Learn how to smoke it for delectable poultry that no one will be able to resist.

Our top 5 smoking woods for Turkey

  • Apple
  • Alder
  • Cherry
  • Pecan
  • Oak

Even the most delectable cooked carnivorous dish pales in comparison to smoked poultry!

Scented with a woody scent, such meat develops a distinct smokey flavor that cannot be mistaken for anything else. And what could be better on the dinner table than smoked turkey?

However, when we decide to make some meal in this manner, the question of what type of wood to use frequently arises.

Will it have an effect on the ultimate taste and flavor of the bird’s meat?

How do you avoid making a blunder and choose the correct woods to smoke this type of poultry?

What is the best wood for smoking turkey? Cherry is the greatest wood for tasty turkey; Alder is excellent for mild flavor; Maple tree wood is best for honey-like notes; and Applewood is best for a fruity smell. Choose a Hickory or an Oak tree if you want a strong aroma.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a comprehensive guide!

What is the best wood to smoke turkey with?

wood for smoking

When it comes to smoking poultry and turkey in particular, there are five types of wood that are favoured above the others. These are typically cherry, apple, alder, and a few others. It is, nevertheless, acceptable to use various types of wood if, for example, one wishes to produce turkey with a greater aroma.

Everyone who has ever smoked meat or poultry at least once in their lives is aware that the wood used in the cooking process is just as important as the meat itself.

It is not enough to just select the turkey that will be smoked (though the quality of the meat is important, don’t forget!). The wood that will be used is also important. The type of wood used will determine the taste and flavor of the finished dish.

As a result, the most common error made by inexperienced turkey smokers is selecting the incorrect or insufficiently suited wood. As a result, the meat may have an overpowering smoked flavor that interferes with the taste of the food, or the flavor of the turkey may change.

Because we want our delectable meaty delicacies to retain their natural flavor, it is critical to utilize wood that will complement the initial taste of the meat and accent it rather than overpower it.

This is why, if you are not yet an experienced smoker, we strongly advise you to use one of the following types of wood.

Cherry wood

The cherry wood is delicious enough without overpowering the natural flavor of the meat. Furthermore, cherry will lend a considerable tint to the carcass, making your guests appreciate and wonder how you did it.

Furthermore, it has another fantastic feature: this type of wood may be perfectly matched with any brine that will be used to prepare the meat.

To create the characteristic smokey aroma, consider adding a touch of hickory to the cherry wood when smoking!

Traeger Cherry Hardwood Pellets, All-Natural

Traeger wood pellets are sourced and manufactured in the United States. Made entirely of natural hardwood, you receive all of the wood you need without the use of fillers or binding chemicals.

These pellets burn slowly, allowing your turkey to absorb all of the delectable scents they provide.

Traeger cherry pellets are slightly more expensive than comparable pellets, so if you have a limited budget, you should consider some of the other options on this list.

Pros: Made in the United States, made from all-natural wood, no fillers, no binders, slow burn

Cons: Expensive when compared to comparable cherry pellets.

You can find them here.

Pecan wood

Choose this type of wood to give your smoked turkey a distinct sweet and nutty flavor, as well as somewhat harsher smokey undertones.

However, we would advise everyone to test it on a portion of the meat before smoking the entire carcass because not everyone may find pecan wood ideal for them owing to the particular aroma.

Pecan Wood Chunks from Weber

Weber 17137 Pecan Wood Chunks, 350 cu. in. (0.006 Cubic Meter), 4 lb
  • Pecan wood chunks
  • Provides a rich & Sweet flavor
  • Use with fish, Port, poultry, lamb, & beef

Weber’s pecan wood pieces, a less expensive alternative to cherry, will give your turkey that slightly sweet flavor you’re seeking for.

They are sourced in the United States and are not treated with any oils, resulting in all-natural wood.

However, there may be a substantial quantity of chips in the bag, and the size of the chunks may vary greatly.

Pros: Natural hardwood obtained in the United States, not treated with oils, low cost

There are more chips in the bag than is ideal, and the size of the chunks varies widely.

You can find them right here.

Alder wood

This type of wood is noted for its exceptionally mild flavor, which is even more subtle than applewood! Perhaps this is why alder is commonly used to smoke fish, but don’t worry, turkey will benefit from being smoked with it as well!

Furthermore, because alder burns slowly, it is an excellent choice for beginners because there is little risk of making a sudden error and accidently burning the entire carcass by heating it for too long.

Another advantage of alder wood is that it blends nicely with different herbs and seasonings – a great choice if you enjoy a variety of flavors!

Maple wood

Why not try something different and go with maple wood?

Its aromatic perfume and honey-like undertones may appear to be too different from the well-known wood scents, but they will impart a subtle earthy aroma to the bird’s meat and enhance its inherent flavor.

