Should I Soak My Pellets Before Smoking? (No, here’s why!)

You’ve just bought a pellet grill, and you are ready to smoke some amazing meats. But should you wet your pellets before smoking? We have the answer!

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Whether or not you should wet your pellets before smoking
  • What happens to wood pellets when they come in contact with water
  • And much more!

Should I Wet My Pellets Before Smoking?

Many people soak their wood chips before using them on their smoker, so should you do the same with your wood pellets?

You should never wet your pellets before you put them in your pellet grill. Pellets, unlike wood chips, disintegrate when wet and will not function as they should. Instead, you should take steps to ensure your pellets stay as dry as possible until you start your cooking session. 

Curious about why this is? Read on to learn more about wood pellets and why you shouldn’t let them anywhere near water.

What are Wood Pellets?

Wood pellets are small, cylindrical bits of wood that are required for using a pellet grill. These pellets are made from wood which has been compressed into a consistent size. 

While wood pellets can be made from any type of wood, no matter what flavor you grabbed, all wood pellets have been compressed using a process that removes moisture from the wood. This helps them to burn evenly when they are lit on fire and allows your pellet grill to work in a predictable and consistent way.

Related >> Pellet Storage Ideas

wood pellets in a pellet smoker hopper

What Happens When Wood Pellets Get Wet?

Because it is a dehydration process that is used to form wood pellets, you can imagine what happens when you add water back to the pellets. The binding process is undone, and the wood pellets will quickly deteriorate. 

Leaving your wood pellets in water for just 30 minutes will cause them to fall apart into a pile of mushy sawdust. Once this happens, you cannot use your wood pellets in your grill or smoker as you won’t be able to light them on fire. 

If you do try to load your pellet grill with wet wood pellets, you will find that the augur will jam, and you may ruin your grill.

Related >> Should You Empty Your Pellets After Each Use?

Wood Chips vs. Wood Pellets

You may be reading this a little bit confused because you may have heard of a family member of yours soaking wood chips before they smoked a piece of meat. This is possible as they likely used wood chips rather than wood pellets. 

Wood chips are small bits of wood that are of different shapes and sizes. Typically they come in small squares, and you can see the wood lines in them. Wood chips are not wood pellets. They are simply bits of wood that can be put in certain smokers, smoker tubes, or directly in your charcoal grill. 

Related >> Best Wood Pellets for Smoking

Unlike wood pellets, wood chips aren’t uniform in size, and therefore the amount of time it takes them to burn may vary. This is why pellet grills were invented–because grillers everywhere wanted a grill they could trust to cook unattended, and that wouldn’t require them to check up on the wood chips all the time. 

While the burning of wood pellets and wood chips differ widely, you will find that most flavors of wood are available in both wood chips and wood pellets. They both also add an amazing smokey flavor to your meats. 

But know that these two fuels are not interchangeable. If you have a pellet grill, you must use wood pellets in it. If you have a smoker tube that only takes wood chips, then you must load it with wood chips. If you try to use one where the other is required, you will quickly find that you have damaged your equipment with disastrous results.

Related >> How To Use a Smoker Tube in Your Pellet Grill

Should You Soak Wood Chips?

Wood chips are much different than wood pellets. Some grills and smokers require them, and when this is the case, you can soak them before you grill if you so choose. 

Just be aware that most people consider soaking your wood chips to be a waste of time. This is because the wood chips aren’t in the liquid long enough to truly soak it up (even when left 24 hours!), and even if you want to soak them in something like whiskey, it likely won’t penetrate deeply enough to make a difference. 

But, unlike with wood pellets, if you truly want to, you can soak wood chips before you put them in a smoke tube or on your charcoal grill. We recommend soaking them in something like whiskey or wine, as there is no point in soaking them in water. Just ensure that your grill takes wood chips before you buy them, and give them plenty of time to soak before you load them into your smoker tube or grill.

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04/11/2024 08:03 pm GMT

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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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