How to Keep Wood Chips from Burning in Smoker

Keeping wood chips from burning too quickly in a smoker is crucial for achieving a consistent and controlled smoke, essential for imparting that desired smoky flavor to your food. Here are strategies to prevent wood chips from igniting and ensure they smolder properly:

1. Soak the Wood Chips

Soaking wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes to an hour before using them can help prevent them from burning too quickly. The moisture helps the chips to smolder and produce smoke for a longer period rather than igniting. After soaking, drain the chips well before using them.

  • Note: While soaking is widely practiced, some experts argue it’s unnecessary and can even hinder smoke production initially. Experiment to see what works best for your smoking setup.

2. Use a Smoker Box or Foil Pouch

  • Smoker Box: A smoker box is a metal container designed to hold wood chips and prevent them from burning too quickly. Place the smoker box directly on your smoker’s heat source. The metal heats up, causing the chips inside to smolder and smoke.
  • Foil Pouch: As an alternative to a smoker box, you can make a pouch out of heavy-duty aluminum foil to hold the wood chips. Poke a few holes in the top of the pouch to allow smoke to escape. Place the pouch directly on the heat source. This method also helps in controlling the burn rate of the chips.

3. Control Airflow

Controlling the airflow in your smoker can help manage the burn rate of wood chips. Limiting oxygen by partially closing vents can reduce the chances of wood chips igniting. However, be careful not to restrict airflow too much, as this can smother your fire or lead to incomplete combustion and produce undesirable flavors.

4. Monitor the Temperature

Maintaining a low and steady temperature is key to preventing wood chips from burning too quickly. Use a reliable thermometer to monitor your smoker’s temperature and make adjustments as necessary to keep it within the ideal smoking range, usually between 225°F and 275°F (107°C and 135°C).

5. Choose the Right Wood Chips

Different types of wood chips can burn at different rates. Harder woods like hickory or oak tend to smolder longer than softer woods like alder or apple. Choosing the right type of wood chips for your smoking session can help achieve a consistent smoke without burning too quickly.

6. Refill as Needed

Be prepared to add more wood chips to your smoker periodically, especially during long smoking sessions. Keeping a steady supply of wood chips ensures continuous smoke and prevents the smoker from running out of smoke before the food is fully cooked.


Preventing wood chips from burning too quickly in a smoker requires a balance of moisture, airflow control, temperature management, and using the right tools like smoker boxes or foil pouches. By following these tips, you can ensure a slow, steady smoke that perfectly flavors your smoked dishes.

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Bubbly Chef author