Wood Chips Vs Chunks: 4 Differences That Float to the Top

May 24, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

The most obvious difference between wood chips and wood chunks is the size. The bigger the size of your smoking wood, the longer it burns so wood chunks will comparatively burn for a longer time.

As an experienced pitmaster, I find that the key to nailing this flavor lies in getting the meat to absorb most of the smoke during the first few hours of grilling.

For this, you’ve got to go with wood chunks which is why B & B Wood Smoking Chunks is my go-to for long and slow cooks. However, for a light, medium, or quick burst of smoke flavor, wood chips will get the job done.

In this article, I will outline the differences between wood chips and chunks. Additionally, I will tell you which one is suitable for your cooking needs and how to use them in your smoker for the best results.

wood chips Vs chunks

What Are the Differences Between Wood Chips and Wood Chunks?


Wood Chips

Wood Chunks


1-2 inches

4-6 inches

Burn Rate



Smoke Intensity


Very High

Flavor Intensity


Very High

Cooking Duration

Short Cooks

Long Cooks

Type of Smoker

Gas and Electric Smokers

Charcoal, Kettle & Offset Smokers


Wood chips are a lot smaller than wood chunks. Wood chips are typically around 1-2 inches in size, while a wood chunk measures between 4-6 inches or more.

Burn Rate and Smoke Intensity

Since wood chips are comparatively smaller than chunks, they burn much faster than wood chunks. Smoking chips yield mild smoke for a shorter duration.

Wood chunks on the other hand produce a cloud of thick, consistent smoke and burn for much longer than wood chips.

Flavor Intensity and Application

Another major difference between wood chips and chunks is the flavor intensity and their application to different cooking methods.

The thick smoke produced by chunks means a higher flavor intensity. The thick smoke penetrates the meat fibers and imparts a smokey flavor to your barbecues.

This is why pitmasters prefer chunks for low and slow cooks which are familiar with cuts like brisket, chuck roast, the eye of round, and whole turkey that typically require ample smoking times ranging between 8-16 hours.

Bunch of Wood Chunks Ready to Smoke

Smoking wood chips on the other hand yield less flavor because they only burn for a shorter amount of time and yield mild smoke.

They work best for quick bursts of flavor suitable for more delicate dishes like fish, veggies, seafood, chicken wings, and steaks. These foods usually require less cooking time ranging between 2-6 hours.

Cooking Gear

Given their different sizes, chips and chunks are suited to different cooking gear.

More recent models of smokers make it easy to use either wood chips or wood chunks to smoke your meat. However, you should consider the size of your smoker when choosing between the two.

Wood chips are more commonly used the gas grill and electric smokers, while wood chunks are better suited for charcoal smokers, Kamado grills, and traditional smokers because they are large enough to accommodate the size of wood chunks.

So, What Are Wood Chips?

Wood chips are small pieces of hardwood that are commonly used for smoking and grilling. They are made by chipping or shredding wood into small pieces, usually around 1-2 inches in size.

Wood chips are made from a variety of hardwood trees including oak, hickory, apple, cherry, maple, pecan, and mesquite among others.

They add an unmatched smokey flavor to fish, vegetables, and other foods. They are affordable, take less time to burn, and produce mild smoke which is why they are preferred for home cooking.

When to Use Wood Chips?

Smoking wood chips are the better choice when:

  • Cooking delicate types of meat like fish and seafood that easily be overpowered by intense flavors.
  • You want to yield a short quick burst of smokey flavor.
  • For short cooks that last up to 4 hours.
  • Using a gas or electric smoker.

What Are Wood Chunks?

Wood chunks are larger than chips, usually around 4-6 inches in diameter or even larger. They also come from hardwood trees just like chips. They burn slower than chips and provide a more consistent, steady smoke over a longer period.

This makes wood chunks ideal for longer cooking times and for smoking larger cuts of meat, such as brisket or pork shoulder because they produce a lot more smoke than chips.

Wood chunks are commonly used in kettle grills, coal smokers, and offset smokers because they produce intense smoke and take up more space in the smoker.

When to Use Wood Chunks?

  • When you want to impart a bold smokey to your meat with more smoke.
  • For low and slow cooks that take up to 16 hours.
  • To get a killer smoke ring in your barbecue.
  • When using kettle grills, charcoal, and offset smokers.
BBQ Smoking Wood Chunks

Should I Smoke With Wood Chips or Chunks?

The choice between smoking wood chips or chunks largely depends on your cooking gear. Generally, chips are better suited for use in gas and electric grills.

Using Wood Chips in Gas Grills and Electric Smokers

The only difference between the electric and gas grill is the power source but they function pretty much the same.

