hands adding wood chips to smoker

How to Use Bourbon-Soaked Wood Chips for Grilling

Almost everyone can agree that the smoky aroma rising from a sizzling grill is one of the most mouthwatering scents on earth. However, some creative grillmasters have taken things up a notch by not only infusing their smoked dishes with the natural wood aroma of the chips but also by adding the rich, warm fragrance of barrel-aged whiskey. How? By soaking their wood chips in bourbon! This not only imparts a wonderful scent to whatever you’re grilling but also a mouthwatering flavor.

Here’s the straightforward method: Grab a large stockpot (or any container with a lid to keep the chips moist) and mix one part cheap bourbon (save the quality stuff for sipping) with two parts water. Next, let your wood chips soak in the mixture for at least a day to ensure that the liquid fully penetrates the wood. For maximum flavor, replace the soaking water with a new batch of the same bourbon-water mixture at the 12-hour mark.

Afterward, fish out the bourbon-infused wood chips and allow them to fully dry out before utilizing them. Wet wood chips won’t produce smoke and can lead to inconsistent grill temperatures. Then, take a whiff of the newly-soaked chips and you should be greeted by a lovely blend of aromas: Natural wood scent mixed with the oakiness of bourbon and the subtle finishing hints of vanilla, caramel, and spices.

Is it the same as soaking your wood chips in water?

soaked wood chips in bowl

It’s been debated at length about why soaking your wood chips before using them isn’t the best idea. To put it simply, wet wood chips create more steam than smoke, which can interfere with the cooking process. McCormicks even says that soaking wood chips in alcohol is “a waste of good booze” since any added flavor tends to vanish as the chips start to steam. However, there are times when soaking makes sense.

RECOMMENDED:  German Grilling Technique: The Schwenker

Bourbon-soaked wood chips can come in handy when you’re planning a super long smoking session, like cooking a massive 20-pound brisket or a whole crown rib roast that needs more than twelve hours. In these cases, you can use two trays of wood chips in your smoker. Fill one tray with dry wood chips, which will start producing smoke right away, and the other tray with bourbon-soaked wood chips. It will take a bit longer for these to get going because they need to get rid of the moisture first, but once they do, they will add a lovely whiskey-like aroma and flavor to your meat, along with the natural wood scent.

The question of whether to soak wood chips or not remains a matter of personal preference and taste. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment and see if it truly makes a difference in the quality of smoke for your cooking. Ultimately, it’s all about what suits your palate best!

Our Experts
Our Experts

Look's editorial team comprises seasoned writers and editors who specialize in the food and drink, hospitality, and agriculture sectors. We also collaborate with external experts to ensure the delivery of accurate, current information and unique recipes.

Our goal is to publish informative and engaging articles, offering readers the content they seek, from daily news to cooking tips, tricks, trends, and reviews. To maintain the highest standards of comprehensiveness, currency, and accuracy, our team continually reviews and updates our articles as needed.