It can be hard to decide what kind of wood you want to use for smoking or grilling your food. Should you use massive logs of wood so that you don’t really have to change them out all that often? Or should you stick with wood pellets?
Is there even a functional difference between wood pellets and wood chips? The truth is, there’s a considerable amount of difference between wood pellets and wood chips.
From how wood pellets and wood chips are made, to what their uses are, to whether they are better for a grill or a smoker, there’s actually quite a fair bit to consider when you are trying to decide which is better for your purposes.
With that being said, you should know what separates wood pellets and wood chips so that you can use the right one the next time you want to grill or smoke some meats for your family or friends.
What Is There to Know About Wood Pellets?
First things first, you should know where the wood pellets come from. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 on you.
In the end, wood pellets are absolutely perfect for smoking meats. They last longer, burn hotter, and smoke more evenly than wood chips, allowing you to make the most out of your smoked meats.
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.
Wood chips, on the other hand, are a completely different type of wood to use when it comes to grilling and smoking meats.
What Is There to Know About Wood Chips?
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.
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 with.
Typically, wood chips will burn considerably more quickly than pellets do, 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.
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.
If you are aiming for a juicier meat, you are absolutely going to want to soak the wood chips in water before you put them on the grill.
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.
However, 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.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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