How often Do You Add Wood Chips?

How often do you you add more chips or chunks when you are smoking meat? First off, this is only for those of you who are NOT using a “stick burner” or a smoker that only takes actual sticks or splits of wood.

Many new meat smokers do not understand the “full” concept of smoking.. they have a general idea but sometimes wonder if they need to replenish the wood chips when it stops smoking or whether to soak the wood chips or even where to put the wood chips or chunks.

I had a newcomer ask me one time if the wood chips go in the water bowl.. now this may seem basic to some but I subscribe to the notion that there are NO stupid questions and questions are how you learn and if you don’t ask questions then you never get smarter.

The answer is YES.. you do need to replenish the wood chips when they stop smoking whether that is every 15 minutes or every hour. It is different for each smoker and also depends on the method of adding wood chips to the fire.

I actually have a formula that I use and it seems to work well for me:

Keep adding smoking wood to the smoker for about half of the total cook time or until the meat reaches 140° F.

If you are having trouble with the wood chips or chunks burning up too quickly, simply soak them in water for about 30-60 minutes before you are ready to use them. This will slow down the consumption of the wood and make them last slightly longer.

I prefer not to soak the wood most of the time but as I always say.. these things are personal preference and there are no rules one way or another.

Another option if you are using wood chips is to soak one half of the wood chips in water for 30 minutes then mix half wet and half dry chips and place a single handful onto a 12 x 12 inch piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Wrap the foil around the chips and poke three or four holes in the top of the foil to allow the smoke to get out.

Lay the package on top of the coals or heating element of your smoker for good smoking action. Be sure to make several of these so you can have them ready once the first one stops smoking.


  1. rookie smoker, but lovin it. tossing idea of getting rid of weber charcoal/gas grill & gas smoker for a green egg. anyone experience with greenegg & smoking ?

    • Buying a big green egg is the best thing you can do. Come from a family of smokers all on Eggs. Perfect temp control and it’ll burn all day with lump coal-

    • yes i am familiar with Green Egg….burn my damn house down with one in April 2014!

  2. I recently smoked a 8lb. chicken on my Charbroil smoker grill with great smoke penatration, however my cook time was alittle over 5 hrs. and still only had a core
    temp of 140 degrees. What am I doing wrong ? Thanks.

    • Chris Greer says:

      Hey Mark,

      What temp was your chamber running at? From the sound of it, it was pretty cold.


    • possibly sounds like you hit “the stall” period, caused naturally, at lower temps, by the meat ‘sweating’ and cooling itself, aka evaporative cooling. a quick comp search for ‘smoking the stall’ will come back with many results explaining it and techniques to bypass it such as the “Texas crutch”

  3. Duane Will says:

    This will be my first time smoking with a gas smoker .I have always smoked fish in my electric smokehouse .I want to try making elk jerky.

  4. Sean Kehoe says:

    I use a brinkman electric smoker to cook mainly boston butts. I do a dry rub then about 6-8 hours adding soaked wood chips directly onto the heating elements about 4-5 times. I am getting ready to do pork ribs for the first time, will post the results.

  5. David Riggs says:

    I am smoking a fresh ham today using a Master Forge electric smoker I just pruchased. One good hint I would offer to anyone using an electric smoker is to smoke something for several hours will require approximately 4-5 cups of wood chips. I lay these directly on the element (after soaking the chips for about an hour) Make sure the chips are damp and not wet(water running off of them) Keep the water bowl at least half full of water. Keep the temp around 225-255 max and if cooking a ham let it go for about 5 hours. The results are amazing! Enjoy. PS it helps to brine the ham overnight prior to cooking it. I am using a fresh ham.

  6. Ialways soak my wood chips in a bucket for at least 1 hour before i start my meat smoking and I leave chips in water until i need them. When i see no more smoke i take out the wet chips or chunks and add them a few at a time so i dont get temp. too high.

  7. Love the ideas, comments, and recipes. I am smoking my first Pork Butt as I write this and so far the results are excellent so far. Hope for many, many years of happy smoking!

  8. I just took sweet potatoes out of smoker…melt in your mouth! The 8 lb. butt is still in till about 11pm. Gotta late start today… But the smoke that fills the air brings them running to see what i am smoking. Magical it is. I used apple wood because i like the mild flavor. If my masterbuilt electric smoker is on 225 or so degrees it takes a few hours to get ash. Replaced them with wood chips i had soaking for about 20 mins. Did a large batch of ribs last week and they were gone next day by lunch! Dadgum, thats good!

  9. Rosemary says:

    Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often!

  10. I have smoked meat and fish for years and my family and friends love what I create. I gave a friend my my large grill/smoker just because it was to large for our patio.

    Thursday I picked up my new Master Forge and seasoned it yesterday. I was so used to piling on a lot soak wood with my old grill I was a bit pessimistic about the instructions to use only 1/2 cup of chips at a time.

    I set the temp at 225, the time for three hours, added the hickory chips and laid the chicken breast side down, I figured I would be loading more wood chips about every half hour but to my delight it was 90 minutes before more chips were needed. I soak my chips for a minimum of 24 hours. The wetter the chips are the longer they smoke.

    To the individual wanting to know how to know when to add more chips, the answer is when smoke coming out the port on the upper right side of the appliance becomes a trickle or there is no smoke it is time to add more chips.

