How to Make Wood Chips for Smoking

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Wood chips are the secret to adding a delicious smoky flavor to meats, fish, vegetables, and even cocktails. They come in different flavors such as hickory, mesquite, applewood, and cherrywood, and are readily available at most supermarkets and online stores. However, making your wood chips can be a more cost-effective and fun option, especially if you have a backyard or access to fallen or pruned trees. In this article, we will show you how to make wood chips for smoking, including the tools and steps required.

Tools for Making Wood Chips

Before you start, it’s essential to gather the right tools for making wood chips. Here are the tools you will need:

1. Chainsaw

A chainsaw is the most efficient tool for cutting logs or branches into manageable sizes. You can rent or buy one, depending on your budget and availability. Make sure to follow the safety guidelines while using a chainsaw, including wearing safety goggles, gloves, and ear protection.

2. Hatchet or Machete

A hatchet or machete is ideal for splitting the logs into smaller pieces and cutting off the branches. You can also use a hand ax, pruning shears, or a saw, depending on your preference and the size of the logs or branches.

3. Storage Container

After making the wood chips, you will need a storage container to store them safely. A plastic or metal container with a lid can work, but avoid using cardboard or paper bags as they can attract moisture and insects.

4. Gloves

Gloves can keep your hands safe from cuts, blisters, and splinters while handling the chainsaw or hatchet. Wear thick gloves made of leather or durable fabric.

Steps for Making Wood Chips

Now that you have the necessary tools, let’s dive into the steps for making wood chips.

1. Choose the Right Wood

The first step is to choose the right type of wood for smoking. Different woods offer different flavors, and some work better with certain meats or dishes. For instance, hickory is ideal for pork and beef, while applewood is perfect for chicken and fish. Avoid using softwoods such as pine or cedar, as they can ruin the food’s flavor and leave a resinous taste.

2. Cut the Wood into Small Pieces

Using the chainsaw or hatchet, cut the wood logs or branches into smaller pieces that can fit into your smoker or grill. Aim for a size of about 2-3 inches in length and 1-2 inches in width. Try to cut the pieces uniformly to ensure even smoking.

3. Season the Wood (Optional)

If you have time, you can season the wood by placing it in a dry and airy place for a few days or weeks before smoking. Seasoning the wood can improve its flavor and reduce the moisture content, making it burn hotter and cleaner.

4. Store the Wood Chips

Once you have cut the wood into chips, store them in a container with a lid, ideally in a dry and cool place. You can also add herbs or spices to the container to flavor the wood chips further.

5. Soak the Wood Chips

Before using the wood chips for smoking, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Soaking the wood chips can prevent them from burning too quickly and control the smoke’s intensity.

FAQs About Making Wood Chips

1. How Long Does it Take to Make Wood Chips?

The time it takes to make wood chips depends on the quantity and size of the wood. Cutting and seasoning the wood logs can take a few hours or days, while soaking the wood chips can take between 30 minutes to an hour.

2. Can I Make Wood Chips from Fallen Trees or Pruned Branches?

Yes, fallen trees or pruned branches can provide excellent material for making wood chips. However, ensure the wood is free from rot, insects, or disease, as it can affect the flavor and safety of the wood chips.

3. Can I Use Wood Chips for Gas or Electric Grills?

Yes, you can. Soak the wood chips in water, then place them in a smoker box or on a foil packet on the grill. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on using wood chips with your grill.


Making wood chips for smoking can be a great way to add unique and delicious flavors to your food while saving money and having fun. By choosing the right wood, cutting it into small pieces, and soaking it before use, you can create a flavorful smoke that enhances your dishes’ taste and aroma. Remember to stay safe while using the tools and store the wood chips in a dry and cool place for the best results.


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