Wood Pellets vs Wood Chips (Which Is Better?) 

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: June 20, 2024

Smoking food on the grill or barbeque is one of the best ways to do it; this way of cooking adds a delicious flavor to your dish and can help tenderize your meat at the same time.

The Masterclass specialists advise that while traditionalists love to cook using a charcoal smoker or grill, you should consider trying out a wood pellet smoker if you are more of an outdoor cooker.

Quick Summary

  • Wood pellets are made up of sawdust extruded under pressure, while wood chips are made of small pieces of wood.
  • Wood chips burn much quicker and produce a large amount of flavor.
  • Wood pellets burn slower, cook your meat more evenly, and produce more of a milder flavor.

Wood pellets are the most preferred fuel source as they cook slower-producing meat that is perfectly cooked and tenderized with a beautiful flavor.

Wood chips may be your preferred choice if you like to cook your meat quicker while getting an excellent smokey wood flavor.

Why not consider a wood chip smoker and decide which you prefer best with this advice. The reason you should look at both wood pellets and wood chips as they both have great benefits and weaknesses that may impact the way you like your meat cooked.

What Are The Differences Between Wood Pellets & Wood Chips?

Top view of a wood chips inside a container

Understanding the differences between wood pellets and wood chips is essential before purchasing them.

This includes looking at their cost and what they are made of.

Wood chips are similar to what they sound like; they are made using small pieces of wood cut into small sizes, usually 5mm – 50mm.

On the other hand, wood pellets are a little more complicated; wood pellets are made using sawdust or fine wood shavings compacted together under high pressure.

When pressed at a high temperature, the resin from the wood is released, it is used to bind the pellets.

The wood pellets are pressed into cylindrical shapes of 6 by 10mm in diameter and 10 to 30mm in length.

One of the best ways to decide which one you would prefer is looking at the pros and cons of both and then weighing up which points are most important to you.

What Are The Benefits Of Wood Pellets?

Burning wood pellets

Let us look at the benefits of using wood pellets:

  • There are no artificial chemicals added to wood pellets when they are made.
  • Only starch or cornflour is added to the wood pellets, which is beneficial for the product's purpose. Starch improves the stability of the pellets by improving its fuel density with a low amount of moisture present in the product.
  • Wood pellets are more flavorful as many different wood blends can be added together to form a rich, beautiful flavor.
  • Wood pellets are a cheap product to use for cooking.
  • You can use wood pellets in many other grills, such as a charcoal grill, making them versatile.
  • You have more control over wood pellets when cooking, which is essential when preventing bursts of fire that can burn the food you are cooking. Wood pellets cook much slower, which helps cook the meat evenly while tenderizing it.

What Are The Cons Of Wood Pellets?

The benefits are great to look a, but you need to weigh them up to their cons when deciding:

  • Although wood pellets have no artificial chemicals added, they still contain many impurities. These impurities are not healthy for people as they are absorbed into the food while being cooked. It is also not good for the environment, contributing to global warming like all fires do [1].
  • Although you can add many different kinds of wood to wood pellets to form a beautiful combination of flavors, they don't produce a high amount of flavors resulting in a product that is not very flavorful.

What Are The Benefits Of Wood Chips?

Top view of wood chips

Since we have gone through the benefits and cons of wood pellets, let us look at wood chips:

  • Wood chips are a cost-effective source of fuel for your barbeque. They are also be purchased locally and are readily available, making them very convenient.
  • Wood chips have many flavors, giving your meat a stronger smokey wood flavor.
  • Wood chips burn at a quicker rate; to reduce this, you can submerge them in water for a while before burning them. This will slow the time they take to burn, as well as it will produce steam, keeping the meat tender and moist while it is cooking. This is great if you want to cook your meat quicker.

What Are The Cons Of Wood Chips?

  • Since wood chips provide more flavor to the meat, you must be careful with how much you use for cooking your meat as it can overwhelm the taste of the meat. To do this, choose a milder flavored wood such as fruitwoods.
  • Wood chips can not be used in many different grills and smokers.
  • Wood chips are also not healthy for humans or the environment; when burnt, they release impurities absorbed into the meat and go into the atmosphere.

The Difference Between Smoking Wood Chips and Chunks

The burning times of wood chips for smoking and wood chunks for smoking are completely different because of the size difference.

We can see that wood chips are much smaller in size than wood chunks, causing the chips to burn out faster than the chunks.

Attempting to make wood chips last longer by soaking them in water does help, but chunks still last an average of about an hour longer than the wood chips. It means that wood chips are perfect for small cuts, whereas the chunks will get the bigger cuts smoked successfully.

Additionally, wood chunks will produce smoke for a longer duration because they burn longer. A smoke ring on cuts of meat is a good indication of the correct amount of smoke; here is a link from an expert.

However, some cuts do not need as much smoking, which means that the smoke from wood chips gives the desired outcome when the recipe from an expert is followed correctly.

With All This Information Which Should You Choose?

Close up image of a wood pellets

It can be a tough decision to purchase wood pellets or wood chips to barbeque your meat.

When choosing, look at the grill or smoker you will need for both, which is better and the better value for the price.

So let us summarise a few things for you to think about when choosing your fuel source.

If you prefer your meat to be very tender with a beautiful mild flavor no matter how long it takes to prepare, then wood pellets are the way to go.

If you prefer to cook your meat quickly with lots of flavors, then wood chips are the way to go but remember that the quality of your meat when using wood chips is not guaranteed.

This is because they burn so quickly, which can lead to your meat not being evenly cooked and a little tougher than when cooking with pellets.

Although wood chips are cheaper to purchase, you will use more as they burn quicker, which is a big thing to consider, making wood pellets more affordable overall.

From the Masterclass specialists themselves recommending to use wood pellets as your fuel source, "Pellet smokers are great for cooking brisket, racks of ribs, turkey, fish, and more, imbuing them with a mouthwatering smoky flavor. What's more, pellet smokers are easy to work with" [2].

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About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy Woods holds a Kinesiology and Exercise Science degree from Jacksonville University and is CCC & GMU Certified. He's also the main man behind Carnivore Style. This food aficionado combines science and experience to spread the word about the carnivore lifestyle.
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