    Back to my chicken. After just over two hours the internal temp of the chicken was 165 so I turned the temp off and let it sit for another thirty minutes. The only problem I had was the chicken was so tender it fell apart while I was trying to move it to a plate.

    My friends love my marinated salmon. Go to the internet and find the recipe for Apple Ginger marinate. I use it on fish, and fowl, especially quail.

    I love this smoker. Easiest one I have ever used.

    Oh, yes the chicken tasted wonderful and will become a “Smoked Chicken Salad to be served at our party Sunday.

    • I smoked a whole chicken using 5 packets of pecan chunks on my Brinkman electic smoker. It came out black and tasted way over smoked. I put barbecue sauce on it to help remove some of the smoke flavor. There were 4 of us and we all agreed it wasn’t very good. Very embarrassing. Any pointers for me?

  11. Jim Gilbertson says:

    I am a newbie trying out my gas Cajun injector smoker for the first time today. it is overcast and about 48 degrees here in Sequim, Wash. I can’t seem to get the smoker much over 200 degrees wide open. That is burner on high with vents barely open. This unit did not come with any operating instructions. Any thoughts ?

  12. i am bouta smoke an arkansas tooth pick yummmmywith a few rocky mountain oysters and calf fries woooo weeeee go texas

  13. Ken Philpott says:

    Im a newbie just got my first master forge electric smoker my question is do I add water in the water tray and how much ?

  14. I definitely dont like the idea of putting foil on coals, as foil is known to contain harmful agents. I would never use an aluminum frying pan… otherwise great article!

  15. got a new Cajun injector for Xmas and must admit that I’m a little on the cautious side. I have seasoned it with cooking oil like it said, but now am trying to figure out the next step. Can someone tell me what wood chips are the best for beef? I have heard of alder for fish, and apple for pork or ham. Is everything cooked at 225? Thanks all for putting up with a new smoker.

  16. u said place on top of element is that what i do if wood chips r in a chip box place them on the heating element & should i soak 30 min before cooking add more. move them aound ned advise 1st time using a smoker

  17. I got smoker that I got from harps and I’m wondering how much sooner do I start up the wood chips or do I need to goto tractor supply and buy applewood blocks instead of chips

  18. this was about my eight time using my new electric smoker. when I finished and was cleaning smoker I opened the chip tray and they did not burn , not at all they did not even turn black like they have the other times. what did I do wrong? I soke them , put in chipper and apply lid. I turn smoker on high for an hour before cooking to get everything going. them get temp. down to 225. same as always. got ant ideas?

  19. Just did a pork loin roast 5# at 215 degrees for about 3 hrs in my Masterbuilt 30 inch electric smoker…it tempt out at 145 and I pulled and wrapped it in foil let stand for 30 minutes. Absolutely amazing!! I’ve only been smoking for a year and I’m getting an offset smoker for father’s day…I bought my electric smoker so I could smoke year around and here in North Eastern Ohio(Canton) in the winter it’s really nice to control the temp so easily!Turkey at Thanksgiving and pork loin on Christmas Day! Lovin the smokin!

  20. I am a noob and this will be my first time smoking anything. I am using a Char-broil smoke box. The menu today will be pork spareribs… All preped with my lump coal, wood chips and apple spray… Wish me luck!

  21. New at this where do I find good recipes?And how do you cook your meat and vegs at the same time?

  22. Michelle says:

    Just bought a new Brinkman upright gas smoker. I’m a newbie!! I’m hoping to be in a yummy meat coma tomorrow!! We bought a chicken, which is in brine as I’m typing…
    The brisket is nicely trimmed and swimming in marinade, and the pork ribs are trimmed and dry rubbed waiting for their occasional apple juice spritz tomorrow…
    I’ve done lots of research and reading so when I purchased the various meat selections, I was careful to try to keep the timing similar…Now if I can get the wood chips correct and temp control stable, all will be right in the smokers world…
    I welcome any thoughts or suggestions…thanks in advance!!!!!

  23. I am using masterbuilt electric smoker for first time. Need to ask a question. When I initially put wood chips in the smoker, do they need to be lighted first or I just put them in there right out of the package? And how much?

  24. Texascajun says:

    First time smoker. Buddy and I are actually having a rookie competition for the superbowl. Chicken legs, ribs and pork butt. He’s soaking hickory and I’m using dry apple. Cheers!

  25. The tip of soaking your wood chips will make the chips last longer but won’t really give you longer lasting smoke

  26. Shatman says:

    Smoking is the best!!!!!

  27. if i am preheating my smoker should my wood chunks be in it or wait until i get it to temp and put the meat in

  28. kennny g. says:

    Yeah Jeff if you already got smoked Wings how long do you cook them for Iam beginner

  29. Adolfo Chapa says:

    Amateur smoker here. Been grilling for 20 years and have mastered it. I bought a charcoal bullet smoker and would appreciate any advice. I already did a tri-tip and some ribs and it was the best tri-tip ever! Doing a pork roast today. Wish me luck

  30. Smoking turkey, 14 lb turkey using propane smoker . Marinated for 48 hrs salt and brown suger, seasoned with your favorites under the skin, rub into legs and breast, 300 degrees and babysit for 7 hrs , one time half way done put melted real butter over turkey, the turkey is in cheese cloth , estecticly it comes out very golden brown hanging. Lot more recipes. Early thanksgiving

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