How to Keep Wood Chips From Burning in Smoker

Burning wood chip in the smoker.

Imagine you are smoking food for the first time, and the wood chips start burning feverishly, setting the heat level of your smoker higher than what you intend to achieve. So, you frantically try to keep the wood chips from burning, but instead of stopping them from burning, you further fan their flames. So, in utter frustration, you ask yourself: “How can I keep the wood chips from burning?”

You got multiple options to keep your wood chips from burning too much. In this post, you will learn most of these techniques so that next time your wood chips begin to burn much, you will know what to do to minimize their flame.

Proven Methods to Prevent Wood Chips from Burning

Some factors could make the wood chips burn profusely, and you should be wary of these factors. Below, however, are some methods you can use to minimize the burning of wood chips in your smoker:

Pre-soak the Wood Chips in Water

If the wood chips burn, it will increase the smoker’s temperature and eventually burn the meat you are smoking. To keep the wood chips from burning, it will help soak them in water before using them. In this way, you can keep the wood from lighting up quickly. 

Moreover, soaking wood chips will just let them emit smoke. You can soak the wood chips for thirty minutes (splintery chips), and for chunkier chips, you can soak them for two hours. 

Soaking wood chips is said to provide the following advantages. First, soaked wood chips will create more smoke as compared to dry chips. You want to imbue your meat with smoke, and for this reason, you smoke them. It defeats your purpose if the wood chips produce too much fire instead. 

Moreover, soaked wood chips will burn slowly, and thus, you will use fewer wood chips in the smoking process. Quickly burning wood chips, however, will require you to use more wood chips. So, it will be best to presoak the wood chips to minimize your use of wood chips. 

Also Read:  Should You Soak Wood Chips Before Smoking?

There is no significant difference between soaked and dry wood chips in taste unless you use a flavored liquid like whiskey or juice. Besides, with wet wood chips, you won’t need to constantly move the meat from direct heat, which can be tedious.

Reduce the Inflow of Oxygen

The wood type you will use usually determine the temperatures that the smoker will reach. Moreover, the smoke produced by the wood chips will imbue the meat you are smoking. This smoke consists of different compounds that render the desired flavor and aroma to your food. 

One such compound is Phenol. It imparts an antioxidant characteristic to your meat that slows down the growth of bacteria. It also prevents the animal fat’s rancidification.

For the wood to burn, the wood needs oxygen. Without oxygen, the wood will not even burn. So, if you have perfect control of the flow of oxygen to the firebox, you can control the burning of wood chips. 

You can place the wood chips in a metal smoker box to limit the flow of oxygen into the wood chips. You can also use a mesh smoking box or create a smoker pouch to reduce oxygen. Such a container can limit the inflow of oxygen near the wood and prevent the wood from burning excessively.

Set the Wood Chips Inside an Aluminum Foil or Can

To prevent the uncontrolled burning of wood chips, you can wrap the wood chips using aluminum foil. Take a piece of aluminum foil and put some wood chips inside the foil. Then, fold all four sides of the foil to enclose the wood chips. 

Once you’ve folded the foil, you can get a sharp object like a toothpick to create small holes on the foil’s upper side. These tiny holes will allow the smoke to vent out. You can utilize this method on both dry and wet wood chips. 

If the foil stops venting out smoke, you can replace it with another one. So, you need to have extra foils with wood chips at hand if you need more. 

One upside of using foil with wood chips is that it can preserve the heat more and produce only smoke for tenderizing your meat. Moreover, it limits the inflow of oxygen, which is the cause of the inordinate burning of wood chips. Thus, you can avoid making the wood chips burn.

Also Read:  Best Wood for Smoking Turkey 

Limit the Airflow

Some of the abovementioned methods are designed to preclude the oxygen from reaching the wood chips. For example, wrapping the wood chips in foil prevents the wood chips from having too much contact with oxygen. Putting the wood chips inside a metal smoker box or smoker pouch also prevents more contact with oxygen. 

So, to limit the burning of wood chips, you need to limit the flow of oxygen into the firebox. You can limit the inflow of oxygen by partially closing the air vents. 

You don’t need to shut the air vents, which would ultimately make the wood chips produce too much smoke. So, you only need to hit the sweet spot wherein you allow only enough oxygen is to make the wood chips produce enough smoke for smoking. 

Avoid Loading Too Much Wood Chips

You may think that if you got enough smoke, you could produce better smoking results. So, you load the firebox with too much wood. Yet, this is not entirely true, for if you load more wood chips, you run the risk of creating too much fire. 

So, it will help to strike a balance when loading wood chips to ensure that you get the right smoke amount for your meat.

What are the Wood Requirements?

Your choices of wood are many. But you must choose something ripe. Otherwise, you may end up with issues in making the wood burn. It will be best to choose mature woods to create the desired smoke for your smoking process. Below are some simple wood requirements that you should be mindful of when choosing wood:

Bigger Wood Chip Sizes

If you want your wood chips to burn longer, you should go for larger wood chips. Such larger wood chips will produce more smoke while you cook. 

Also Read:  Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Go for Denser Wood

When choosing and preparing wood, you should refrain from putting the wood outside, exposed to the harsh elements of nature. Extreme elements can reduce the density of the wood and may make the wood decompose. 

A less dense wood, of course, will burn less. It will not produce enough smoke likewise. Thicker wood, however, will provide you with more consistent smoke, allowing you to smoke food longer. 

Avoid Using Seasoned Firewood

Seasoned wood may contain fungus, bugs, and mold. Moreover, they may contain moisture. These things will make it challenging for you to get consistent smoke from your wood. Besides, such wood may produce sooty smoke that could make the food taste bitter.


The wood chips—you use—play a crucial role in the finished smoked food you produce. So, it will be best to choose the wood that you would use for smoking food with care. Moreover, the wood you choose would determine the smoky flavor and aroma that the smoked food will have afterward. 

Yet, your choice of wood is only one-half of the equation in producing excellent smoked food. Keeping the wood chips from burning too much is the other half of the equation. You can follow the abovementioned tips on keeping the wood chips from too much burning uncontrollably to ensure that you will not overcook or ruin the food you are smoking.

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