The Best Wood for Smoking Turkey

If you’re looking for the best wood for smoking turkey, it’s best to opt for something with a milder flavor. This is because anything too strong may overpower the taste of the bird. In this article, I’ll talk about the best woods for smoking turkey, as well as certain woods that may be good options but are better to avoid.

best wood for smoking turkey featured photo

There’s no denying that smoked turkey is one of the best party menu options. While most people think that smoked turkey is best served on special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving, it makes a fantastic dish all year-’round!

If you’re the one taking charge of smoking turkey every Thanksgiving dinner, then you know that preparing the dish isn’t always fun. The smoking process of poultry is usually tricky. You would want a great smoky flavor without the dryness and overcooking the meat. And that’s when the best wood for smoking turkey comes into play.

These woods are essential for more than just smoking; they play a crucial part in making sure you get that big chunk of the bird just right. Throughout the smoking process, the turkey will absorb the mild smoke taste.

The best wood for smoking turkey should be one that is softer and less abrasive. Fruity woods like cherry, apple, and pecan add a pleasant scent and color to your turkey. Stronger woods like oak, hickory or mesquite, are great options too. But they produce a powerful flavor that could ruin the natural flavors of the turkey.

It’s essential to know your flavor preferences. If you’re not sure, keep reading and I’ll talk about everything you need to know about the best woods for smoking turkey.

Forms of Woods for Smoking Turkey

Forms of Woods for Smoking Turkey featured photo

There are various forms of wood used for smoking turkey, as there are for smoking other meats. When you shop, you’ll come across wood pellets, chips, chunks, and logs. The form of wood you pick should be suitable for the size of your grill and smoker, as well as the amount of smoke flavor you want in your turkey.

Pellets are little bits of wood that are great for smaller grills and smokers that do not have room for chips or chunks. Wood chips are larger and have a longer burn period than pellets. But are still tiny enough to fit in smaller grills and smokers.

Wood chunks are often fist-sized pieces of wood, ideal for meats that require a little extra time in the smoker. Wood logs, which have a lengthy burn period, may be utilized in bigger smokers for both the smoke taste and the heat source.

What To Look For

If you want to get your turkey right, you should go for a wood with a subtle flavor. As I’ve mentioned earlier, anything too intense will overpower the delicate flavor of the poultry.

You can pair your turkey with sweet woods, thus picking a fruitwood that suits your palate would be preferable. And don’t let your smaller grill deter you from getting a sweet wood. You can always find them in chips or pellets.

Here Are the Best Woods for Smoking Turkey

Smoked turkey is a delicious staple that every home has on their Thanksgiving table. And finding the ideal wood that adds a nice hint of taste is the key.

Cherry

Cherry is a favorite wood for smoking turkey. It adds a delightful touch of sweetness to your bird without being overbearing. It not only produces a delicious, sweet flavor, but it also looks nice with a rich mahogany color. 

Mixing cherry wood with apple makes an excellent match for turkey. It also lessens the cherry hue if you don’t want your turkey to be too dark.

Another great combo is oak and cherry wood. But since oak has a stronger flavor, you need to be careful with using it. Hickory wood which is also strong, may help bring a bit more smoke to it, and it gives the smoke flavor a touch of complexity.

Recommended Cherry Wood: Traeger Grills PEL309 Cherry Hardwood Pellets

Traeger Grills PEL309 Cherry Hardwood Pellets

The Traeger Grills PEL309 Cherry Hardwood Pellets are made from all-natural hardwood. It contains no fillers or admixtures, which means you’ll have all the wood you need for smoking meat.

What I like about hardwood pellets is that they burn slowly, allowing your bird to soak up all of the delectable scents they provide. These pellets will give the poultry a nice, mild flavor. And these are what make a smoked turkey so delicious.

Maple

Maple is another wood that is on the sweeter side of the spectrum. It’s also a favorite wood for smoking turkey. Maple pellets, in particular, are ideal for poultry since they give a subtly sweet flavor with a dash of sweetness.

Contrary to popular belief, maple hardwood is significantly milder than its sweet wood counterparts. It gives a subtle flavor to your turkey and is a wonderful option if you simply want a hint of sweetness while keeping its natural turkey meat flavor.

Maple is also everyone’s favorite for smoking ribs. If cherry seems too rich or sweet for your taste, maple is a great option with a much milder flavor.

