Today I bought some apple wood to smoke some chicken wings. I was following an article on serious eats and it suggested to let the wood ignite for about 5 minutes before it produced smoke. I put the apple wood ontop of the already ashed charcoal and ignite it did. However, there wasn't much smoke to be had. It looked to me to be turning into charcoal. I instead put some more chunks on and closed the lid, causing the grill to bellow white smoke. The wings turned out much darker and appeared to me to have some semblance of a smoke ring, but I am unsure if I am doing the right thing.
My question is, how should I add a smoking wood to a charcoal grill? If it matters I am using a Weber kettle, not a smoker.
Adding wood and allowing it to ignite is the proper procedure. You can do this with the cover on your grill so that it doesn't burn up too fast. You want the smoke to look bluish, rather than white, for the best flavor. When you see white smoke, the wood is not hot enough and you will get more acrid, less desirable flavors. You also don't need to see a massive billow of smoke. Catching this at the right time is a matter of adjusting the air flow, and it takes some practice with any grill/smoker set up. I will also point out that, in most cases, smoke has most of its impact during the first 30 minutes of cooking, so there really is no need to keep it going beyond that. I will further point out that cooking with hardwood charcoal (rather than briquets) also contributes to the smoke flavor.
I have a gas grill. The wood (I use apple wood chunks) burns too fast if I put it down below the grate.
I set a chunk (I like the big chunks) on the grill and leave it while the grill heats up. By cooking time usually it is smoldering and smoking on the edges and that is perfect for steaks, burgers, chicken etc. If the wood chunk is still looking intact when I am done I will put it out and use it again next time. That method should work ok with charcoal too. Being at a distance from the charcoal means it will not burn with the charcoal.
For the rotisserie I put the chunks up in the smoking tray.