Maple Western Premium BBQ Products

These are genuine maple chunks, ideal for adding a subtle sweetness to your poultry.

Western heat-treats their wood to keep it rot-free and pest-free.

These chunks are normally fist-sized, however the packing can range from chunks to chips. Larger portions must be placed aside to be chopped down (or saved for similar-sized chunks).

Advantages: Heat treated to avoid decay and bugs, real maple chunks, fist-sized bits

Cons: The size of the wood varies widely from chunks to chips.

Cameron’s Maple Smoking Wood Chips

Camerons Smoking Wood Chips (Maple) ~ 2lb Bag, 260 cu. in. - Coarse Kiln Dried BBQ Chips- 100% All...
  • Smoking Wood Chunks - Works with gas grills, charcoal grills, and smoker boxes.
  • Barbecue Smoking Chunks - Made of 100% natural raw timber that is precision cut and kiln dried.
  • Maple Smoker Wood - Ignited quickly and com-busts completely to create a delicate smoky flavor.

Camerons, like Weber and Traeger, is a wood chip company that consistently produces high-quality wood with no extra chemicals or additives. This is just pure, natural hardwood, and it does an excellent job.

This stuff is simple to light and burns evenly to provide a consistent, smoky flavor.

Apple wood

Applewood is noted for its fruity aroma overtones, which will undoubtedly give your turkey a unique flavor fusion!

Applewood, unlike most other woods, does not produce a strong substantial smokey fragrance, making it excellent for individuals who prefer it lightly smoked.

The only issue with this type of wood is that it takes longer to absorb into the meat.

This means that your chicken will require extra time to soak in the aroma.

To avoid burning the chicken while waiting for it to be fully smoked, either reduce the heat or spray the bird with water. Placing a pan of water inside the smoker as an option can also help to keep the environment warm and the meat moist.

Oklahoma Joe’s Apple Wood Chunks

Oklahoma Joe's Wood Smoker Chunks, 8 lb, Apple
  • Oklahoma Joe's apple wood chunks are the best way to add fruity flavor to meats like pork or poultry
  • For use with smokers and charcoal grills to add flavor over a long period of time
  • Ideal for smoking pork and poultry

Oklahoma Joe’s wood chunks are produced entirely of actual applewood, with no filler wood, for the purest apple smoke.

The chunks are large and immediately ignite, so your turkey will be smoking sooner.

While the chunks are large, there will be some smaller bits and chips in the bag.

Pros: Made from real applewood with no filler wood, large chunks that fire immediately.

Cons: Smaller portions in the bag, and more chips than preferred.

Weber Wood Cubic Meter Stephen Products 17138 Apple Chip

Weber products are usually worth a try, and these applewood chunks do not disappoint. This large bag should last you the better part of a year and is subtle and sweet, like any fine applewood should be.

And what kind of wood should I use to smoke a turkey? Depending on your preferences, you should select the wood for smoking turkey. For a “heavy” scent, go with Hickory or Oaktree. Choose Cherry for a flavorful scent, Alder for a light flavor, Maple tree for a honey-like scent, and Applewood for a soft fruit scent.

In any case, regardless of the one you choose, all of these types of wood are ideal for both novice smokers and seasoned cooks.

What wood you should avoid when smoking turkey

Not every flavor complements every type of meat, and this is especially true with turkey. It’s quite delicate, like a lot of white meat, and may be readily overpowered by more strong varieties of hardwood.

So here is a list of hardwoods that I would want to avoid while smoking turkey.

Mesquite

Mesquite is a magnificent wood that has been used for decades for traditional BBQ smoking. The trouble is, it’s been used for a long time with tough red meats.

And it’s easy to see why.

Mesquite is one of the most potent wood flavors available. It has a strong flavor, which is necessary when paired with meat like brisket.

But it’s just too strong a flavor for turkey, and it’ll overpower the other ingredients.

Some folks use a small amount of mesquite and pair it with a fruitwood for balance, but I would avoid it entirely.

Hickory

Hickory, another rich ‘earthy’ wood, is frequently used as a base layer for a variety of meats.

While hickory is undeniably a traditional wood, it has far too strong a flavor for the turkey.

Oak 

Oak is another classic smoking wood with a strong flavor, albeit it’s a little lighter in comparison to mesquite and hickory.

It’s not commonly linked with poultry, and it’s easy to see why.

We did, however, include this in our list of the finest wood for smoking turkey and what to avoid. Simply because it is softer than hickory or mesquite.

It can, however, be blended with cherry to give a more subtle flavor. Furthermore, red oak species can impart a characteristic reddish tinge to white meats such as turkey, which looks stunning on the dinner table.

Other woods to avoid…

Evergreen, pine, spruce, eucalyptus, and redwood are among the woods found here. 

