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Wood Pellets vs. Wood Chips (Best Choice for Smoking and Grilling)

Wood Pellets vs. Wood Chips (Best Choice for Smoking and Grilling)

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For the perfect smoky flavor when grilling or smoking meat, the choice between wood pellets and chips can make all the difference. Though they seem similar, their size, burn rate, flavor, and versatility set them apart. 

In this post, I compare wood pellets vs. wood chips to help you decide which is best for your smoking and grilling needs. I’ll cover how each is made, their best uses, flavors, and more. 

Let’s jump right into it!

What Is There to Know About Wood Pellets?

First up, let’s talk about wood pellets.

Wooden Pegs And Chopped Timber Logs Wood Pellets

How They’re Made

Wood pellets are made from hardwood that has been finely ground into little pieces, and then compressed into pellets.

This makes them somewhat manufactured, which means that you will need to make an extra effort to look for pellets that don’t have additives in them that can affect the taste of your foods.

Best Uses

Pellets can be used in both grills and smokers, although they are certainly more suited to smoking meats. Speaking of smoking meats, you can use wood pellets for both hot and cold smoking.

Hot smoking is the traditional smoking process that you know and love, essentially using heat and smoke to cook the meat. 

Cold smoking, on the other hand, is a way to smoke meats, nuts, and cured meats without necessarily cooking them. This means that you essentially add the smoke flavor without any of the heat.

Burn Rate

What makes wood pellets better for smoking meats is that they can burn hotter, and they burn much more slowly than wood chips. This is important for two reasons.

For one, this makes it much, much easier for you to control the temperature of the smoker. The temperature of the smoker is what determines how fast your meat is going to cook, and it is arguably one of the most important things to pay attention to.

Also Read: Big Green Egg or Traeger Grill: Which Is the Best Choice?

The other reason that this is important to note is that if you are using less fuel to maintain a particular temperature, you can save money over time, and this is something that anyone can appreciate.

Smoked Texas Bbq Brisket In A Smoker


Wood pellets produce a consistent smoke, without producing a lot of ash. This allows you to easily and evenly smoke your meats without having to worry about ash buildup.

When you are working with a smoker, ash buildup is one of the last things you want, making it all the more important for you to choose the option that is easier for you.

When you go searching for wood pellets, you will find that they come in a variety of different woods, allowing you the option to find the flavor that suits your taste best. Before you know it, you will be able to efficiently smoke meats to perfection when you choose wood pellets.

What Is There to Know About Wood Chips?

With pellets out of the way, let’s talk wood chips!

Wooden Smoking Chips

How They’re Made

Wood chips are hardwood pieces that have been run through a wood chipper to become the little chips of wood that they are. This leaves them relatively rough around the edges, literally, especially when it comes to size and shape.

While this doesn’t have an impact on the grilling or smoking of meats, it can certainly look strange when there are countless variations in size and shape when you pick up a pack of chips.

Best Uses

If you are aiming for juicier meat, you are absolutely going to want to soak the wood chips in water before you put them on the grill.

Soaking wood chips in water will help it generate steam when you set them alight. The steam is one of the key components in making sure that your meats end up moist and decadent, rather than dried out and tough.

Speaking of putting wood chips on the grill, you will want to be careful putting them in a smoker. This is because some wood chips can produce a bitter-tasting smoke that can ruin just about any and every cut of meat.

That being said, wood chips are superb fuel for the grill if you are using anything other than a gas-powered grill. If you want to add a smoked flavor to your meat without spending all of your time at the smoker, then wood chips are absolutely the way to go.

Before you know it, you will have a flavorful, juicy piece of meat that you can serve to your friends or family when you choose to rely on wood chips as fuel for your grill.

Wood Chips Soaking In Water For Smoking In Bbq Smoker

Burn Rate

Typically, wood chips will burn considerably quicker than pellets, although there are ways to try and ensure that they won’t burn as fast. 

Usually, what you will do is soak the wood chips in water. Doing so can actually provide other benefits to the meats as well as ensuring the wood chips don’t burn to a crisp as soon as you light them up.


Rather than providing an even smoking flavor as wood pellets do, wood chips provide bursts of its natural smoke flavors. The actual flavor of the smoke will depend entirely on the type of wood you are using. Some woods, such as many fruit woods, produce a mild, muted flavor.

Other woods, such as hickory and mesquite, produce a bolder and more pronounced flavor. You should use wood chips sparingly when working with the stronger flavors, so as not to over-flavor your meats.

Best Woods for Smoking and Grilling

The best wood for smoking tends to be more robust hardwoods like hickory, oak, and mesquite. These varieties can impart a stronger, bolder flavor. 

  • Hickory: Classic bold, bacon-flavored smoke. Perfect for pork, ribs, and beef.
  • Oak: Strong smoke profile. Perfect for hearty meats. 
  • Mesquite: Intense, earthy flavor. Best suited for game meats and vegetables.
    For grilling, mild fruit and nut woods like apple, cherry, and pecan allow the natural wood flavors to shine through. 
  • Apple: Mild, sweet smoke. Compliments fish, poultry, and veggies nicely. 
  • Cherry: Slightly tangy smoke. Best suited for chicken, burgers, and salmon.
  • Pecan: Rich yet mild. Great with lamb, fish, and poultry. 

You must consider the intensity of the smoke flavor you want and match lighter or heavier wood accordingly. I recommend experimenting with different types to find your favorite combinations. 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to infusing smoky flavor into your grilled or smoked foods, both wood pellets and chips have their advantages. 

Pellets are best for smoking because they burn slowly and evenly at very precise temperatures. Chips, on the other hand, give off bursts of natural smoke flavors, which makes them perfect for grilling. 

For grillers wanting convenience, chips are the best. For smokers wanting perfect temperature regulation, pellets are the way to go.

Also Read: Can You Use Wood Chips for Mulch? (Discover the Pros & Cons)


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