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Why Soak Wood Chips?

The_Grill_SergeantThe_Grill_Sergeant Posts: 87
edited October 2011 in EggHead Forum
I'm curious as to why folks are compelled to soak wood chips/chunks before they get tossed on the coals?  Wood, by its very nature, doesn't take on much water (that's why they build boats out of the stuff) and most of the moisture will just steam off anyway.  Simple physics (and experience) tells me that if I want great smoke (not steam) from burning wood, the wood should be dense and dry.

Thoughts?

Sarge
Egg Head in Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Comments

  • 1. I don't use chips if at all possible, I prefer chunks
    2. Why add moisture? The egg is a superior design for maintain temp and moisture.
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  • Nature BoyNature Boy Posts: 8,339
    Howdy Sarge. I really don't understand the concept of soaking wood either.  Apparently it is very popular, but it just doesn't smell good to me and it lays down a strong bitter flavor on the food.
    Cheers!
    Chris
    DizzyPigBBQ.com
    Twitter: @dizzypigbbq
    Facebook: Dizzy Pig Seasonings
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  • no soak zone here
    Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of congress; but I repeat myself - Mark Twain
    aka Frank from Houma eggin in Corpus Christi
    Geaux Tigers - Who Dat
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  • Soaking chips is not to add moisture to the cook.  I believe the only reason to soak chips is if you are going to add them to a hot fire.  It will cool down the fire and allow the smoke to form at a lower temperature.  If the chips smoke at too high a temperature, they produce chemicals that are not very tasty.  Harold McGee covers it in his "On Food and Cooking".  For low temperature cooking, you don't need to soak them.
    The Naked Whiz
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  • gerhardkgerhardk Posts: 817
    I was always told that it causes the wood to smoulder rather than burn, and that the smouldering wood produces more smoke than burning wood.  I have done it that way for the last few years.

    Gerhard
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  • Gerhard, if you were cooking at 400 degrees, which is pretty hot for "smoking", chips would smolder in the Egg because there wouldn't be enough airflow to support wood combustion.  Even at 550 degrees, which is what I used to use to bake some pizzas, I could add a fistful of chips and close the lid, and the chips would not burn.  So, you don't really need to soak them unless you are going to add them to a hot fire.
    The Naked Whiz
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  • BayaradBayarad Posts: 288
    I mix it up. For low and slows I use dry chips layered throughout the lump but for high heat sears a little bit of soak on the chips keeps the hair on my forearms intact while I load the food!
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  • 4Runner4Runner Posts: 1,811
    I soak....therefore I am.
    Joe - I'm a reformed gasser-holic aka 4Runner Columbia, SC Wonderful BGE Resource Site: http://www.nakedwhiz.com/ceramicfaq.htm and http://www.nibblemethis.com/  and http://playingwithfireandsmoke.blogspot.com/2006/02/recipes.html
    What am I drinking now?   Woodford....neat
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  • SqueezySqueezy Posts: 1,101

    ... and the debate goes on ... I wonder if that guy who figured out the truth on the " temp stall " has done any research on this subject?

    I struggle with this every time I cook ... I bought a jar of flavor infused wood from Smokinilicious (soaking since June of 2009) totally saturated and it goes instantly to light blue smoke with a heavanly smell.

    So ... here's hoping the scientists of this forum can explain this once and for all ....

    :-B
    Never eat anything passed through a window unless you're a seagull ... BGE Lg.
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  • Chunks, no soak here.
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  • NC-CDNNC-CDN Posts: 703
    I always figured that folks soaked the wood to have it last a bit longer.  I personally do not soak (used to though) as I don't see any benefit to it.  Just another step.  One less that I have to do. 
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  • "I struggle with this every time I cook ... I bought a jar of flavor infused wood from Smokinilicious (soaking since June of 2009) totally saturated and it goes instantly to light blue smoke with a heavanly smell."


    Okay, with wood that's been soaking for 2 years, I understand there may be an added benefit.  But soaking wood for an hour seems pointless.

    Egg Head in Klamath Falls, Oregon
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  • A handful of chips not soaked placed on top of a 250 degree fire will produce smoke for X amount of minutes.

    A handful of chips soaked placed on top of a 250 degree fire will produce smoke for X amount of minutes.

     

    I would bet on the soaked chips smoking for a longer period, this is why I think soaking can help chips.

    Chunks would not need the soaking step IMO.

     

     

    -SMITTY     

    from SANTA CLARA, CA

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  • SqueezySqueezy Posts: 1,101

    I don't think soaking actually makes the wood smoke longer .... just starts later ... so appears to smoke longer.

    So, I think in theory that a mixture of both will give a longer smoke time ...

    Never eat anything passed through a window unless you're a seagull ... BGE Lg.
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