To Soak or Not to Soak?

Barbecuer’s are split on whether wood chips should be soaked in water prior to using. The truth is that tests show that water does not penetrate hardly at all into the wood and when you first throw them on the grill, what you see first is steam evaporating off the chips — not smoke! Worse, the smoke phase doesn’t start until all the surface water is gone so you’re just retarding the start of smoking.

If your chips catch on fire, don’t worry about it . . . it’s producing smoke and that’s what you want. If you’re cooking food on a plank (like fish) then you’d want to soak it first — if only to keep it from bursting into fire when it’s in contact with your food.