Best Wood For Smoking Turkey – Top 3

best wood for smoking turkey

If you’ve ever tried smoking a turkey, you know it’s not the easiest meat to smoke.  There’s a lot of variables to consider when smoking a turkey.  What is the best wood for smoking turkey?  Do you need to brine it? What seasoning should you use?  How long do you need to cook it for?  Here we’ll focus on what kind of wood to use but we’ll also go over the other questions as well.  One thing is for sure though, if you can get those questions right, it will come out much better than a roasted turkey.  Below I’ll take you through what I think are the three best woods for smoking turkey. 

Cherry Wood

Cherry wood might be the best wood for smoking turkey. It is a fruit wood and has a pretty light smoke. This furit wood type not only adds a complex and rich flavor but also gives your bird a deep mahogany-colored finish.  If you’re interested in creating a smoke ring on your turkey, cherry wood will be your go to wood.  

Flavor

Cherry wood adds a mildly sweet signature taste to any barbeque but especially lighter meats like turkey, pork and chicken. It is the perfect choice for people who like subtle wood flavors in their smoked meats instead of an overpowering smoke flavor.  It is one of the few kinds of wood that adds just the perfect hint of complexity to the aroma of your smoked turkey.

Smoke

Cherry wood is a hard wood but doesn’t produce a lot of smoke compared to other hardwoods.  Just make sure to smoke it when it’s dry if you don’t want a lot of smoke produced.  It also produces a lighter type of smoke.

Pecan Wood        

Pecan wood is a hard wood.  Hardwoods produce more smoke than other types of trees because their cells are packed tighter and have less air in them.   Pecan wood has a richer flavor that may be too intense for some people. It produces lighter smoke than some of the hardwoods like hickory and mesquite though.  It is one of the most commonly used woods for meat smoking as it provides a combination of sweetness, sharpness, and smokiness.  It’s a well rounded wood that can work on a lot of different types of meat including turkey.

Flavor

Pecan wood is a little lighter than other hardwoods but more robust compared to fruit woods when it comes to taste. It adds a deep and intensely sweet flavor to your turkey along with a subtle nutty taste. It is a great alternative to cherry for people who would like a richer smoke taste on their turkey.

Smoke

The delicious-tasting wood type is also one that gives the turkey a mildly sweet aroma but stronger smoke. Combining it with stronger wood types such as hickory or mesquite is not a good idea. However, you can mix pecan and a lighter fruit wood like cherry for a combination of both flavors and smoke profiles. 

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Apple Wood

Apple wood is an all-purpose wood when it comes to smoking meat. This makes it one of the best woods for smoking turkey.  It’s a fruitwood that falls on the milder side in terms of flavor as well as taste. It is a slow-burning wood, with a light profile so you don’t need to worry about over-smoking any meat.  This makes it perfect for turkey since it’s a lighter meat that takes on smoke rather easily.

Flavor

Apple wood adds a subtle and sweet flavor and taste to your turkey. This is perfect for anyone who does not like BBQs with strong smoke flavors. Apple has a unique and complex profile when it comes to flavor as it adds a different and unique flavor to the meat.

Smoke

Apple wood is just like any other fruit wood.  The cells aren’t in it aren’t packed very tight which means it won’t produce a lot of smoke compared to other types of wood.  The smoke will also be lighter so make sure to give the turkey enough time in the smoke. The light smoke, flavor and well-roundedness of apple wood makes it one of the best woods for smoking turkey.

Tips for Smoking Turkey

Smoked turkey is way better than roasted turkey and even deep fried turkey.  But it’s not as popular.  People think smoking a turkey is harder and requires more attention but it actually doesn’t.  All you need to do is follow a few simple rules and tips.  

Use The Best Wood 

Use one of the best woods for smoking turkey like cherry, pecan or apple wood like we talked about above.  Avoid using stronger woods such as mesquite or hickory.  As we talked about above, a stronger wood will overpower the turkey. 

best wood for smoking turkey, smoked turkey

Brine Your Turkey

Brining the turkey will keep it moist while you are smoking it.  You can either dry brine it or wet brine it, either way will work.  Check out my article on brining if you are unfamiliar with it.

Use Plenty Of Seasoning

Some people are afraid of using too much seasoning.  The seasoning wont penetrate the skin though.  So once you slice the turkey, there won’t be much seasoning on each slice.  Be liberal with it.  

Don’t Overcook The Turkey

We’ve all had super dry turkey on Thanksgiving before.  The number 1 way to ruin a turkey is to over cook it.  Do yourself a favor and buy a nice meat thermometer.  You will end up using it anytime you cook any type of meat.  Smoke the turkey until the internal temperature is 165 degrees but no more.  

Spatchcock Your Turkey

Here’s a pro-tip, spatchcock your turkey and it will cook quicker.  Spatchcocking is when you remove the backbone from it so it lays flat and cooks quicker.  If you do decide to do this, make sure you practice first and check out my article on spatchcocking.  

Best Wood For Smoking Turkey FAQ’s 

How Long Should I Smoke The Turkey For? 

The best way to smoke turkey is low and slow at 225 degrees.  The rule of thumb is 30 minutes per pound.  So an 8 pound turkey will take 4 hours to smoke.  Keep in mind that if you spatchcock the turkey this will change how long it needs to smoke for. The best thing you can do is buy a nice digital meat thermometer so you will know when it is ready.  

Should I Use Chips Or Pellets?

This will depend on what kind of smoker you have.  Pellet smokers like Traegers or Camp Chefs use (you guessed it) pellets.  They are compressed sawdust and work really well.  Smokers like Big Green Eggs use chips.  No matter what smoker you use, if you follow the tips above the turkey will come out great.

Should I Inject The Turkey

There are some recipes out there that call for injecting your turkey.  There are also some really nice meat injectors on the market.  But don’t fool yourself, you don’t need one to make a juicy turkey.  If you brine the turkey, smoke it and don’t overcook it, it will come out just perfect.

Smoked Turkey Wrap-Up

Smoked turkey is becoming more and more popular.  That’s because people are figuring out it’s better than roasted or deep fried turkey.  If done right, it will come out juicier and crispier than any other way of making it.  Lets go over what we talked about above. Use the best wood for smoking the turkey. Brine the turkey. Use plenty of seasoning. Don’t overcook it. Spatchcock the turkey if you want it to cook quicker. Follow these steps and you can’t go wrong. Make sure to check out our article on the best wood to smoke ribs too.

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