This is due to the fact that some types of wood are highly resinous, leaving a lot of residue in your smoker or grill that is tough to remove later. The cooking resin will also have an effect on the flavor of your meat. Some of these woods can also emit harmful smoke that might harm your health.

In addition to these woods, you should avoid any woods that have mold or fungus growing on them. Painted or chemically-treated timbers should also not be used for smoking because the chemicals will impair the flavor of your foods and may create health problems.

Traeger Grills Turkey Blend Pellet – Top Choice

Traeger Grills 32175 20Lb Trky Blend Pellet
  • Trager Turkey Pellet Blend With Brine Kit Is A Special Blend Of Oak, Hickory, And Maple Hardwoods Enhanced With Rosemary To Add The Perfect Sweet And Smoky Notes To Complement Your Turkey; Grill, Smoke, Bake, Roast, Braise, Or Bbq; No Fillers, Bark Content, Or Binding Agents; Kit Includes: 20 Lb; Pellets, Orange Brine, And Turkey Rub
  • Trager Turkey Pellet Blend With Brine Kit Is A Special Blend Of Oak, Hickory, And Maple Hardwoods Enhanced With Rosemary To Add The Perfect Sweet And Smoky Notes To Complement Your Turkey
  • No Assembly Required
  • It consists of pellets.
  • Wood species include oak, hickory, maple, and rosemary.
  • Size: unspecified
  • 20 pound weight

When it comes to Thanksgiving turkey, you want it to be great. This is possible with the Traeger Grills Turkey Blend Pellet. This blend of hickory, oak, and maple hardwoods, with rosemary thrown in for added flavor, is specifically intended for turkey, giving it the perfect sweet and smoky flavor.

This hardwood blend is made entirely of food-grade premium pellets, with no fillers, bark, binding agents, or other ingredients that could interfere with the smoky flavor. The box contains 20 pounds of pellets, which should be more than enough to smoke your turkey to perfection.

In addition to the wood pellets, this box includes a kit for prepping the turkey before cooking it. This kit includes a delightful orange brine that provides a full, delectable taste and locks in moisture, as well as a turkey rub that makes a spicy and savory crust. There is also a comprehensive set of instructions to guide you through the entire process of preparing your turkey.

The Traeger Grills Turkey Blend Pellet package offers all-natural hardwood in a blend of four delectable tastes that burns cleanly for a better-tasting chicken. The brine and rub package is an excellent addition.

What could be better: Because this wood pellet blend, along with the rub and brine kit, is meant for turkey and other poultry you may need to keep alternative pellets on hand for beef, pig, shellfish, and other meats.

What Is the Best Wood for Smoking Turkey? (Burning Speed)

WoodHard/Soft WoodBurn SpeedComment
AppleHardwoodGoodThis wood burns slowly, and gives a gentle fruit smell t the meat
AlderHardwoodFastThis wood burns fast and you need twice more than any ordinary wood to smoke the meat properly. Gives a “heavy” wood smell to the meat.
CherryHardwoodGoodBurns well and gives a pleasent flavor to the meat. If you want an easy smoking experience this wood is a good option
OakHardwoodGoodGood choice for the red meat. Burns slowly and gives much heat, like an alder has a strenght smoke and smell.
PecanHardwoodFastBurns really fast and gives specific nut smell to the meat you should try it first on the small peace of the meant. And only after smoke the whole turkey in ir.

Chips, pellets, or chunks? Understand your options

When the wood is finally selected, it appears that we have completed our preparations and that it is now ready to begin smoking. No, no, no!

There is one more step that must not be overlooked. Before we begin, we must decide on the shape of the wood.

What exactly do we mean? Typically, wood used for smoking food is sold in one of three forms: chunks, pellets, or chips.

They are all practically the same, with the only difference being that each style is intended for a specific sort of smoker.

For example, because a pellet smoker is specifically intended for this type of wood, we can only use pellets.

An electric smoker, on the other hand, can often accept both pellets and chips, although it is still best to double-check before using either.

Finally, offset and charcoal smokers are made to accommodate logs or pieces.

As stated in the description, most smokers cannot accept any type of wood, therefore always check how small the wood must be cut before adding it to the device before using it.

Otherwise, it is prone to breaking.

Which smoker should you buy? choosing a heat source

Since it appears that the type of smoker we use is equally important, let’s check out what devices are most commonly used and what distinguishes them.

As everyone has already guessed, the type of heat source has a direct impact on the way smoke is produced, which in turn has an impact on the final taste of the food.

A charcoal grill, for example, is one of the most popular since it is the simplest to use. It also produces a lot of smoke, which helps you to make properly smoked meat.

