Every turkey meat lover is talking about smoking? It is because smoked turkey tastes delicious and smells heavenly, creating perfect family, get-together, and holiday memories. In addition, when you smoke the turkey, the smoke provides a small food preservation effect. You can smoke your turkey meat from anywhere, even at home, and enjoy the smoked flavour and taste, without the need to build a fire outside or start chopping wood. You can do this in a grill or a smoker. All you need is wood chips and you are good to go. However, the type of wood you use to smoke the turkey is essential in achieving an even, better taste and smell. Here, we share the best wood for the smoking turkey to bring out its best flavour and taste.
Turkey has a delicate flavour profile and hence to get the best results when smoking, it needs mild-flavored smoke. Smoke which is not dense, but lighter so that it does not overpower the turkey’s natural flavours. In this article, we share the top-rated, best wood for the smoking turkey.
Our List of the Top best wood for smoking turkey
#1: Western Premium BBQ Products Cooking Chunks
The best Oak Wood for Smoking Turkey
Oak is one of those woods which many poultry smoking and meat grilling fanatics swear by for giving a unique look and taste to the meat. Oak, a classic smoking wood, is revered for giving white meat like turkey a distinct, rich reddish tint that makes it look amazing on the dinner table. In regard to the flavour, oak wood is classified as a medium to heavy flavour smoking wood, which will provide a rich smoke flavour to the turkey, which is not mild or too intense. Just in-between.
Of the best oak woods for smoking turkey, we found Western Premium BBQ products cooking chunks to work perfectly, not only for turkey but also for other meats, giving off a pleasant taste. You can use it also for smoking whole Chicken, BBQ Smoked Wings, sausages, hamburgers, baby back or spare ribs, beef Sirloin or Filets, Salmon or Trout, Braised Brisket, or Pork Loin, lamp.
Though it has a more intense smoke flavour than Maple, cherry, apple, and peach wood chips, it is still lighter than other woods such as hickory, acacia, black walnut, etc.
Western Premium BBQ products cooking chunks are made from real post oak wood. It is completely natural, meaning no pesticides or other harmful added chemicals. The wood chunks are cut into smaller sizes of 4″ blocks, which fit perfectly in large or personal grills and smokers. The wood chunks can also be used for charcoal, gas, or electric grills to serve as a single source of heat.
This wood will cook your meat evenly and also is great for searing.
- It is a dense wood by nature, which contributes to the thickness of the smoke it gives off and also helps it to burn slowly, thus can be used as the only heat source.
- Made from 100% natural (real) post oak wood, with no pesticides and added chemicals.
- Chunks fit easily in the smoker or grill, thanks to a great percentage of uniform size in the package.
> Not all chucks are uniform in size, however, most of the wood is cut into uniform 4″ blocks.
#2: Camerons Products All Natural Smoking Wood Chunks
Best Maple wood for smoking turkey
Camerons products all-natural (smoking wood made in the USA), is the best maple wood for smoking turkey. Maple wood is one of the best woods you can use to smoke a turkey. This is because it adds a lovely golden hue to the meat. In addition, maple wood has a mild flavour. When used for smoking, it gives off a sweeter smoke, which does not overpower the turkey’s subtle flavours. Additionally, this wood also ignites very quickly and will combust completely to create and impart the delicate, delicious and sweet smoked flavour to the turkey.
Camerons products all-natural smoking wood chunks will work perfectly smoker boxes, gas grills and charcoal grills. The woods will not add any toxic chemicals or pesticides into your smoked turkey, because they are made of 100% natural raw timber.
The wood comes cut into precise chunks that easily enter into the grill or smoker.
Besides smoking turkey and other poultry, this maple wood can be used for smoking vegetables, seafood, pork and cheeses because of its nice mild flavour which will not overpower the flavours of these delicate foods.
#3: Zorester Apple smoking wood for grilling and cooking (Apple)
Apple wood for smoking turkey
When smoking lighter meats (with more delicate flavours) like turkey or any other poultry, apple wood is one of the best options. This is because this fruity wood will infuse the flavor of its fruit into your turkey. The fruit flavours do not overpower your food with too much smoke forward flavors, but instead enriches the turkey with a mildly sweet aroma/taste and delicate flavor.