  • Start by preheating the smoker to the desired temperature.
  • As it comes up to temperature, remove your soaked chips from the soaking liquid and let the cooking wood drip dry if you had left them to soak.
  • Lay the chips on your smoker box and spread them evenly to ensure they are exposed to the heat source. If your smoker does not fit with the box, consider Char-Broil Smoker Box. It is very effective and affordable compared to others on the market
  • Close the lid and put it back in the smoker. When they start smoldering, put in your meat to start smoking, set the timer, and let the smoker do the rest.
  • Remember to monitor the chips and add more when they are about halfway burnt.

Smoking chunks on the other hand are better suited for the kettle grill, charcoal grill, and offset grill. Here’s how to go about it in both charcoal and offset grills:

Using Wood Chunks in Charcoal Grills and Offset Grills

There are many types of charcoal grills. They include kettle grills, barrel grills, and ceramic grills. In general, they are great for low and slow cooking and typically utilize wood chunks and charcoal briquettes.

Let’s get started;

  • Ensure all the vents are open and get rid of any ash from the last bbq.
  • Arrange your coal or briquettes along the wall of your grill according to your preference. You can either use the charcoal snake method or the minion method for the best results.
  • Place 5-6 flavored wood chunks near your coal such that they will be lit as the fire consumes the fuel.
  • Grab a handful of briquettes and use a chimney starter to light them before putting them in direct contact with the briquettes. I am partial to Kingsford Deluxe Charcoal Chimney Starter. You can also use starter cubes to get a fire going, in which case, Mr Pen Fire Starters is a great affordable option.
  • Allow the charcoal smoker to get to your desired temperature as you prepare your meat and you will be ready to go.
  • Again, remember to monitor the wood and replace the chunks when they are about halfway burnt to keep the smoking process going.
Juicy Meat Grilling on the Charcoal Grill

Do You Need to Soak Wood Chunks Before Grilling?

Need to? No. Can you? Yes. Should you? Not necessarily.

There are advocates for both sides, each with compelling arguments so it comes down to your preference.

I do not recommend soaking chunks before using them. This is because the wood chunks would take a longer time to start smoldering as they will have to get rid of the excess moisture. Let me tell you why this is a problem.

In my experience, the meat absorbs most of the flavor during the first few hours of smoking. This is evident in the coveted smoke ring that demands heavy smoke and low temperatures before crust formation begins. Once the crust starts to form, it gets harder for smoke to penetrate the meat fibers. So soaking your wood directly compromises the quality of the smoke ring.

However, some folks argue that soaking wood chunks before grilling for 30 minutes slows down combustion, and enhances the wood flavor. At the end of the day, the choice to soak or not to soak wood chunks is yours.

Can I Use Wood Chunks in a Wood Chip Smoker?

Yes, you can use chunks in a wood chip smoker. However, you may need to modify your smoker slightly to accommodate the large size of the chunks.

Most wood chip smokers have a small tray or box designed to hold the chips. If you decide you want to use chunks instead, you can place them directly on top of the heating element or a separate tray above the heating element.

Also, you may need to preheat chunks since they take longer to produce smoke before adding them to your smoker. You may also need to adjust the vents and temperature settings on your smoker to ensure that the wood chunks burn consistently and produce the desired amount of smoke.

Overall, while chips are often easier to use in a wood chip smoker, using chunks can give you a more robust and longer-lasting smoke flavor.


1. Can I Use Wood Chunks in a Gas Smoker?

Yes, you can. If your smoker is large enough to accommodate enough wood chunks to smoke meats then don’t hesitate to put it to use.

If you have a small cooker and all you have is smoking chunks, don’t give up on that wood-fired flavor just yet! Get a cleaver or any other strong blade and chop them into smaller pieces and get smoking.

2. Can I Add Wood Chunks While Grilling?

Absolutely. I always recommend monitoring your fuel throughout the cook so as not to interrupt the smoking process.

Once you are down to the last half portion of wood chunks, put on some heat-resistant gloves and add more chunks. I have used RAPICCA BBQ Gloves for almost 3 years and they don’t seem any worse for wear.

3. Can I Use Wood Chunks in a Smoker Box?

Definitely! Smoker boxes come in several sizes. If you love using wood chunks, get a larger box that can fit approximately 3-4 chunks.

To Recap

The choice between chips or chunks should be based on the recipe, cooking gear, and your preference. If your recipe calls for long cooks and needs more smoke to get that bold punchy smoke flavor, chunks will not let you down.

However, if you want just a mild hint of smoke, chips are what you need.

In our grilling world, you can always adapt and utilize what is easily available to you. If you only have chunks, I bet you can chop them into chips.

And if you’ve got chips in your pantry, you can still get that intense smoky flavor by using a ton of them. That’s the difference between a novice and a guru. Get smoking!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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