Introduction: Quick Soaking Wood Chips for Smoking Meat
If you choose to soak your wood chips before smoking meats, you know that it takes a long time. Some people recommend soaking wood chips overnight, but everyone agrees that it has to be at least 30 minutes. If you remember to do this step, you could probably do some other preparation while you are waiting for the chips to soak. I think I have found a way to speed up the process and nearly eliminate this step.
Side note: I have read a lot of debate about whether soaking woods is necessary at all. Some people agree that small, easily burned chips should be soaked to prevent them from burning up. The argument against soaking makes sense for larger logs because it can take a very long time for the moisture to soak in, and rarely gets more than a 1/4" into the wood. To me, when you sit near a camp fire and wet wood is burning, it makes a lot more smoke and takes longer to burn.
Step 1: Measure
On my propane grill and now sometimes in my upright smoker, I use this little metal smoker box to hold wood chips. First I fill it with the dry chips to measure how much it fits when it is full. I dump the chips into a microwave safe bowl and cover the chips with water.
Step 2: Microwave and Cook
I pop the bowl of chips into the microwave and turn it on just long enough to boil the water. For this amount of chips and water, it took about 4-5 minutes. This is much quicker than the 30 minutes the package recommends.
Since boiling water soaks into pasta, potatoes, beans and everything else including wood, the chips should now contain just about the optimal amount of water. Drain the chips, put them back in your smoker box and fire up your grill.
My propane grill has 4 burners and 3 grates. I have found that I need to put the chips right between 2 of the heat shields to get good smoke, and unfortunately, I can't fit the grill grate back in place with the box in this spot. With the smoker box balancing between the 2 hot burners, indirect cooking means cooking on only the cold half the grill.