Why You Shouldn't Soak Smoker Wood Chips In Beer

Beer and barbecue are a match made in heaven. But how you put the two together is controversial, to say the least. To make his beer can chicken, Bobby Flay tells cooks to open the can of beer and either drink about half a cup of it or pour it over wood chips that will be used to smoke the chicken. But then check out this list of barbecue myths. Myth #3 tells us that we don't need to soak wood chips at all before we smoke with them.

Smoking meats is a labor of love. It requires a significant time investment, and it's important to know how to do it right. Before we examine the reasons why you shouldn't soak wood chips in beer, let's look at an argument for the practice. Grill Simply agrees with the prevailing belief that wood chips should be dry for smoking. But it contends that soaking chips can be productive, as long as you're using liquids that add flavor (like beer) and if you allow the chips to dry before you add them to the smoker or grill.

Beer is for drinking, not smoking

While barbecue resources like Grill Simply encourage using beer as a soaking liquid for wood chips, other experts vehemently disagree. "Grilling With Beer" author Lucy Saunders is staunchly in the anti-beer-soaking camp. She told Outside Online that if you do soak wood chips in beer, you end up with "sticky ashes from the caramelization of malt sugars, and any hops aromatics are almost immediately wafted away by flame/smoke." So not only do you not obtain additional flavor from beer used for soaking, but you can end up with a mess.

Just because beer doesn't belong on your wood chips, that doesn't mean it can't figure in your barbecue plans, though. This beer-marinated rump steak recipe, for example, benefits from the rich flavors of a stout or other dark beer, or try making a beer-based barbecue sauce. Craft Beering recommends a malty — rather than hoppy — beer to add complexity to the flavor.

Beer: You can drink it. You can marinate in it. You can add it to your sauces. Just don't soak your wood chips in it.