However, for the best results, use natural chunk charcoal. It burns hotter and longer, and the starches and wood byproducts it contains produce a more fragrant smoke that effectively taints the taste of the turkey.

Propane smokers are a little more difficult to deal with because it takes some practice to learn how to deal with them easily. These smokers only use wood chips, which must not be moist, or else the smoking process will take much longer than it should.

There are other temperature complexities as well, but if you understand this, using a propane device will be a breeze.

Of course, classic smokers are easier to use for persons who are new to smoking meals because they require no prior expertise. And it is always feasible to progress to more complex methods later on.

How long should you smoke different parts of a turkey?

This is arguably the most often requested question, and we can see why.

Most people believe that the entire carcass will take longer than, say, wings. But is this true? And how much time does each of them require?

To demonstrate this, we created a simple graphic that compares the smoking time of various categories of smokers.

 Whole carcassBreastWingsLegs
Smoker240 F, 30-40 min/pound240 F, 30-40 min/pound225 F, 1-2 hours225 F, 4 hours
Grill325 F, 3 hours350 F, 1-2 hours325 F, 30-40 min325 F, 45-60 min

And, regardless of whether you use a grill or a smoker, the ultimate internal temperature of the bird must be 165 F (check this at the thickest sections of the breast or the innermost part of the wings/thigh).

Helpful tips for cooking the perfect turkey

There are numerous recipes for smoking turkey, but no one can deny that certain ideas must always be followed if we want an optimally smoked bird.

Purchase it fresh.

Is there really any need to explain why fresh poultry tastes so much better? Furthermore, it is juicier than its frozen or aged equivalent.

However, if the carcass was purchased a day or two before cooking, it is still safe to consume.

Make the proper preparations.

We recommend removing the backbone and breastbone from the whole turkey before smoking it. It will help you to spread the bird open and smoke it more thoroughly and quickly.

Aside from that, the carcass prepared this manner will absorb all of the spices and marinade much better, resulting in an outstanding taste!

Take note of the temperature.

To achieve the best smoked turkey, the thickest part of the bird must be kept at 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the cooking process. Even if your smoker has one, we recommend utilizing a probe thermometer to achieve this.

Allow it to rest.

It is preferable not to serve the newly smoked bird right away.

Allow it to settle for about twenty minutes before cutting it.

As a result, the meat will remain moist and soak up more fluids.

Smoking a turkey may appear difficult and hard at first, but after you become acquainted with the procedure and learn all of the intricacies, cooking this delectable dish will be a pleasure for you and your guests!

Choosing your own flavor

smoked turkey

Smoking poultry is a complicated business that may take some time to master. It becomes even more challenging when working with lean meats like turkey. You must pay close attention to the amount of wood used, the cooking temperature, and the length of the smoke.

However, with a little effort and one or more of the wood options described here, you can put out a mean turkey that your friends and family will enjoy – well, maybe everyone except that friend who will always favor his cuisine over yours. It’s also a good idea to experiment with different wood combinations to come up with your own signature flavor profile.

FAQs

What is the best wood to use for smoking turkey legs?

Maple or pecan are thought to be the best options for cured legs. However, applewood is preferable for fresh legs.

What is the best wood to use for smoking turkey wings?

Any hardwood or orchard wood is suitable, such as hickory, oak, maple, cherry, and so on.

What quantity of wood chips should I use?

Although there are no hard and fast rules, I tend to stick to the amount that can fit in a smoker box. This is typically 5 ounces of chips.

Keep in mind that temperature, smoker size, and cooking time can all have an impact on how quickly your chips burn.

Begin with 5 ounces, and if you find yourself having to replenish them too frequently (which disrupts the internal temperature of your chamber), or if they aren’t imparting enough flavor on your turkey, increase the amount.

How long does it take to prepare the woods for smoking?

This is dependent on how you intend to use the wood. Wood chips burn considerably more quickly, so some people soak them in water for approximately 15 minutes to make them last longer while still producing that great smoky flavor. You can also use them dry to produce smoke more quickly. No preparation is required because the wood chunks are dropped directly into the coals. Wood pellets are also not soaked before use, so there is no need to prepare them.

How long should I smoke the turkey?

At 225°F/107°C, cook for 30 minutes per pound of meat. When the internal temperature of the meat hits 165°F/73°C, your turkey is done.

Always strive for internal temperature rather than time.

Check out my complete guide on determining how long to smoke a turkey.

Is it necessary to soak my wood chips before smoking a turkey?

There is a lot of discussion about soaking wood chips for smoking, with just as many people in favor of it as opposed to it.

Personally, I do not engage in it. While the theory is that it extends the life of your chips, there is plenty of research to demonstrate that water cannot permeate the surface of wood as quickly as we might expect. Meanwhile, the steam produced by the water will most likely interfere with your coals and smoke.

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API