Both beginners and experienced users of smokers know that wood is a fundamental element in the smoking process.
Regardless of the kind of smoker you have, wood is somehow always a part of the operation.
How Much Wood to Use?
Wood is not always the main element, of course. But it can add more smoke, aroma, or taste to the final product. It usually comes as a primary or secondary fuel source. And this is partly the reason why there’s so much confusion on how to refill.
For example, if you have a charcoal smoker, you may use specific wood chunks with your lump charcoal for added flavor. But the charcoal provides the primary heat. If it’s a pellet smoker, the wood pellets make up the central heating element. So, the refilling may change depending on these factors. This includes both the quantity of wood to use and how frequently you add more to the mix. Finally, how you prepare your wood can also affect how they burn and, in extension, how you refill.
There is no strict rule to the precise quantity of wood or the frequency of refilling. The reason is that each smoking session is slightly different. But there are some generally accepted practices that you can learn from. But the real difference will come only when you’ve experienced enough to decide on your own.
Main factors to Consider
It’s good for starters to consider a few factors that can determine how you refill your wood.
These primary factors can work together to determine the ideal quantity of wood to use and when to refill. They affect how much wood your smoker uses and how fast or slow it burns. A good understanding of these attributes will allow you to narrow down on wood-refilling based on your requirement.
Type of Smoker
The first factor to consider is the smoker-type you’re using. We’ll mention some of the general applications of wood for each type. But remember that these are not hard and fast rules. The time and quantity should depend on a consideration of all other factors too.
Electric smokers use wood solely for the smoke since the heating comes from electricity. Most people may maintain intervals of 30-45 minutes before adding a few cups to the lot. You can regulate it based on how fast the last batch burns up.
The general assumption is that pellet smokers can use about 2-3 pounds of pellets every hour. But most pellet smokers come with regulators that help you control the temperature. This means you can set it at the desired temperature and go several hours without refilling.
Gas smokers allow you to add more wood without having to remove the burnt ones. So, you can wait and change the whole batch of wood or add a few cups to the existing burnt ones. You can go for 4-5 hours at a steady and slow rate before refilling the whole thing.
Charcoal smokers run on a more manual form of smoking. So, the time it takes to refill depends on the final taste you want. Since charcoal is the primary fuel source, you use the wood mostly for the smoke and flavor. So, you need not refill the wood very frequently.
Stick smokers use wood not just for flavor but also for fuel. This means, on the whole, it will use larger quantities of wood. But how frequently you change depends on the heat level you maintain. Higher heat will burn wood quicker and require more frequent refills.
Size and Capacity
The size of your smoker also affects how frequently you have to refill the wood. For one, more significant smokers do consume more fuel. Secondly, let’s assume that you’re utilizing the space to smoke more meat at a time. This means the starting quantity of wood may have to be slightly more if you have a bigger smoker.
Some people believe that a few handfuls of chips are enough to get the heat prepped and started. Or if you’re using chunks, it may mean two-four chunks of wood. Again, this can change depending on the bowl and capacity of your smoker.
For beginners, it can be more advisable to start with pellet or electric smokers. This way, you don’t have to worry about wood refill and still get decently smoked meat. More seasoned users can go for charcoal or stick smokers because they already know their wood-food-smoker balance.
Type of Wood
The type and variety of wood you use can also affect when and how much you refill. Most smokers use a variety of hardwood. And even hardwood can vary a lot in flavor and composition. Wood chips will burn and create heat faster, while wood chunks may take longer but sustain the heat better. So, your refilling needs may change based on chips or chunks too.
Read also: best electric smokers for beginners
Read also: best pellet smokers for beginners
As you use your smoker more, you’ll also realize that certain woods can go well with specific meat smoking. For example, mulberry or cherry woods give good flavors if you’re smoking lamb. And these combinations can also change depending on the other two factors – smoker type and size. If you decide to grill with your smoker, there are different wood varieties for grilling steak that may serve your cause better.
If you’ve already seen this on season wood, you’ll know that it also affects the flavor and quality. With better quality wood, you may not have to use a lot for smoking small quantities of food.
There’s no precise rule for refilling your wood because it’s not the same across every smoking session. Ultimately, you’ll have to learn the nuances of how the quantity and replacement of wood in the smoker affects the process. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be more confident in deciding both the amount and frequency of wood refilling.