Wood Chips Vs. Wood Pellets For Smoking – Which Is Best?

It’s not about the size, it’s about how you use it.

You can get successful barbecue results no matter the size of your wood! Some smoker types can accommodate larger sizes of woods like chunks or even logs. But we are going to be comparing burn quality, flavor, and the smoke of wood chips and wood pellets, for use on electric, gas, pellet or charcoal smokers or grills. Let’s get smoking.

Wood Chips Vs. Wood Pellets For Smoking

(For Electric, Gas, Charcoal, & Pellet Smokers)

Wood Chips

  • Versatile, can be used in any smoker type (except pellet smokers)
  • Release a good amount of smoke
  • Inexpensive and easy to find
  • Less consistent smoke

Wood chips are small, dried pieces of hardwood. They burn reasonably quickly but release a good amount of smoke while they are burning. They are completely versatile in their use and can be used while grilling for small bursts of smoky flavor, or they can be used to smoke while cooking low and slow.

There is an ongoing debate about whether it’s necessary to soak wood chips first, or whether it helps them smoke. The truth is, by soaking wood chips first, that wood has to essentially dry up before it begins to combust which releases the smoke. However, they can be soaked to enhance flavor, or delay the process on purpose. On the other hand, you should NEVER soak wood pellets as they simply fall apart.

Wood chips are great for use in electric, gas, portable, or smaller smokers. Although they don’t produce as much smoke as wood chunks they do everything you need them to.

Best Uses For Wood Chips

Charcoal Smoker
Depending on what you are smoking and how long you want to keep it going for, you may be better off using wood chunks. However, for the purposes of comparing wood chips to wood pellets, wood chips are certainly the better pick.

Charcoal Grill
You can also use wood chips amazingly well in charcoal grills, for use in indirect smoking. Particularly if you are using the snake method for your charcoal, you can sprinkle wood chips around the snake too to keep a constant smoke, or you can place them at the start and middle of the smoke when they are most effective.

Electric Smoker
Most electric smokers are actually designed for use with wood chips, having smaller specific compartments to slowly allow the wood to burn and release smoke. Because these containers or smoke boxes often have small holes for ventilation, wood pellets are not as suitable here, as they can actually fall out of some.

Either way, wood chips in an electric smoker will provide you much more consistent and strong smoky results. 

Gas Smoker
Similar to the electric smoker, gas smokers only usually work well with wood chips. Because they are designed to be used with wood chips, the chips will naturally burn better in this kind of unit.

Gas Grill
You are able to also use wood chips of gas grills, either in the best smoker box you can find, or simply by wrapping a handful of chips in aluminum foil, poking holes in it, placing it over the burners, and placing your meat on the other side of the grill and smoking using indirect heating.

Wood Pellets

  • Burns very consistently
  • Great flavor
  • Release a good amount of smoker for their size

  • More expensive
  • Too small for some smoker boxes

Wood pellets are just natural hardwood sawdust compressed into their unique pellet shape. The benefits of wood pellets is they are engineered to burn consistently, evenly, and release a good amount of smoke.

They are less versatile than wood chips, mainly because they are usually too small for some smoker boxes for gas and electric smokers. They do burn well on charcoal smokers and grills, but that’s just not what they are specially designed for.

They do produce a lot of smoke and good flavor, particularly when used in pellet smokers.

See here for the best wood pellets to use for smoking.

Best Uses For Wood Pellets

Pellet Smoker
Traeger, Pitboss, Oklahoma Joes, just to name a few of the best quality pellet smokers in the market. These smokers are specifically designed to burn wood pellets, with intricately and cleverly engineered burning systems to control temperature and smoke.

To be blunt, you can’t really use any other wood in these smokers, but that’s absolutely not necessary given the amazing quality feasts that wood pellets create.

Best Flavors Of Wood Chips And Wood Pellets

The wood used in wood chips is the same wood used in wood pellets, just in a different form. So the same flavors that come from the wood are consistent between wood chips and pellets. Since pairing the wood smoke and meat does come down to personal preference, I’ve highlighted just some of my favourite pairings below.

Best wood for smoking brisket

Best wood for smoking pork butt

Best wood for smoking deer/venison

Best wood for smoking lamb

Best wood for smoking wings

Best wood for smoking brats

Final Verdict: Wood Chips Vs. Wood Pellets

To keep it simple, wood chips and wood pellets are both amazing, but have completely different uses. Wood chips are great at providing small bursts of smokiness, with strong flavor and versatile use in gas, electric, or charcoal units. 

Although you can use wood pellets in these smoker units too, they naturally work better in their own specifically designed pellet smokers, producing banger results time after time.

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