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4 Of The Best Woods For Smoking Turkey

by Lianne Jones June 30, 2022

4 Of The Best Woods For Smoking Turkey

Turkey is one of the best things you can smoke when it comes to meat.

What a lot of people might not realize about smoking turkey is that it can be made to taste even better depending on what wood you use to smoke it.

Turkey is white meat, so it is a bit more delicate than red meats, but when it’s treated with care and passion, it can produce some beautiful flavors, especially when it’s paired with the right wood.

There are a few different types of wood you can use and if you don’t know where to start it can be a bit overwhelming.

Smoking is all about bringing out the different flavors and complimenting the initial taste of the turkey, so you want to make sure that you choose the right wood for the job.

But don’t worry if you are a bit put off! We’ve got you covered!

We will be going over the 4 best kinds of wood you can use ( (and some you should definitely avoid) to smoke a turkey to really experience the full flavor in this article.

So read on to find out everything you need to know!

Why Should You Use Different Wood To Smoke Your Turkey?

4 Of The Best Woods For Smoking Turkey

The main reason people use specific woods to smoke their meats, in general, is because they want to get a certain flavor out of the meat.

The wood provides that certain flavor.

Different woods offer different flavors, with some woods being sweeter than others, while other woods are more “earthy”.

There are lots of different woods you can test out and try and we will be going over the best woods to start with here.

Maple Wood

Maple is one of the “sweeter” woods you can use, but we promise you that if you do decide to go with maple wood, you won’t be disappointed! It is light, aromatic, and mild, so it will compliment your turkey.

Though it is a sweeter wood, maple wood is actually a lot more subtle in flavor, so if you just want to add a little flavor without it being too overpowering this is a great wood for you to try.

The flavor it adds is light and delicate, and you still get to experience the natural flavors of the turkey.

A little trick you can use when smoking your turkey with maple wood is adding a dash of honey to your turkey.

It will bring out even more flavor and give your turkey a unique flavor, making you want to have it again and again.

Apple Wood

Apple wood is also really sweet, but it is a bit more fruity than maple wood.

It’s a bit more mellow in flavor than some of the other wood options here, so if you want a nice flavor that isn’t too overpowering but a bit stronger than maple wood, this is a great option for you.

One thing you do have to watch when using apple wood though is that it can take a bit longer for the flavors of the wood to catch on the turkey, so you may have to smoke it for a bit longer than some of the other woods.

As long as you smoke it at a lower temperature though you should be fine and you’ll avoid drying out the turkey.

So just keep an eye on it and the temperatures when you’re using apple wood.

When you do get it right with apple wood it is absolutely delicious and that’s why we have included it in this list!

Apple wood smoking just requires a bit more time and care in the smoking process, but if you’re really into your smoking and grilling, this won't be a problem for you!

Pecan Wood

Pecan wood is also sweet in flavor and is quite similar to cherry wood, but it offers you a much richer flavor than cherry.

Because pecan wood is so rich in flavor, you do not really need to mix it with other woods.

If you’re new to smoking or not as experienced, you might not have even known you can mix woods, but you can! In this case, though, it’s highly recommended that you use pecan wood by itself.

When we say that pecan wood is sweet, we mean that it is incredibly sweet, so you may want to try it before you commit a whole turkey to be smoked.

Pecan wood isn’t for everyone and some people do actually find it too sweet, but those who love it really love it and that’s why it has been included in this list.

Cherry Wood

And finally, we have included cherry wood in this list.

Cherry wood is very sweet in flavor, but it’s not as intense as pecan wood, so it works as a great alternative for those who enjoy their sweet flavors but don’t enjoy the intense sweetness.

If you slow grill and smoke your turkey with cherry wood for several hours, your turkey will end up turning a nice deeper color and this will give your turkey a unique look.

Cherry wood also works well with a small sprinkle of hickory wood, so if you want a bit more of a complex flavor to your turkey, you should consider adding some hickory wood to your grill.

Wood To Avoid When Smoking A Turkey

So now you have a better idea about what sort of woods you should be using when you want to smoke your turkey, you should probably know which woods you should avoid too.

White meat, especially white meats like turkey, is very delicate and requires a lot of care and attention.

