How to keep wood chips from burning in smoker

Last Updated on: 23rd April 2023, 01:26 am

Wood chips are used in a smoker as a source of smoke while heat is provided by the charcoal or other fuel types.

But it is a common problem with the smoking that the wood chips can flare up quickly and result in the quick burning of chips while increasing the temperature at the same time.

As a victim of this problem, I began researching how to keep wood chips from burning and attempted to compile the most useful tricks that pitmasters around the world use to avoid this problem.

the 9 tricks that I ended up with after hours of research.

9 tips that can avoid the burning of wood in a smoker

There are hundreds of tricks that one can use to avoid the burning of wood chips in a smoker, but I decided to compare them with different sources to include only the most effective ones in our list.

Let’s get started without any further delay.

Use larger wood chunks

The size of wood chips is a major factor in the burning of chips.

The wood chips come in various sizes, ranging from chips to chunks.

The wood chips are smaller and thinner in size than wood chunks and thus burn quickly if exposed to direct heat.

To avoid such flare-ups, it is better to use wood chunks for smoking.

Wood chunks are larger in size and don’t catch fire easily.

These can be a huge relief when cold smoking for several hours or days, so that you don’t have to stick by the smoker all the time to add wood chips frequently.

Decrease airflow

Most of the pitmasters that are familiar with the scientific processes know that oxygen is required for the combustion of wood chips.

If the oxygen is provided in excess, then the wood chips can burn quickly and end up suddenly increasing the temperature.

Oxygen is provided to wood chips within a smoker by the airflow.

Thus, it’s important to maintain the airflow inside the smoker to stay on top of the process and avoid flaring.

Even if wood chips have started burning, you can decrease the airflow to smother the flames.

The airflow inside the smoker is provided by the air vents within the smoker.

These vents should be adjusted carefully to avoid burning the wood chips.

You should consider closing the vents by 1/4 and monitoring the wood chips to avoid burning.

There are two vents present in most of the smokers.

The top vent is required to maintain the temperature of the smoker, and it has little effect on the wood chips burning.

The bottom vent is in direct contact with the firebox and needs to be adjusted to decrease the airflow.

Invest in smoker box

A smoker box is an effective way of protecting the wood chips from burning inside the smoker.

Most smokers come with a firebox that is used to contain both charcoal and wood chips.

But the smoker box is an advanced modification which can keep the wood chips separately.

Smoker boxes can prevent the direct exposure of wood chips to charcoal, which can prevent the burning of wood chips.

You just have to put your wood chunks inside the smoker box and leave it along with the charcoal to keep smoking gradually.

Use good quality wood

Wood quality is also a major factor in the quick burning of chips.

If you are using old decayed wood, it might be less dense than the good quality and it can get ignited upon exposure to a little bit of heat.

It’s always better to not compromise on food flavor by using a good quality wood chip.

In addition to the quality of wood chips, the type of wood chips also matters.

There are two major types of chunks used in smoking: soft wood and hardwood.

Soft woods are delicate in texture and burn quickly, while hardwoods are tougher in texture and burn slowly over time.

Most of the fruit woods are soft woods and can burn quickly rather than smoke slowly.

While hardwoods like hickory may give your meat a bitter taste, So some pitmasters prefer to use a blend of the two wood types to get the sweet fruity flavor while smoking slowly.

Use in moderation

Wood chip quantity can also be a huge factor in the quick burning of wood chips.

If you fill up the smoker box with wood chips in a single go, then you might end up burning the wood chips rather than smoking them.

You should consider just adding a few chunks at a time.

Most beginners give up smoking because it’s a complex process.

It requires maintaining every part with perfection.

You will have to stay involved in the process by adding more wood chips every 20–30 minutes.

Using less quantity helps us produce less smoke that will be sufficient to add flavor.

Avoid direct contact with charcoal

Wood chips are used in smokers as a source for providing smoke, while charcoal is used for generating heat to cook the meat.

That’s why charcoal needs to burn to provide heat for cooking, while wood chips need to burn slowly to produce smoke for imparting flavor.

The direct contact between charcoal and wood chips can result in the burning of the wood chips rather than producing smoke.

So it is better to place the wood chips next to the charcoal in the smoker rather than place them over the charcoal.