Zorester’s apple smoking wood are cut into precise chunks of 2-3″ and packed into packs of 15-20lb. So you get more chunks of wood in one pack compared to other brands. Additionally, the smaller sizes of the chunks (2-3″) of this smoking wood ensure ease of filling them into charcoal grills and smokers.
Zorester’s apple wood is good for smoking turkey but is also perfect for cooking/smoking other kinds of poultry and meats as well as fish.
The wood is not treated with any dangerous pesticide chemicals. In fact, it is all-natural and safe for your health.
FREE BONUS: When you buy these wood chunks, they also give you a free bonus book (PDF) of the top 101 smoking meat recipes.
#4 Weber 17137 Pecan Wood Chunks
Pecan wood for smoking turkey
Even though Pecan wood is known for its strong, fruity, nutty flavor, when you use it for smoking turkey, it infuses the bird with a marvellously, rich and sweet flavor which doesn’t bury the turkey’s authentic flavor.
Weber Pecan Wood Chunks are durable and cut into sizes that fit well in the grill or smoker. Besides poultry (e.g. turkey and chicken), you can also use them to grill, barbecue, smoke beef, lamb, pork and fish.
#5: Weber 17142 Cherry wood chunks
Best budget-friendly Cherry wood for smoking turkey
Cherry wood, just like the apple wood, is a fruit woods which will infuse its mild and sweet cherry flavour into your turkey. Cheery wood for smoking also colours your turkey with a distinct look that makes look deliciously amazing on your serving plate and table. It doesn’t also overpower the turkey’s delicate flavour with too much smoke forward flavours.
Weber 17142 Cherry wood chunks are made to make your smoking and grilling even more delicious. The chunks provide cleaning burning/combustion to infuse your turkey with their beautiful subtle cherry fruity flavor. These woodchucks are also great with chicken, fish, vegetables and pork.
The wood chunks are from 100% natural hardwood. There are no added artificial additives or binding agent. They are cut into sizes that are easy to fit into your smoker or grill.
Buyers Guide to Choosing The Best Wood for Smoking Turkey
- When choosing the best type of wood to smoke your prized turkey, it can be tricky deciding which to choose. This is because, at serving time, the wood you used will determine how the turkey smells and tastes. Will the wood enhance the taste and flavour? Does the wood preserve the flavour and taste? Some woods will even overpower the turkey’s flavour, something you do not want.
- Besides the flavour aspect of the wood and the food it smokes, there are also other aspects of the wood. Its is important to also consider these aspects, because each wood is unique, and will thus behave uniquely in the smoker.
For example; some wood chips burn faster and therefore you may need to soak them in liquid to help them burn slower and last longer.
- Also, the size of the wood chips/chunks matters a lot because they determine the burning rate. Wood chips cut into 3- or 4-inch blocks will burn slower, while the smaller shavings (chips) burn faster, though they bring will generate a more intense/heavier flavoured smoke within the smoker, which helps the flavours to penetrate the turkey meat.
Why use wood chips/chunks when smoking turkey? What are the benefits of using wood chips to smoke a turkey?
Though wood chips/chunks can be used as a single source of heat in the smoker, this is not their primary purpose. The primary purpose and benefit of using wood chips when smoking turkey or any other food is the extra flavour that the wood adds to the turkey. Different smoking woods have different great tasting smoked flavour profiles which they infuse into your smoked meat.
Hence, adding wood chips to the charcoal or propane in your smoker or grill gives that added bonus of extra flavours, while not overpowering the charcoal or propane.
Different Recommended Types of Wood to Use for Smoking Turkey and Their Flavour Profiles.