White meat can very quickly be overpowered by stronger woods, so unless you really know what you’re doing, these are the woods you should avoid using when smoking a turkey.

Hickory

You might be a bit confused by this because when we talked about cherry wood, we did talk about adding a small amount of hickory wood into that mix.

But this is only recommended if you’re really experienced with your woods.

Hickory wood is described as being very earthy and is usually used with a lot of other meats.

But when it comes to white meats and turkey, it isn’t recommended to be used as your main wood.

Hickory wood is a great wood for other meats, but when it comes to chicken and turkey, it is far too overpowering in taste and can ruin the bird completely.

Oak

Oak is also a favorite wood used for smoking meats, but it’s best avoided for turkey.

Oak wood has a deep flavor but it is a lot lighter than hickory wood or mesquite wood.

You can use a small amount of oak wood mixed in with one of the other woods listed, but you should only do this if you’ve got a bit of experience with oak wood already.

Mesquite

A traditional wood used for BBQs, mesquite wood is usually used when you’re cooking and smoking red meats, not white meats.

Mesquite wood is one of the most powerful and strongest woods you can use for smoking, so this doesn’t make it very white meat friendly.

If you try and use mesquite wood with turkey, you will overpower the turkey’s taste and effectively ruin the meat.

All you will taste is mesquite, and you want it to compliment the meat, not overpower it.

Those who have a lot of experience smoking will use it with other fruity or sweet woods, but if you’re new to smoking or have little experience, it’s better to just avoid bringing mesquite wood at all.

Which Wood Should I Use When Smoking My Turkey?

The wood you choose to use purely depends on what flavor you want.

Your best bet when it comes to choosing the right wood is to experiment with the different woods we’ve provided here and see which flavor you enjoy the most.

More experienced smokers will know exactly which wood to go for depending on what flavor they are aiming for.

If you’re newer to smoking, the best advice we can give is to just try them all out and see which one you lean more towards.

Extra Tips For Smoking Turkey

There are a few extra tips you should know before you start smoking your turkey.

If you have a couple of questions you still need clarity on or you still need some extra help, these tips might just help you!

Practice and gaining experience are the best ways you can work out your turkey smoking preferences and when you do finally click with a certain wood, you’ll never look back!

Length Of Time Cooking A Turkey

The regular/average amount of time you want to spend cooking your turkey is about 30 minutes, and that’s per pound of meat. Cook it on the heat of 225°F/107°C.

When the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165°F/73°C, it should be ready!

Soaking Woodchips

Soaking your woodchips before you cook is a huge debate in the smoking community.

Lots of people think you should, but then lots of people think you shouldn’t bother.

Soaking woodchips does help them last longer, but it can cause a lot of problems.

One thing soaking woodchips does is create a lot of steam and that can cause issues for coals and smoke.

So it’s up to you if you want to soak your woodchips. If you have friends who smoke regularly, then you may want to ask their opinion on soaking.

You can experiment as well and see what works best for you.

Amount Of Woodchips You Should Use

The amount of woodchips you should use depends on how big your smoker box is. There’s no fixed number that is regarded as the “right” amount.

A good starting point though is about 5 ounces. If you have to add more too quickly, then you may want to put more in to start with.

Get to know your smoker and your meat and you’ll know exactly how many woodchips you should be using.

It may take a bit of trial and error, but once you’ve familiarized yourself with your smoker and you’ve done it enough times, you’ll just know how many you need to use! It’s all about practice!

Conclusion

So as you can see, there is a little bit more to smoking a turkey than just, well, smoking a turkey!

You need to make sure you’re using wood that isn’t too overpowered, such as hickory or oak, and you need to know your flavors to know exactly what you want!

Once you’ve got the formula down and you really get into the flow of it though, there will be no stopping you!

The woods we’ve listed here are the best options when it comes to smoking a turkey, so if you didn’t know where to start, you do now!

And if you’re smoking a turkey for the first time, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t quite come out how you planned!

Smoking is an art form in its own right and it takes a lot of time and patience to smoke it right, so just try it again if you aren’t happy with it.

When you get really good at smoking, you’ll be able to host amazing BBQs for your friends and family and they’ll continue to come back for more!

Lianne Jones
Lianne Jones


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