Wrap your wood chips in aluminum foil

Using aluminum foil is an extremely effective trick to avoid your wood chips burning.

Aluminum foil keeps the wood chips away from the direct heat while the wood chips keep burning slowly and producing smoke gradually over time.

To use this trick, you just have to take a few chunks of wood and then wrap them in aluminum foil.

After that, you have to make a few holes in the aluminum foil and then place it inside the firebox next to the charcoal.

It is a really simple process but can be a huge relief for those smoking wood chips for a long time.

Smoke at a lower temperature

Smoking is a low and slow process that can take hours or even days to complete, but sometimes it is done at a higher temperature to smoke the meat in less time, which is known as “hot smoking” is usually done at 225–250 F.

Although hot smoking has its own benefits and is usually preferred over cold smoking, it can result in the burning of the wood chips.

Typically, wood chips begin to burn at 180 F°, so it is best to keep the temperature below 200 F° to avoid wood chip flare up.

Cold smoking at an extremely low temperature can also be harmful because it can lead to bacterial growth within the food.

So it is better to keep the temperature high enough to avoid bacterial growth while low enough to avoid burning.

A good range can be around 150 F.

Use the snake technique

The Snake Method is an effective way of smoking food for a long time without the burning of wood chips.

It is useful because we only have to light a small amount of charcoal at once and then it can burn slowly over time.

The wood chips are added unlit over the charcoal.

To make a snake, you just have to arrange your charcoal in a C-type shape and light the charcoal from one end.

The wood chips are added over the snake of charcoal.

The snake burns gradually, and so do the wood chips.

Although it provides less heat, it can be useful for smoking for a longer time.

Are wood chips supposed to burn in a smoker?

The simple answer to this question will always be “no” on all three counts.

Wood chips are not meant to be burned in a smoker; instead, they are used to produce smoke.

The heat in a smoker is usually provided by the charcoal, while wood chips are used to provide smoke.

Wood chips are used as a secondary fuel source and thus are not used for the production of heat.

Wood chips are supposed to burn gradually by maintaining a constant stream of smoke.

Wood chips are used to produce smoke, which imparts different flavors on the meat.

How long do wood chips burn in a smoker?

It depends on the amount of wood you have placed inside the smoker and the heat at which you are smoking.

But a general rule of thumb is that they can last anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on the temperature of the firebox.

After 20 minutes, you should consider analyzing the smoke to check if wood chips are producing smoke or not.

They might not be converted into ash at this time, but usually they are converted into coal, which generates smoke.

So you should consider replacing them with newer wood chips.

The burning time depends on various factors, and the most important of them is the temperature at which you are smoking.

If the temperature is lower, the wood chips will keep smoking for a longer time, while if the temperature is high, the wood chips can burn out quickly.

In addition to the temperature, it also depends on the airflow within the smoker.

If the vents are open and airflow is maximized, then the wood chips will burn quicker and produce heat instead of smoke.

You can decrease the airflow to burn them for a longer time.

Should I soak my chips in water to make them burn slowly?

It’s one of the hottest debate topics in smoking forums.

Everyone has their own opinion about this topic, but we will recommend not soaking the wood chips before smoking.

There are various reasons for avoiding soaking prior to smoking.

The most common of them are discussed below.

First of all, the woods are soaked in order to burn them slowly, but we all know that water evaporates at 100 °C while smoking is done at around 150 °F.

So soaking just delays the cooking process.

Once the water evaporates and the wood starts smoking, it doesn’t matter if they were soaked or not.

The second reason is that the soaked wood chips produce thick smoke, which can affect the flavor of the food.

Thick smoke is usually produced when something moist comes in contact with fire, but if we are doing it intentionally, then there is no way we can end up with good flavor.

But you can soak wood chips in fruit juices to impart a sweet flavor.

It will also help to burn slowly to some extent while imparting a fruity flavor at the same time.

If you want to soak wood chips to avoid burning, then consider using wood chunks instead of chips.


Wood chips burn quickly due to different factors.

To decrease the burning of the wood chips, you need to decrease the airflow in the first place.

In addition to that, soaking wood is not a good idea for avoiding burning, but it can affect the taste of food.

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