Do You Soak Wood Pellets For Smoking?

There’s plenty of debate in the barbecue community about whether or not it’s worth soaking wood chips for smoking.

Some pitmasters swear by it, others say that it’s completely unnecessary.

However, when it comes to soaking wood pellets there’s a different view entirely.

Here we go through what makes wood pellets different from wood chips and why you should never soak wood pellets before smoking, whether you’re using a pellet grill or a charcoal grill. 

Wood Pellets Are Different From Wood Chips

The reason many barbecuers will soak their wood chips is so that they can infuse a certain flavor into the wood. It also helps to extend the smoking period of the wood, without it catching and burning too quickly.

This works because the wood is able to absorb the liquid but still hold its composition.

However, although wood pellets are still wood, they are actually processed and compressed sawdust rather than pure wood like wood chips or chunks.

It’s because of this processing that they are able to heat up and smoke so well. This makes them one of the best forms of wood for clean, consistent smoking. But, in order for wood pellets to smoke properly, they have to retain their composition.

Do You Soak Wood Pellets

Unlike wood chips, which are able to absorb moisture without losing their shape and composition, when wood pellets absorb moisture, the saw dust expands and the wood pellet actually begins to disintegrate and lose it’s form.

This is the key reason why you should never soak your wood pellets. 

So, if you have a pellet grill, this is why you shouldn’t store your wood pellets in your hopper for extended periods of time, or store your pellet grill outside. 

If you do try to use soaked wood pellets for smoking you’ll find it quickly leads to temperature and smoking issues, as it’s really not a good time for everyone involved!

Never Soak Wood Pellets For Use In A Pellet Grill

Pellet grills work wonders on producing thin, “blue” smoke and consistent temperatures. They work so well that you can even keep them running overnight with very little attention required.

But, if you try to use soaked wood pellets in your pellet grill it’s literally going to malfunction. As the wood pellets move from the hopper into the auger, they are going to disintegrate, causing a slushy blockage in the auger. This can lead to a backfire and a full blown fire in your pellet grill.

Aside from causing malfunctions in the pellet grill, the wood pellets wouldn’t even smoke as well as if they were dry and fresh anyway. 

This is why you should never soak wood pellets for use in a pellet grill.

Soaking Wood Pellets For Use In A Charcoal Grill

Even if you aren’t using a pellet grill, you should never soak your wood pellets – even if you plan to use them in a smoker box in a charcoal grill.

Although there is no risk of damage to your smoker, like if you were using a pellet grill, there is simply no benefit to soaking your wood pellets. You might even find they won’t smoke at all, and they might not even burn.

It’s best to completely ditch the idea of adding any kind of moisture to your wood pellets. Period. 

What To Do If Your Wood Pellets Got Wet?

For the same reasons as you wouldn’t want to soak your wood pellets, you really want to avoid them getting wet or absorbing any moisture at all.

Keeping the wood pellets dry is essential for avoiding temperature issues, like your pellet grill overheating, or receiving low temperature warnings.

Most manufacturers recommend placing the wood pellets in a dry place, preferably off the ground too. This means that leaving wood pellets outside where they are exposed to the elements is a big no-no.

So, if your wood pellets do get wet, what can you do? Although it depends on just how much moisture they have absorbed the safest option is actually to simply take a loss, and replace your wood pellets. 

This is because, unlike with wet wood chips, you can’t simply dry them out. The moisture does irreversible damage to the composition of a wood pellet, and it will inevitably cause issues or underperform.

Conclusion

Unlike with traditional smokers, utilizing logs, chunks, or wood chips, smoking with wood pellets is a much more delicate process.

Although the results can be amazing when smoking with wood pellets, the key is keeping them dry, and avoiding all moisture possible. 

As soon as wood pellets absorb moisture they start to break down and lose their ability to smoke consistently and properly. For this reason, never soak your wood pellets.

We’ve done our homework here at GrillSimply and tried and tested many types of wood pellets. Check out what we reckon are the best wood pellets for smoking.

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