When you are smoking pork, turkey or any other large cut of meat, it's important to have a steady, slow supply of hardwood smoke curling over and around the meat throughout the smoking process. The problem is that in order to create the smoke necessary, wood has to be placed within a close proximity to the charcoal or gas jets providing the heat for your smoker. Too much heat and the wood chips burst into flames; not enough heat and the chips never ignite. Enter the wood chip holder.
Horizontal Charcoal Smokers
A basic charcoal smoker has the offset firebox, where the charcoal is placed and the cooking area where the food is placed for the smoke to cook it. This is the typical horizontal charcoal smoker set-up. To accommodate a homemade wood chip holder, you must arrange the charcoal in a circular pattern with an empty space in the middle large enough to place the holder. For this set-up, a simple empty tin can with the lid removed will suffice. The wood chips must be soaked first so they don't immediately flame up and burn, which produces little smoke.
Vertical Charcoal Smokers
A vertical charcoal smoker, like the Green Egg or the Ugly Barrel Smoker, is set up with the charcoal basket in the lower portion of the unit. In the section above that is the water pan and right above that is where the food is placed. A wood chip holder for this set-up can be placed just above the charcoal. Add soaked chips to an old bread pan and cover with foil. Poke a few small holes in the foil to allow air to get to the wood. Place another bread pan with water in it next to the chips pan. Use both of these smaller pans instead of the large saucer shaped water pan. Wait until the chips are smoking and then add food.
Horizontal Gas Smokers
With gas grills, if you use wood chips to get a smoked flavour in your food, it may mean having to do some cleaning of the jet ports the gas flames emerge from. Since there is seldom any space between ports where a tin can or bread pan can be placed, an alternative homemade chip holder must be created. This holder cannot be placed directly on the jet flames or you will not get smoke, just more flames. Form a large piece of aluminium foil into the shape of a small pan. Fold the foil at least three times and shape it into a small square pan. Place this "pan" on top of one side of the burners but out of the direct flame. To smoke food in a gas grill, you will have to turn one side of heat on and leave the other off or set very low. Place the food on the side of the grill where the burners are not on and the wood chips in between the two sections. This will allow the smoke to indirectly cook the food.
Ugly Barrel Electric Smokers
The ugly barrel electric smoker is more of a design than a brand name. The source of heat is often a hotplate at the bottom of a barrel. Fill a pie tin with soaked wood chips and cover with foil. Poke several holes in the foil to allow the air to get in and the smoke to get out. The electric hotplate won't get hot enough to ignite the wood chips and the barrel lid will keep the smoke circulating over the food. This type of wood chip holder will work for vertical gas or propane smokers as well.