As mentioned already, turkey has a delicate flavour and hence it needs a wood type that is lighter or medium in flavour. A wood that poses no risk of overpowering the turkey’s delicate flavour with too much smoke forward flavours. The recommended woods types and their flavour profiles, that work well for smoking turkey are:
- Smoking Woods with lighter (mild) flavours suitable for smoking turkey include Cherry, apple, maple and alder. These are fruit trees and they infuse the turkey with their beautiful, delicious, sweet flavours and aroma. The woods also colour the turkey with a lovely golden skin colour that makes it look amazing on the serving table. Some of these woods, for example, alder can be mixed with other hardwoods that have a strong flavour and the alder will help to tone it down while also adding its own delicious characteristics.
- Woods with a medium flavour which are suitable for smoking turkey include Pecan, post oak and hickory wood. These woods offer some of the most distinct flavors to the smoked meat. They are not as heavy as hickory, neither as light as elder, maple or apple, which helps them to strike the right balance between taste and flavour. For example, Post Oak wood, a European classic smoking wood favourite among many BBQ lovers provides a rich, deep smoke flavor which may be little much for a turkey, though it usually does not overwhelm the turkey’s flavour and taste. They can be mixed with the lighter wood to tone down their flavors if necessary. In addition, Oak can colour your white turkey meat with a distinct reddish tint that makes it look amazing on the serving table.
Another recommended wood for smoking turkey is mesquite. Naturally, mesquite is a strong flavored wood and it poses a risk of overpowering the flavor of your turkey. However, it is still a favorite in the southwestern states who want mesquite’s powerful forward flavors on their birds. If you must use it, it is recommended to mix it with a milder wood to balance out the effects.
FAQ On Smoking Turkey
How many wood chips/chunks should I use?
You can start with 5 ounces of wood chips because this is usually the amount that can fill a standard smoker. However, the number of wood chips to use will depend on many variables such as the smoker size, the rate at which the wood burns, and whether the wood is going to act as the only heat source or just added to charcoal or propane for the flavour bonus. Other determinants of how many wood chips to use include meat’s cooking time, and temperature. So, the take away here is that there is no set rule. If you find that the 5 ounces are not releasing and infusing enough flavour, or the chips are burning too first and you have to continually replenish then within a short time, which would disrupt the smoker’s internal temperature, then you can increase on the number of wood chips you add.
Related Article: The Best Electric Smoker – 5 Top Picks, Reviews and Buyers Guide
Should I soak the wood before smoking Turkey?
Advocates of soaking wood chips for smoking point out how this practice helps the wood chips to last longer. However, there are those with opposing views with evidence suggesting that it is a waste of time because water does not penetrate the wood surface as easily and that there is a likelihood of the steam that emits from the water interfering with your smokes and coals. Though I personally omit the soaking, you can always experiment out and decide which side you fall – an advocate or an opponent.
How long should I smoke the turkey?
A smoked turkey is considered ready when its internal temperature reaches 165°F/73°C. This depends on the quantity of turkey you are smoking. About 30 minutes at 225°F/107°C, per pound of turkey meat is ideal.
Therefore, you should aim to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey while smoking, not the time.
What is the best wood to use when smoking turkey?
Turkey has a natural delicate and delicious flavor profile and tender meat. Turkey meat easily cooks and absorbs smoke flavors. Using a strong flavoured wood poses the risk of overwhelming the turkey with their strong, which could bury the turkey’s delicious flavor.
Therefore, for a great tasting turkey, the best wood to use is one with a lighter or medium flavor profile. These include apple, maple, and cherry. Some meat smoking fanatics love strong flavours that woods like pecan and mesquite give. Hence, they can also be used, but sometimes it may require mixing them with the light woods to tone down the strong flavor a bit and produce a characteristic unique, yet sweet flavor. For example, plum is mixed with maple to smoke meat.
ALSO READ: Best Oils for Deep Frying a Turkey
Is cherry a good smoking wood for turkey?
Yes, cherry is one of the best wood you can use for smoking turkey. Cherry is a fruitwood, and fruit woods are good for smoking lighter and delicate meats like turkey. This is because fruit woods like cherry infuse the turkey with their sweet fruity flavours. This thus just enhance the turkey’s natural flavour without the risk of overpowering your turkey with too much smoke forward flavor.
