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how often do you have to add wood to smoker

How Often do You Have to Add Wood to Smoker (Explained)

If you have been wondering how often you need to add wood into your smoker, you are not the only one. Keeping the wood under control is essential to assure continuity in the smoking process and avoid any inconsistency which may lead to bad smoking taste.

While there is no definitive rule, smoking experts recommend adding your smoker wood every five to six hours. How often you need to add wood to your smoker depends essentially on the following factors and the general rules:

  • The type of smoker you are using
    • Less than 5 hours for electric, charcoal and reverse flow smokers. More than 5 hours for gas and pellet smokers.
  • The size of the smoker
    • The bigger the cooking area the more wood you need to keep the cooking temperature consistent
  • The type of wood you are using
    • Hardwood tends to last longer

Let’s see how these factors impact on how often you need to add wood to the smoker.


how often do you have to add wood to smoker


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Key Factors to Consider When Adding Wood to Your Smokers

Several factors determine how often you need to add wood to your smoker. These include the type of smoker, size of the smoker and type of wood. Let’s discuss these factors in some detail below.

Types of Smokers

The frequency of adding wood to your smoker depends on the type of smoker you have. Common types off smokers include the following:

  • Electric smoker: The general rule for adding wood to an electric smoker is in intervals of 45 minutes. The minimum amount to add is at least two cups. It’s recommended that if your wood seems to burn up to fast, the suggested approach would be to soak the water for about 30 to 60 minutes. This will slow down the rate at which the wood is burning up. This works well for the most popular electric smoker models.
  • Gas smoker: When it comes to gas smokers, wood can be added or changed every five to six hours. Here you have the choice of changing the wood completely or adding about two cups on top of the existing chips every time. It’s not necessary to remove the burnt chips.
  • Pellet smoker: The time for changing wood pellets in a pellet smoker is usually about five to six hours. On average, pellet smokers burn one to three pounds of pellets per hour.
  • Charcoal smoker: With charcoal smokers, charcoal needs to be added every 30 to 60 minutes. Since briquettes burn slower, using them instead of charcoal is also an option. Popular models like the Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker are popular among users enjoying this type of smoking. Ordinarily a 15 pound bag of charcoal should burn for a minimum of 15 hours. This should be enough time to smoke a brisket.
  • Kettle grill smoker: Ideally you want to place soaked wood chips on some lit coals. Once the internal temperature decreases from 225° F you might want to add another eight to ten charcoal briquettes to the previous charcoal. Weber kettle smokers are a common choice among enthusiasts who prefer this way of smoking.
  • Stick Burners: Burners like the Lang BBQ Smoker rely solely on wood as fuel. These types of smokers  – also known as reverse flow smokers – are common among avid and experienced smokers. When you’re using this smoker, you want to check the temperature every 15 minutes. As the logs burn down, you can add new logs every 45 minutes or as the temperature decreases. If you have an insulated wood box, it won’t be necessary to add wood as often.

Size of Smokers

The size of your smoker also determines how much and how often wood should be added. On average two or three handfuls of chips over direct heat is enough to produce enough smoke for a smoky flavour. As an example, smoking on a Weber Smoker Mountain smoker will use two to four chunks of wood to create the required amount of smoke.

Beginners commonly use electric and propane smokers which are easy to use and don’t require a lot of wood. More experienced users often prefer stick burners. The quantity of wood required also depends on the amount of food you’re going to be smoking.


how often do you have to add wood to smoker


Types of Wood

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The type of wood you use will also influence how often you need to add wood to your smoker. Factors such as knowing what types of wood to use and which to avoid will go a long way to giving you a great smokey flavor. It’s also useful to know how to store the wood and how long it should be dried before use. Let’s look at these pointers.

What Wood Should be Used and Which Should be Avoided in a Smoker?

Different types of wood produce different types of smoke, color and even flavor. To simplify the process for folks new to smoking, the most popular wood types to use include apple, hickory, cherry, maple and oak. As a general rule, hardwood tends to last longer.

There are also types of wood to avoid at all costs. Trees containing high amounts of sap and terpenes can result in food poisoning. These types of trees include redwood, spruce, fir, cypress and cedar. Cedar planks can be used for smoking salmon, but not for burning to smoke other meat. I advise you to make the effort of finding out what wood you’re buying or chopping up. Check out this table for a list of the best woods you want to use.

Some people prefer to use wood chips as opposed to logs and wood chunks. Here is a video of how to use wood chips.

Basic Things to Know in Order to Master Smoking Wood

Here are some additional information that are useful to know in order to manage the wood when you are cooking on a smoker.

Can you Mix Wood for Smoking?

It’s possible to mix wood logs or wood chips to enhance the flavor of the meat. The only tip here is to remember some wood is not meant for smoking. If you combine wood from the “can use” list, there won’t be a problem. With practice you’ll soon figure out which combinations give you the best flavor. In fact, some wood combinations are better for the types of flavor you might be looking for.

What’s the Best Way to Store Wood for Smoking?

Because wood used for smoking must be dry, it has to be chopped and stored somewhere to dry. Ideally this will be outside where it can get air to dry but won’t get wet and moldy. You can simply use a cardboard box with holes for air to circulate. Storing the wood in a shed or garage is also acceptable if the area is dry and there is adequate airflow.

Can You Use Old Wood in a Smoker?

If the wood is still hard and solid, it should be fine for your smoker. Don’t use wood that is decayed as this will transfer an unpleasant flavor to the meat.

Is There a Difference Between Wood Chips and Wood Chunks?

Essentially there isn’t a difference between chips and chunks. After all they are basically the same thing. Chunks are simply bigger pieces of hardwood. The biggest difference is that chips burn faster than chunks. If you’re only going to be smoking your food for an average of 20 minutes, it would be fine to use a few cups of chips.

If however, you’re going to be smoking for an hour or more, it makes sense to use chunks. Remember, you don’t want to be opening the smoker to add chips every 20 minutes. Whether you’re using chips or chunks it’ll affect how often you add wood to your smoker.


how often do you have to add wood to smoker


Should Wood be Soaked Before Smoking?

There are two groups of meat smokers. One group religiously soaks wood before smoking and the other group just burns it as it is. Is there a right or wrong way?

Experts agree that whether or not you soak the wood depends largely on what you’re smoking and how long you’re smoking. Wood that has been soaked still has to get rid of the moisture before it can produce a significant amount of smoke. Soaked wood just ends up producing steam which in actual fact just ends up lowering the smoker’s temperature Soaking wood works better if you’re smoking using a charcoal or gas grill.

How Long Should Wood Dry Before Smoking?

To get the most flavorful smoke into your meat means you will need to season the wood. Wood seasoning refers to the process of drying the wood long enough for the right amount of flavor to escape into the meat. The most common way is to dry wood outside in the natural elements.

Experts suggest using wood that’s been dried for at least six months. This will give you the right flavor of smoke. If you’re buying wood, the easiest way to tell if it’s seasoned is to check the ends. If the log ends are dark and cracked, you know they’re dry enough to burn. Wood with green parts still on them are not ideal for smoking. If you still have doubts, we have a dedicated article on how to dry the wood for smoking.

Final Thought on Adding Wood to Your Smoker

Smoking meat is a wonderful alternative to the usual way of preparing meat. One basic secret is to find the right wood, adding it only when it needs to be added. By ensuring that you have the right wood for your smoker you’ll have the best smoking experience.

How Often do You Have to Add Wood to Smoker (Explained)