers and adding wood chips

What Types of Wood Should You Use with an Electric Smoker?

Many different types of wood can be used in your electric smoker from hickory to mesquite. The type you use depends on your personal preferences and what flavor you wish to introduce into your meats.

Most people who use an electric smoker with wood chips recommend that you use hardwood chips instead of softwood chips. This is because the softer wood chips tend to burn off quickly and do not produce as much smoke, which defeats the purpose.

Additionally, you will want to consider the type of meat you are going to cook before deciding on the wood chips to use. This is because different wood chips produce different flavors and various levels of strength.

Here are some of the most popular types of wood chips that are used for electric smokers:

  • Hickory and oak produce strong woodsy flavors that stand up well with meats such as pork, beef, and ribs.
  • Mesquite has a very distinctive flavor that should be experimented with before you begin to use it for guests. You may need to use either more chips or fewer depending on the potency of the flavor.
  • Fruitwoods such as apple, peach, and cherry tend to produce flavors that are a bit milder and are great for fish and poultry dishes. This does not mean that you cannot use them for other meats, just that you may have to use them more.

While this list does not cover every type of wood chips you could use in your electric smoker, it should give you a great starting point. The best thing you can do is experiment with different woods with various types of meat until you find exactly what you are looking for.

How Much Wood Chips to Use in an Electric Smoker

The amount of wood you add to your electric smoker will depend on your personal preferences, however, it is recommended that you fill the entire wood chip tray. This will allow the smoking process to continue throughout the cooking time.

The rule of thumb is that if you like the smoky flavor, you may want to add in more wood chips and keep a heavy smoke going. If you like a little less smoky flavor, then use fewer chips to start with.

Depending on the length of time your specific meat needs to be cooked, you can measure out the right amount of wood chips that will last. For example, if you are planning to smoke your meat for more than three hours, you may want to plan for about four cups of wood chips.

If your smoker comes equipped with a wood tray, then it is easy to keep this stocked throughout the process. However, if you are using a foil pouch, then you will need to plan for how much you will need to prepare.

Keep in mind that when it comes to using wood chips in an electric smoker, you will most likely need to experiment with different methods to find what works best for you. Once you have determined how much wood chips you need, then smoking your favorite meats should be a breeze.

What is an Electric Smoker?

An electric smoker is much like the charcoal-burning ones that are standard for most grillers. The biggest difference is that an electric smoker uses electric rods that heat up instead of charcoal.

The majority of electric smokers are made from either stainless steel or cast iron, which provides better durability for smoking meats. These smokers are powered by an electrical outlet with a heating rod to provide the heat.

They typically come equipped with a heating element, a water tray, a smoking chamber, and in many cases a wood chip tray. While brands and models vary in their capabilities, these are the basic elements of the electric smoker.

How Does an Electric Smoker Operate?

When it comes to operating your electric smoker, it comes down to the individual parts that work together to create the whole. This includes parts such as the heating element, cooking chamber, wood tray, and much more.

The heating element acts as the source of heat to warm the entire cooking chamber and keep things at the right temperature. The element is nothing more than an electric rod that sits at the center of the entire unit. 

The cooking chamber acts as a convection oven by holding in the air that is circulating to smoke the meat. This creates meats that are tender and delicious once they are mixed with the aromas of the wood.

The wood tray is added in with just the right amount of whichever wood chips you choose to add in an element of smoke. This is what creates the amazingly delicious smoky flavor you get if you have followed directions.

Final Thoughts on How to Use Wood Chips in an Electric Smoker

The bottom line when it comes to using wood chips in an electric smoker is that you need to know what your unit is equipped with. This will determine whether or not you need to prepare for other methods of smoking or not.

In addition, if you want to create the best-smoked meats that you can, you may want to spend some time experimenting with various methods and wood types. Once you have done that, then you can truly become the smoke master that you desire.

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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