Recommended Maple Wood: BEAR MOUNTAIN Premium BBQ WOODS Maple Wood Pellets

BEAR MOUNTAIN Premium BBQ WOODS Maple Wood Pellets

Another great wood pellet you may want to consider is the BEAR MOUNTAIN Premium BBQ WOODS Maple Wood Pellets. According to reviews, these pellets produce a nice, soft, and consistent smoke. And both the scent and the flavor of these thick, dense pellets are like all their favorite woods. But not overpowering.

Made from all-natural premium hardwood, the BEAR MOUNTAIN maple wood is an ideal go-to smoking wood for poultry. It infuses your food with all-natural, strong flavor and softness. And it’s an excellent fuel for pellet, gas, charcoal, or electric smokers and grills.

Another Recommended Maple Wood: Western Premium BBQ Products Maple BBQ Smoking Chips

Western Premium BBQ Products Maple BBQ Smoking Chips

Here’s a maple chip product that works well for all poultry. The Western Premium BBQ Products Maple BBQ Smoking Chips have been heat-treated to fight and prevent bugs, molds, and rotting. It has a maple syrup-like flavor and goes well with ribs and turkey.

Maple’s sweet flavor and gentle scent also compliment the flavor of sausages and veggies. If you want to add a little twist to your turkey’s overall flavor, consider blending it with woods with stronger smokes like hickory or mesquite.

Apple

Applewood is a sweet and delicious option, although it has a considerably more mellow flavor than cherry or pecan woods. But that’s what makes it ideal for smoking all poultry.

Although many people consider apple to be the best wood for smoking turkey, I think its smoke flavor is too mild. It may take some time to penetrate your bird’s meat and infuse it with a nice flavor.

And since the process is taking longer, it could dry out your turkey. So striking the proper balance between a deeply flavored bird and one that has not yet dried out is quite tough. You can avoid drying out the meat by smoking at a lower temperature.

Recommended Apple Wood: Weber Apple Wood Chips

Weber Apple Wood Chips

The Weber Apple Wood Chips could be one of the best wood for smoking turkey, and it’s also very inexpensive. This large bag, like any good applewood, adds a delicate and delicious flavor to your poultry without being overpowering.

It just brings in sweetness and a deep smokey taste to meats that is unmatched. Allowing your turkey to smoke for an extended time results in a really lovely, pink smoke line that penetrates deep into the meat. Now, if that description isn’t enough to make you crave, I don’t know what will!

Pecan

Much like cherry, pecan has a sweet wood smoke flavor but has a stronger flavor than other fruitwoods. It also has a nice mild flavor that will add a delicious, nutty flavor to your turkey. If cherry isn’t sweet or tart enough for your liking, pecan is a good substitute.

However, you should keep in mind that pecan may be a bit too sweet for your palate. So, it’s important to test it out first. This way, you’ll know how the turkey meat responds to the pecan smoking wood.

In addition, I would not combine pecan with oak or hickory to get that hint of complexity. This is because pecan is already a rich wood, so mixing it with any strong wood can overpower the natural flavor of the turkey.

Recommended Pecan Wood: Weber 17137 Pecan Wood Chunks

Weber 17137 Pecan Wood Chunks

Weber products are always worth a try, and the Weber 17137 Pecan Wood Chunks are no exception. These pecan wood chips deliver just what you would expect from pecan. It offers a deliciously sweet and smoky flavor that doesn’t dominate the inherent characteristics of turkey meat.

These are high-quality, nice-sized chunks. They provide a tasty smoke that takes any smoked turkey dish to the level of a high-end, fancy meal. These pecan chunks will burn slowly and provide nice smoke if you soak for a few hours before stacking them on over your charcoal grill.

Other Great Wood Alternatives for Smoking Turkey:

Other fruitwoods, besides cherry, maple, apple, and pecan, can give a delightful yet mild smoke flavor to your turkey. These woods are also widely available in chips, chunks, and pellets.

Alder

Alder is yet another excellent choice that offers an earthy flavor. This wood’s smoke is also on the milder side, and it’s perfect for novice smokers. So, if the tastes of other hardwoods are too intense for your liking, you can add some alder wood. It will help in softening strong aromas while still contributing its own delectable nuances.

