Do You Need to Soak Wood Chips? And Other Tips to Get the Ideal Smoke
There is no end to information out there to help with creating exquisite meals using a smoker. This particular article aims to debunk popular myths surrounding soaking wood, how much smoke is needed, and other fantastic tips for using the Apollo® 3 in 1 Charcoal Grill and Water Smoker in particular.
You Do Not Need to Soak Wood Chips
The most popular, and most argued about, tip when it comes to smoking is the soaking of your wood chips and chunks for at least an hour before smoking. The thought is that doing this will slow combustion and create a better-flavored smoke than dry wood would.
In truth, soaking your wood chips and chunks isn’t necessary and here’s why.
- It takes more than 24 hours for a significant amount of moisture to penetrate the wood
- Soaked wood is producing steam
- Soaked wood will lower the smoker's temperature
Wood chips and chunks that have been soaked have to get rid of any moisture before they can produce smoke. The water on the wood will have to heat to 212°F (the boiling point of water) and will stall there until the water has been evaporated. Only then will it begin to smoke.
Soaking wood chips or chunks can be used to your advantage in other situations, like when smoking on a charcoal or gas grill – as opposed to an Apollo® or similar bullet smoker. Using a tray with soaked wood and another with dry, you can create a time-release for your smoke as the dry chips/chunks will smoke while the wet ones will dry and begin to smoke later.
Plank grilling is an exception to the no need to soak rule. Soaking the plank ensures that there is enough surface moisture on the plank that it should not combust while you are cooking. There is not enough moisture to produce significant steam or smoke, however, it will produce delightful flavor on your food.
A Smoker / Smoker Accessory Full of Wood Chips Will Bring Big Smoke Flavor
It takes at least 20 minutes before you will develop any significant smoke flavoring. That is why we recommend using a reverse sear technique – something that will take longer - because this will allow the smoke to flavor your food.
More Smoke = Better Smoke?
Great billowing clouds of smoke emanating from your Apollo® Water Smoker mean you’re doing it right. Right? Actually, the best smoke is almost invisible, a thin wisp of light smoke white-ish-blue. Anything grey, black, or bright white, isn’t going to be as delicious.
Weather or Not to Smoke
The weather will make a huge impact on your Apollo® 3 in 1 Water Smoker. When smoking, humidity, sunlight, and especially the wind can influence the temperature inside your smoker and the burn rate of your charcoal. Ensuring that your Apollo® is sheltered from the wind and the sun is the easiest way to make sure you are getting the most from the unit. Remember to never smoke indoors, or under a covered porch. Instead, use a folding windscreen and an umbrella as needed.
On particularly windy days, close the bottom vents that are being hit by the wind, using the vents on the opposite side to control temperature.
Things are Heating Up
If you’re like me, and when you do a long smoke, you make sure to get as much out of it as you can, remember that - the more cold meat that you put on the smoker, the longer it will take to get back up to smoking temperature. This also means that the smoke will take longer as well, although it isn’t by much, an hour or two if you are careful about keeping in the heat. You may be thinking that you will just bring all of the food up to room temperature beforehand. Unfortunately, it would take approximately 12 hours or longer to bring a thick-cut steak up to room temperature throughout. This means that you will more likely be growing bacteria and following unsafe food practices than getting the results you are looking for. Again, in the long run, it is not a huge change in times, but you do need to be aware of it.
The unique tiered structure of the Apollo® 3 in 1 Charcoal Grill and Water Smoker makes it easy to prepare loads of smoked food. You can easily add charcoal and wood chips through the easy access doors on the two tiers, however, if you need to move or check on the food on the top rack, you will be lifting the lid. This will release a large amount of the heat right out the top of the smoker. This means that the grill will have to come all the way back up to temperature before cooking and smoking can continue. This can take 20 to 30 additional minutes.
Whether you just lifted the lid, or you hit the stall and are having a bit of a panic, you may be considering playing with vents or adding charcoal to ensure that the temperature goes up. Remember that adding charcoal or opening vents will cause your charcoal to burn hotter and faster. You may need to add more charcoal hours sooner than anticipated, further interrupting your cooking and adding to the length of time it takes to smoke.
More PRO TIPS
- Keep things simple, salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika for that dark bark color.
- As a general rule of thumb, pull your meat at 160°F and wrap tightly in foil with a splash of liquid and butter for the remainder of the cook.
- Remember that there should be no gaps in your wrap job when using foil.
- If you opt for butcher paper for wrapping instead, remember to get unwaxed butcher paper.
Smoking is a labor of love. It takes patience. Hopefully, the tips and tricks in this article have helped you to become a better smoker. What is your favorite smoking tip? Share yours on your favorite social platform, like Grills Facebook or Grills Instagram using the hashtag #NapoleonSmokerTip and #NapoleonGrills.