Can you use wood in a charcoal smoker

Last Updated on: 23rd April 2023, 01:14 am

Yes, you can use wood in a charcoal smoker because it imparts a smokey flavor to the food.

The charcoal smoker basically has two fuel sources: charcoal and wood.

Charcoal is used to provide a constant high temperature, while wood is used to produce a stream of smoke to give flavor to food.

In fact, most smokers, whether they are traditional or electric, work by using two fuel sources, among which wood is the essential one.

The second source can be charcoal, propane, or electricity to heat up the smoker.

Smoke contains gases that give meat a smokey flavor and aroma. These gases are present in wood.

The combustible gases get burnt while the non-combustible gases leave the wood in the form of smoke.

These gases enhance the taste of food in many ways, including generating a smoke ring and giving a smokey flavor.

Coals are burnt wood and don’t contain these gases, so it’s essential to use wood in charcoal smokers for flavor.

Being a passionate pitmaster, I can’t even think of smoking meat without wood.

Woods are really effective for enhancing the flavor of the meat.

I personally like to use a blend of fruit woods and hardwoods to get the best flavor from food.

Smoking is a low and slow process which requires maintaining the low temperature constant for a long time to get the best results.

Wood chunks are an excellent option for cooking food by smoking technique because they can keep burning for a long time without any effort.

Using wood as a heat source

Using wood for the sake of flavor is essential, but using wood as the main fuel for providing heat is not recommended for multiple reasons.

  • First of all, wood chips can burn quickly if they are used for the production of heat. So you will have to add them frequently to keep the process going.
  • Secondly, even if you are willing to put in extra effort to use wood as a heat source, you can’t heat up the smoker to higher temperatures with wood chips.
    Wood can’t replace charcoal in terms of providing higher temperatures for a longer time.
  • Lastly, the temperature generated by wood chunks is not constant and keeps fluctuating over time.
    The fluctuating temperature can result in uneven cooking of meat.

    But if you want to use wood as a heat source, you can use it, but keep in mind that you will need more effort than charcoal.
    The wood can also be used as a heat source in some situations because charcoal became popular in the 19th century while wood has been used to cook food for ages.

Tips for using wood in a charcoal smoker

Woods are the foundation of smoking in a charcoal smoker, so it’s best to use them in an appropriate way to enhance the flavor of your meat.

Here are a few effective tips for using wood in a charcoal smoker.

  • You should consider selecting an appropriate wood type in the first place.
    Using the wrong wood type can demage the taste of your meat even if you do the remaining process right.
    You should consider doing some research before selecting a final wood.
  • You should be careful about the size of the wood.
    If you are planning for a longer smoke, then you should consider using wood chunks, while for a shorter time, you are good to go with wood chips.
  • You should preferably select wood that has been dried in an open environment for at least 6 months.
    At the same time, you should consider using wood chunks with around 20% moisture to impart the flavor effectively.
  • You will have to place them in the smoker based on the temperature you want to achieve.
    If you want your smoker to heat up to higher temperatures, then consider placing them over the charcoal, while if you want to maintain a low temperature for a longer time, then place them next to the charcoal.
  • Because wood chips can burn quickly, they can result in a sudden temperature overshoot.
    To avoid this, you should consider using a water pan inside the charcoal smoker.
  • Soaking wood is a hot topic in smoking forums, but we recommend not soaking wood with water because it can affect the taste of food.
    Although you can soak wood with different fruit juices, which will give wood a sweet flavor.
  • If you are using wood chunks or logs, then you should consider removing the bark from the wood as it contains a lot of moisture.
    Burning of bark can produce thick white smoke, which can result in a bitter taste.
  • And last but not least, you can use a blend of different wood types to get the best flavor.
    You can try out different blends and decide which one suits your taste buds. Usually, fruit woods are better for veggies while hardwoods are good for smoking meat.

How do you use wood chips in a charcoal smoker?

Smoking is the finest art. It requires practice and patience to master it properly.

You may make some mistakes in start but make sure you repeat them in a better way next time. Using wood in charcoal smokers also follows the same principle.

You can be wrong at the start, but keep practicing it consistently to master it.

To avoid complicating the process, you can follow this simple guide to add wood chips.

  • First of all, you should consider selecting an appropriate type of wood that should enhance the flavor of your meat.
    This step is extremely crucial and we recommend doing some research before making your final choice.
  • After you have selected the wood type, you should decide what size of the wood you want to go with.
    If you are planning to smoke for a longer time, then use chunks, while if you are planning for a shorter duration, then go with wood chips.
  • After that, you have to place your charcoal in a charcoal chimney.
    They can also be lit in the firebox of a charcoal smoker, but it will take longer. You can just put the charcoal in the chimney while preparing the wood.
  • After the charcoal is lit, you should place the charcoal inside the smoker and preheat the smoker to the desired temperature.
    You can also heat it up to a bit higher temperature, so that it should not drop when you add food.
  • After the smoker has been heated to the desired temperature, it’s time to place the wood chips.
    You should place them over the charcoal if you want to heat them up to higher temperatures, while you should place them next to the charcoal if you want to smoke for a longer time.
  • After you have placed your wood chips inside the smoker, you will have to add the food to start smoking.
    You should make sure the wood chips are smoking properly before placing food inside the smoker.
  • After placing food inside the smoker, close the lid and keep an eye on the temperature and airflow for the rest of the time.
    If you manage to maintain these two factors, then you will end up with the best flavor possible.

How much wood to add to a charcoal smoker

The amount of wood in charcoal smokers depends on multiple factors, but usually you are good to go with 2-4 chunks or a handful of chips at the start.

You can then keep adding them frequently throughout the process to keep the smoke coming.

The amount of wood in a charcoal smoker depends on various factors.

The most common of them are discussed below.

  • The type of smoker that you are using affects the amount of wood that you will need.
    If you are using a charcoal smoker, then you will have to use more wood chips than those used in an electric smoker due to the bigger firebox size.
  • In addition, the amount of food you are planning to smoke also affects the amount of wood you need.
    It’s pretty straightforward that if you want to smoke more food, you will have to use more wood to generate smoke.
  • In addition, the type of wood can also affect the amount of wood needed.
    If you are using hardwood, then it will be needed in less quantity because it burns slowly, while you will need more wood if you are using soft woods.

Can I smoke with just charcoal?

The simple answer to this question will always be “No.

” Although you can cook food with charcoal, smoking is a different thing.

As is obvious by the name, you will have to provide smoke to cook food because charcoal can’t produce smoke.

Smoke is produced by the woods.

In fact, smoke is a combination of non-combustible gases present within the wood.

Combustible gases get burnt while non-combustible gases leave the wood in the form of smoke and impart different flavors to food.

The better way is to use a combination of charcoal and wood.

Charcoal is used to heat up the smoker to a higher temperature while woods are used to produce smoke, which gives flavor to the food being smoked.


Wood is an essential component of the smoking process and can’t be replaced.

As is obvious from the name, smoking is done by smoke generated by wood.

You can read this article to get more information about using wood in a smoker.

if you enjoyed this article then dont forget to read our article on Are vertical smokers good

Jakob miller