Pear

Pearwood is an excellent alternative for adding a sweet taste to your turkey. This wood is similar to apple wood but considerably sweeter. Much like the other fruit woods, this one does not emit strong smoke, making it a perfect choice for tender meats such as turkey.

Plum

Plum wood creates smoke flavor comparable to hickory but not quite as intense. And just like other fruit woods, plum has a mellow, sweet fruity flavor that lends itself well to smoking turkey.

Almond

Almond wood can give your turkey a delicious, nutty taste.  It’s widely accessible and comes in little packs of pellets. Because of its subtle sweetness and nuttiness, almond wood is frequently compared to pecan wood.

Good Options but Better To Avoid:

It’s not like every taste complements all meat products, especially with turkey. It’s delicate and may be readily overpowered by woods with a stronger flavor. Woods like hickory, oak, and mesquite are also great choices, but you need to use them with caution. Or better yet, avoid them.

Hickory

Hickory is rich ‘earthy’ wood that is frequently used as a primary layer for smoking a variety of meats. Although known as a classic wood, it has far too strong a taste for turkey. And because it has a specific flavor that is powerful, and it is well-known among people who prefer a nice smoky flavor.

But a little hickory blends well with fruitwoods and adds a lovely smoky flavor. Some people describe hickory as having a distinct bacon taste. So if you must use hickory, I suggest pairing it with apple pellets to lessen the smoke.

Oak

Oak is a classic European smoking wood with a strong flavor, albeit it’s somewhat milder in contrast to mesquite and hickory. This wood provides a rich, smoky flavor that may be overpowering for a turkey.

However, the red oak variants may give your bird a distinct reddish hue that looks beautiful on the dinner table, so take your time here. While it may add a good smokey taste to your turkey, it’s just too powerful on its own. But if you blend it with cherry, you’ll get a more subtle flavor.

Mesquite

Mesquite is a magnificent wood, and for decades, it has been a staple in traditional barbecue smoking. But it’s been used for such a long time with tough red meats.

This wood is among the most intense out of the many varieties of smoking woods. It has a strong flavor and is best paired with meats like brisket. And you know, turkey meat is delicate, and mesquite wood is too strong that it may overpower the flavor of the poultry.

You can use a small amount of mesquite and pair it with fruitwood for balance. But I suggest you avoid it entirely.

Best Wood for Smoking Turkey FAQs

What type of wood should I use for smoking a turkey?

Poultry works nicely with woods that are sweet or fruity. Think of an apple, maple, cherry, and pecan — these fruitwoods offer mild or mellow flavors. They are great for smoking all poultry.

Stronger woods, such as hickory and mesquite, might be too powerful for your turkey, leaving it tasting bitter. So, if you want a sweet smoke that does not overpower your turkey’s flavor, apple and cherry wood would be great options.

What is the best wood to smoke turkey breast?

Cherry and pecan woods are great for turkey and both complement the natural turkey flavor. Also, cherry wood will give a light sweet smoke taste to your turkey as well as an appealing color.

Is pecan wood good for smoking a turkey?

Pecan has a stronger taste than other fruitwoods but is lighter than hickory and mesquite, making it an ideal wood for smoking poultry. For a good strong smoke flavor, you can add a big dry chunk of pecan wood to the coals. It will work well in enhancing the flavor of your smoked turkey breast.

Is mesquite wood good for smoking turkey?

Smoking a turkey requires something with a subtle flavor. Mesquite has a strong flavor that will overpower the taste of the bird. I suggest avoiding this wood since it can leave your turkey tasting bitter.

How much wood do you need to smoke a turkey?

It will take require around 6 ounces of wood chips or 4 to 6 ounces of wood chunks to smoke a full turkey. You should also check if the smoke is blue rather than white. This way, you’ll achieve the right flavor while also preventing your turkey from becoming too smoked.

Should I soak wood chunks before smoking?

You don’t need to soak your wood chips and chunks. Pieces that have been soaked must be dry before they may emit smoke. There isn’t enough moisture to cause considerable steam or smoke, but it will provide a delicious flavor to your dish.

Wrap Up

I hope you find this article helpful in finding the best wood for smoking turkey. Make sure to exercise caution while using the stronger-flavored woods. And don’t forget to grab a bag or two of those chunks, chips, and pellets for the upcoming holiday season. Enjoy your turkey!

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