Written by adam on Jun 6, 2007
Soaking Wood Chunks
To soak or not to soak. That is the question that plagues us. Everywhere you look, people are dumping bags of wood into buckets of water, oblivious to the fact that it means absolutely diddly squat. I am sorry to say this, my brethren, but if you are soaking wood chunks in water, you are wasting your time and energy.
I have seen this done on the Virtual Weber Bullet website, but I figured I should make sure that the results are the same on a first-hand basis.
What you see is a large chunk of wood soaked in water overnight.
And now, you see the same chunk of wood split in half. You'll notice that the water has barely penetrated the wood at all. It's maybe an eighth inch penetration. Once this piece of wood hits the fire, that water will evaporate faster than the wood can catch on fire.
I used all the rest of the wood in the bag without soaking it, and the meat turned out just fine. Wood chunks as large as these do not need any time in water to make them "smolder" on the fire. The straight burning of the wood itself will create enough smoke to go around, plus the high temperature wood-burning fire will help aid in smoke ring formation.
The question of to soak or not to soak really comes down to this: which wood to soak. Wood chunks are not the only type of smoking wood available. There are wood chips that are sold everywhere charcoal is sold. Sometimes these piece are only a quarter to an eighth inch thick. considering the above experiment, soaking wood chips is beneficial.
Wood chips are so small, they will carbonize in the fire before they can really be beneficial to the meat. They must be soaked in water for about an hour prior to use, to ensure that they will just smolder on the fire.
Soaking the wood chunks may seem like a good idea. Afterall, all the celebrity chefs do it, and they have great reasons. But the simple fact is that the water will not penetrate the wood far enough to accomplish any smoldering effect.
Responses to "Soaking Wood Chunks" ...
Awesome! Thanks for the explanation on this. I've always wondered and tried both ways and got the same results. I'm finally glad I've got proof now!
Awesome. You'd be surprised how many professional barbeque cooks I saw the the competition this weekend were using soaked chunks.
One way to tell if it's going to make a difference would be to weigh the wood before and after soaking. Wood chunks show a very little difference before and after, showing that they've absorbed almost no discernible amount of water. Chips, on the other hand, being so thin, will have a much greater percentage difference in weight after soaking, as the water gets soaked throughout the wood chip. Soaking chunks will cause them to smolder a bit more right after putting them in a fire, but that stops very quickly as the water is gone pretty fast.