You might have heard that people tend to smoke meat for over four, eight, or even 24 hours. Although smoking might seem like a slow cooking method, it infuses the meat with wonderful flavors. Unsurprisingly, the type of wood you choose to smoke the meat is directly linked to how the flavor turns out.
Different kinds of wood add varying flavors to the meat, from sweetness to bitterness. Some wood types even add nutty flavors and aromas. Unfortunately, no wood type reigns supreme over all others so it’s hard to say what is the best wood for smoking turkey. The flavor is a matter of personal taste, but some complement meat types better than others.
The wood that works for beef will not necessarily work well for turkey. But how can you give your turkey a juicy and enticing flavor? We’ll go over some of the best wood choices for turkey and explain why they work well with it. Once you understand what’s great about them, it all comes down to your taste!
What Is the Best Wood for Smoking Turkey?
Cherrywood is a staple of barbecue smoking, as it compliments nearly all kinds of meat and is one of the best wood for smoking turkey. It has a subtly sweet flavor and aroma, which is just what you’re looking for in turkey. Because of how subtle it is, most people mix it with wood with a stronger taste. However, when talking about turkey, we recommend using Cherrywood on its own.
Cherrywood also adds a deep color to your turkey after being cooked for a couple of hours. Plus, most people prefer using wood chips instead of larger pieces, without any additives.
If you’ve never tried smoking turkey with Cherrywood, we suggest you give it a try next time you plan a meetup. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced user or simply want to experiment, try mixing it with some Hickory or Oak.
Enticing, juicy flavor
Adds a deep color to the turkey
Enhances the flavor of the meat
Some chunks might be too big for smoker trays
Recommended options for Cherrywood
Western Premium BBQ Products Cherry BBQ Smoking Chips
Traeger Grills PEL309 Cherry 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets
Although Maple has a stronger floral and sweet scent than Cherrywood, it’s not overwhelming. Coupled with a good sauce, the sweet aroma and taste left by Maple are amazing.
The best part about Maple is that it pairs well with both poultry and ham. However, Maple also goes pretty well on its own because both its flavor and aroma are unlike any other. On top of that, this type of wood is readily available for you to buy!
It has a sweet scent
Couples well with all kinds of meat
It has a unique aroma
Readily available for purchase
Underwhelming for people who prefer a strong taste
Recommended options for Maple
Camerons Smoking Wood Chips (Maple) ~ 2lb Bag
Western Premium BBQ Products Maple BBQ Smoking Chips
Bear Mountain BBQ 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets – Maple Wood
This kind of wood has a natural ground flavor, and it gives a nutty finish to the meat. Despite this peculiar flavor, it’s not a bitter taste. Instead, it has a hint of sweetness; some might even say it’s sweeter than the Cherrywood. Pecan compliments pork well, but some people might disagree with turkey.
It’s a matter of taste, as Pecas smokes a lot, so it also leaves an intense smoky flavor on turkey. If that’s a taste you like, you should try it out; otherwise, you may want to try out other options.
Natural ground flavor
The intense smoky flavor might put off some people
Recommended options for Pecan
Traeger Grills PEL314 Pecan 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets
Western Premium BBQ Products Pecan BBQ Smoking Chips
Alder burns slower than other types of wood and doesn’t have a particularly strong flavor. Rather than infusing the meat with sweetness, floral, or nutty flavors, it simply intensifies existing ones. It leaves a nice smoky flavor on the meat, but it mostly brings out the flavors already on it.
Turkey doesn’t have much flavor on its own, but with a good rub or sauce, Alder can be a miracle worker. At the same time, you can mix with Pecan or Hickory wood to compliment them. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that it’s an excellent choice for cold smoking due to its slow-burning.
It brings out the original flavor of the meat
Best for cold smoking
Mixes well with other woods
It doesn’t have a smoky flavor of its own
Recommended options for Alder
Camerons Products Alder Wood Smoker Chips
Bear Mountain BBQ 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets
Oak has an earthy flavor that is subtle for most meats but may overwhelm others, such as turkey. Oak is great if you want to mix it with other wood types to create complex flavors. However, if you’re planning on using Oak on its own, you need to make sure it doesn’t stay there long. We recommend using a wi-fi meat thermometer with an app.
Try to make it so the turkey is not smoking for too long. Otherwise, the taste of the Oak might feel overwhelming on your bird. Oak is also a staple of barbecue smoking, but you’re better off starting with a different wood type if you’re a beginner.
Earthy nutty flavor
Creates a great complex combined with other woods
Overwhelming for some
Recommended options for Oak
Traeger Grills Signature Blend 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets
Another staple of smoking barbecue, Hickory, has a deep earthy flavor similar to Oak. Hickory often acts as a base for smoking meat but might seem too overwhelming for poultry. Although it’s strong, it’s not impossible to smoke turkey with Hickory on its own.
You’ll have to expose the turkey to the right amount of smoke from Hickory, so it’s not overwhelming. Getting it right might prove difficult, so it’s not recommended for newcomers.
Deep ground flavor
Base of smoke
It can be overwhelming for some
Recommended options for Hickory
Traeger Grills PEL319 Hickory 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets
Buying Guide – Best Wood Type For Smoking Turkey
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
Experienced users might agree or disagree with which is the best wood for smoking turkey. If you’re a beginner, don’t feel bad if you’re overwhelmed. Pick the flavor that most appeals to you and give it a try; maybe try another one next time.
Once you start smoking meat, you’ll start getting better at it, and you’ll develop your own taste. After all, doing things yourself is the best way to become a pro!
You should remember that fat plays a significant role in barbeque in general, but turkey does not have much fat. If you’re unsure about the role of fat, then to put it simply, it’s flavor. Since turkey lacks fat, then that means that woods with intense flavors are not ideal.
When choosing wood for turkey, you need to go with options with a more subtle taste; otherwise, you might end up with an overwhelming taste from the wood. Besides the unique taste of the wood type, your turkey will also have a smoky taste too.
Q. Should I use wood chunks or chips for my turkey?
Pit Masters and veteran smokers will often choose wood chunks over wood chips. The reason behind this choice is because chunks burn longer and create more smoke. Of course, it will also depend on if you are using an electric smoker or pellet smoker.
The secret to properly smoking meat is not letting the heat escape, and since chips burn faster, you need to open the smoke more often. You can choose whichever option you’re more comfortable with, as the result is the same.
Q. Should I soak my wood with water before burning it?
Soaking your wood just makes it more difficult to light it up. It’ll indeed take longer to burn, but that’s because the water needs to evaporate first. Steam is not what you’re looking for when smoking meat.
In Conclusion — Respect Your Poultry, and Everyone Will Thank You at the Table
There’s hardly a wrong answer about which is the best wood for smoking turkey, at least for non-purists. Some woods like Oak or Hickory may require more know-how to use, but it’ll become second nature with practice. Any of the woods options on this list is bound to make an excellent choice for your turkey.
Spend some time preparing, and once you have some experience under your belt, make your own mixes. After all, we know how we like our own food best!