The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Wood Chip Soaker

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This blog entry talks about a specialized tool that you could live without, but you may not want to. The tool is the Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Wood Chip Soaker. For years I used other solutions to soaking my wood chips but this device is an elegant solution that offers several advantages to anything I had come up with.

If you need to use wood chips on your grill most folks agree you should soak them for an hour or so in cold water. Soaking the chips causes them to slowly smolder giving off smoke, as opposed to quickly burning up. This grill tool improves on my solution in several ways. One of the things I like about Steven Raichlen’s line of grill tools is you get the feeling someone has started with a clean design slate rather than simply making a copycat version of the tools already out there. They often feature nice touches the similar tools lack.


The old method of soaking chips involved 2 large foil pans to soak the chips. Later a colander and meatloaf sized foil pans were required

Now my process up until this point had been using a measuring cup to measure out 1 cup of wood chips. Then I’d soak them for an hour in disposable aluminum pans to soak the chips. I’d drain them in a colander and carry them out to the grill in a disposable foil meatloaf sized pan. It worked but had several disadvantages. First I was using a measuring cup and a colander for non-food items which I generally don’t like to do. Secondly I had to use two pans which took up quite a bit of room. Why two pans? Well the wood soaks for an hour but in my grill it always takes 45 minutes to burn up in the smoker drawer, so I needed to have two batches soaking for longer smokes. I then had to bring the chips out to the grill in another foil container. All in all I’d use two large and two meatloaf sized disposable foil containers for my homegrown method. Now I didn’t throw these out but eventually the soaker pans would develop a pin hole leak.


The chips are soaking in the low position. I have a smoker drawer, but this basket could go right out to the grill and serve to hold the chips over the coals for you.

So how does this store bought solution improve the process? First it is a dedicated grill tool so I am not using kitchen utensils for wood chips. The size of the perforated stainless steel soaker baskets hold just the right amount of chips for my smoker drawer, so I know longer need to measure out a cup of chips. The way this device works can be seen in the picture at the top of this page. The base that holds the water is square. Depending on which direction you turn the baskets they are either soaking or draining. In the soaking position (left picture) the baskets hang off the sides of the soaker chamber. Removing the baskets and rotating them 90 degrees lets them hang off some high side rails to drain. This eliminated using a colander for me. Now my grill has a dedicated smoker drawer, so I simply drain a basket and carry it out to the grill and add the chips to the smoker drawer. But if your grill doesn’t have a smoker drawer these baskets can be placed right on the grill. This prevents your from having to make a smoker pouch where you wrap the chips in foil and punch holes in the foil. Some people use a smoker box for the grill to hold the chips, once again no need. This device is a one stop solution, measure the chips, soak them, drain them and hold them while they smoke. While you are smoking one basket, you can be soaking the second.

So far this has proven to be a simple elegant solution. I have had zero problems so far. I do see one potential fly in the ointment which might affect people you put the baskets out on the grill. The base on the chips soaker is a heavy black plastic. I don’t know how high a temperature it can stand so you might run into trouble if you bring a hot basket back in off the grill and hung it off the high rails it might melt the plastic. One would hope the fact you needed to use tongs or gloves to bring it in might remind you the basket was hot. This scenario might be a bit of a stretch and where I use a smoker drawer it is a non-issue for me.

So where can you get this cool chip soaker? The Bed, Bath and Beyond chain carries many of the Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue tools. In New England it tends to be seasonal from May to early July, but in areas of the country where it is warm year round the tools are available year round. Bed Bath & Beyond


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