- If you want to get an even more deliciously flavoured turkey, you can combine cherry wood with strong flavored woods like pecan.
Is Oak good for smoking turkey?
Yes, oak wood is good for smoking turkey because it infuses the turkey with a sweet “whisky-smoke” flavor. It also colours it with distinctive reddish skin tint that will leave you astonished. However, caution is called for when you chose to use oak because its deep smoke flavor may be too much for the turkey. For an amazingly delicious taste and flavor, Oak can be blended with maple to give a mild, sweet smoke flavor that results in rich, smoky colouring on the turkey.
Is pecan wood good for smoking turkey?
Sure! Pecan wood will give you a show-stopping, thanksgiving, delicious smoked turkey. Pecan infuses a sweet, nutty, and rich flavor, which is great for turkey. Though pecan wood has a flavor stronger than other fruit woods, it is still milder than hickory and mesquite. Pecan also blends with other wood types to give unique flavours.
Is mesquite wood for smoking turkey?
Yes, Mesquite can be used for smoking turkey. However, you have to tread carefully because this wood delivers a strong flavour which runs the risk of making your turkey taste bitter. It is a favourite of many BBQ lovers because it is a fast-burning, temperature-heavy wood which provides a strong distinct flavor. Too much of smoke from mesquite can overwhelm the turkey flavor and could make it taste bitter. You could cut it with milder flavoured wood to balance out the effects.
How do You Prepare a Turkey for Smoking?
You can easily prepare a delicious smoked turkey in a few simple steps as outlined below:
- Get your turkey: The best turkey to smoke is one which is fresh. However, if you don’t have fresh one, you can also use a minimally processed frozen turkey. Just make sure it is completely thawed before the smoking.
- Prepare the turkey: Preparing the turkey involves removing its inside. Also detaching the skin from the breasts. This helps the brine to easily reach and penetrate into the breasts.
- Immerse the turkey into brine solution: The brine solution should be prepared before, then immerse the turkey into this solution. By brining, the salt in the brine solution helps the turkey to retain moisture and flavors. The salt breaks down the proteins in the turkey meat so that the meat doesn’t contract while smoking. This means less water and flavours will be lost during smoking, thus a more juicy plump turkey.
How long to brine a turkey?
How long to brine will depend on the thickness of the turkey, but generally, the longer the better. Longer brining times lead to stronger seasoning, a more robust flavor, and a more tender and juicy meat. But you must also avoid over brining which could make the turkey become too salty. I generally recommend a minimum of 12 hours and up to 2 days for a whole turkey and breasts. While for chicken wings, you could brine between 4 to 6 hours.
- Wash and drain the turkey: Remove the turkey from the brine solution and wash it thoroughly in cold running water. Then drain the turkey of moisture, also thoroughly, both inside and outside.
- Cure the turkey: Curing is the act of living your turkey in a refrigerator for some time, normally half a day or a full day so that the salt can continue to penetrate evenly into the meat. This has the added advantage of slowing spoilage and preventing microorganisms from growing in the meat.
- Spice the turkey to your liking: Add a variety of herbs and spices on every part of the turkey to enhance its taste (make it taste good). Let the meat soak in these spices and herbs.
- Smoke your turkey in a smoker: Before you put on the turkey, ensure the smoker is preheated up to 220 degrees. You can add your favourite wood chips to the smoker to infuse their distinct flavours and skin colour to your turkey. Some the turkey until it is ready as guided in #3 above on “how long should I smoke a turkey?”
- Serve: When your turkey is ready. Serve it with your favourite side dish.
The reward of a delicious and amazingly great looking turkey after smoking is why some people chose to smoke instead of just roast this bird. However, to get that show-stopping taste and appearance, the wood you use plays a significant part. While choosing the best wood for smoking turkey can be intimidating, that is why we have written this guide and hope it helps you to find what is ideal for you. Do be afraid to experiment with different woods and wood combinations so as to discover what you like and don’t like, and what you will consider as your overall best wood to smoke your turkey.