If you’re new to smoking meat, you might be struggling to figure out what size wood to burn in your smoker.
There are so many options to choose from including wood chips, chunks, logs, and pellets.
Which is best? Does it even matter?
Well have no fear. We put together this article and the infographic below to help you understand the differences between the various forms of wood and when to choose one size over another.
Logs are pieces of wood about 12 to 18 inches long. They’re generally used in large offset smokers, commercial smokers, and custom smoking rigs you see in BBQ competitions.
For the backyard smoker, you’d typically use logs in any offset smoker.
You can use logs to generate both heat and smoke, so there’s need for charcoal when using logs.
It takes some practice to master control of smoke and temperature when smoking with logs, but many people consider it the only true form of barbecue.
Another option is to smoke your meat using wood chunks, which are just logs that have been cut into smaller pieces.
Chunks are generally about 3 to 4 inches long and about the size of your fist, though size can vary quite a bit from one brand to another and even within the same bag.
Wood chunks are really versatile and can be used in most types of smokers including small offset smokers, water smokers, bullet smokers, barrel smokers, and ceramic smokers.
You can even use them with many gas grills. Just place a chunk or two on the flavorizer bar underneath the grill grates.
Wood chunks are great because they’re easy to store and easy to find. Many stores carry them including Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, and various supermarkets. Of course you can also purchase wood chunks on Amazon.
So if chunks are just logs cut into smaller pieces, what are wood chips?
You guessed it! Wood chips are the same wood just cut into much smaller pieces.
Chips are typically about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick and about the size of a coin. They’re quick to burn so you’ll need to add more regularly for longer smoking sessions.
Wood chips come in many varieties and are available in most supermarkets and anywhere barbecue gear is sold. You can use in small offset smokers as well as water, barrel, bullet, and ceramic smokers.
And contrary to popular opinion, there’s no need to soak water chips in water before using them. Just toss them in dry and you’ll be just fine.
You can also put wood chips in a smoker box and turn any grill into a makeshift smoker. This is a great way to get some smoke flavor in your food without investing in a whole new smoker.
So chunks are smaller than logs, and chips are smaller than chunks. And what’s smaller than all of them?
That’s right, sawdust.
Sawdust is wood that’s been ground up into a powder. It produces smoke almost instantaneously and can be used in electric smokers as well as handheld and stovetop smokers. I suppose you can use them in other smokers too but the smoke will be short-lived as the sawdust will burn up so fast.
You don’t want to get sawdust wet. It will clump together and turn into an unusable mess.
Wood pellets are made from sawdust that has been compressed into a tiny cylinder and heated so the natural polymer lignin will bind them and preserve their shape.
Wood pellets are very efficient and easy to use. They’re mostly used as the fuel source in pellet grills, which are considered some of the best smokers for beginners.
You can buy wood pellets in all sorts of flavors and some of the most popular are blends of various types of wood. By mixing and matching different types of wood pellet you can create all sorts of flavor profiles.
Wood pellets can also be added to a smoker box and used in any kind of barbecue grill.
Be careful when smoking in the rain with wood pellets. If they get wet, they’ll disintegrate and be useless.
Similar to pellets, wood discs are made of sawdust that’s compressed into a disc about the size and shape of a hockey puck.
Also called bisquettes, they’re made specifically for use inelectric smokers like the ones sold by Bradley Smoker.
Wood discs/bisquettes can be difficult to find in stores so you best bet is to purchase them online.
Wood Smoking Guide
Below is a printable infographic that explains the different forms of wood used for smoking and when to use each. Keep it handy and use as a helpful reference.