If you want to have the tastiest smoked turkey this Thanksgiving, read about the best wood for smoking turkey below.
We think cherry wood is the best wood for smoking turkey to get a richly sweet and smokey flavor. That said, the wood you choose depends on your palate, so we’ll provide you with a list of all the selections for you to pick from below. That way, you’ll get the exact flavor you want.
The first choice we have to make for a smoked turkey is the type of turkey we want to use. The next most important decision is the type of wood you need and what flavor you wish to infuse in your bird. Here’s a comprehensive list of the best wood for smoking turkey:
The Best Wood For Smoking Turkey
Cherry is our pick for the best wood for smoking turkey. It imbues a delicately sweet flavor. You can enhance it via rubs, marination, or minute amounts of other timber. You can also pair cherry with some hickory chips to provide a deeper smokiness to the cooked bird.
The other significant advantage of smoking with cherry is that it can give your bird a lovely red-brown hue once it comes out of the grill.
Maple adds a level of earthy, peppery tang to your smoked bird without overwhelming the flavor of the turkey. Suppose you use a rub that already contains plenty of solid herbal zests. In that situation, smoking with Maplewood can help you enhance those underlying flavors. The sweeter smoke gives the turkey a nearly honey-like syrupiness and a rich golden hue.
Pecan is a popular wood choice used in smoking meats. It offers an excellent mix of sugariness, smokiness, and richness to your smoked turkey. It’s a little more intense than the other fruitwoods we mention below.
Pecan has a complexity of taste and delicate nuttiness unique from other woods. Thanks to that intensity of flavor, we suggest not adding any hickory to the mix your first-time smoking. Two penetrating seasoned wood can mix in a disagreeable bitterness to the meat.
You can, however, add a more intense smokey taste after your first smoked turkey. To bump up the flavor, you can also sprinkle in a small number of hickory or mesquite flakes.
Applewood is one of the quiet smoking woods on our list. It offers a sweet, delicate fruity note that pairs perfectly with the meat’s earthiness with an extended smoking time. But the taste can be too faint, so you’ll have to smoke your bird for a longer period to get a more potent flavor.
The only drawback to that is that you’ll have to monitor the turkey for a bit. Keep water or apple cider in a spray bottle with you to ensure the turkey doesn’t become too dry.
Alder is a more straightforward substitute for some of the heavier options below. It injects a rich earthy smoke that isn’t as overwhelming as hickory, cherry, or mesquite. You can use it to pair with some of the subtler woods like apple or Maplewood or dilute some of the more robust flavors, making it an ideal adjuvant to keep with you.
Hickory is a conventional wood for smoking that you can use by almost any smoker. It is pretty intense and more often works for barbecuing rather than smoking. One of the benefits of smoking with hickory is that you don’t limit yourself to one wood type. You can pair hickory with fruitwoods to give your bird a rich but subtle flavor with some friendly browning.
Oak is more common in European smoking, having a similar taste to hickory. It delivers a deep smoky flavor that can swiftly become overwhelming if you don’t use it frugally. One of the advantages of smoking with oak is that redwood variants provide a unique reddish hue to the turkey and mix perfectly with a cherry if you use it in minute quantities.
Here is another wood that contains quite a kick and offers the most penetrating smokey, peppery flavors. Frequently used in Southwestern barbecues, mesquite can easily overpower that turkey flavor and result in a disagreeable bitter taste if you use excess. So, it’s okay to skip that one.
Tips For Using Wood To Smoke Turkey
1. Spatchcock The Bird
Turkeys are giant birds. Make sure to spatchcock yours before you put it in the smoker to get the most benefits. First, the turkey can cook more consistently, meaning the turkey breast doesn’t dry out as you cook the thighs and legs. Second, you can save more surface area to put on rubs and enhance the smoke’s hue and flavor.
2. Get A Digital Thermal Probe
Always make sure to have a digital thermal probe when smoking a turkey. You’ll have a quicker and more precise reading of your bird’s temperature than a conventional thermometer. That makes it simpler to maintain and monitor the right temp.
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3. Have A Drip Pan Ready
The primary goal of smoking a turkey is to imbue a layer of taste to the bird. Placing a drip pan in your smoker helps grab the drippings from the birds and converts them back into a delicious smoke. You can continuously fill the pan with chopped veggies like onions and celery, herbs, and stock, to give a more intense taste.
4. Omit The Stuffing
You don’t need to stuff your bird. If you aren’t going to spatchcock the turkey. The filling can isolate the turkey’s center, which gives an uneven cook. That means that your turkey breasts can dry out. You’ll do much better when you cook instead of using the boss and serving your food around your well-smoked turkey.
5. Be Sure You Close The Smoker
We know smoking a giant turkey is thrilling, and you want to keep monitoring to ensure that everything is alright. The ideal way to make sure that your turkey smokes perfectly is to keep your smoker lid closed unless you have to open it.
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Now that you have all the details that you need, here are some frequently asked questions about which woods work best with smoked turkey and what to look for:
Q: Is Mesquite Not Good For Smoked Turkey?
A: Mesquite has an intense flavor that can effortlessly overpower the bird’s taste. We suggest saving it for more robust barbecue meats and relying on lighter woods to smoke a turkey.
Q: Which Wood Must I Avoid For A Smoked Turkey?
A: We suggest evading the more penetratingly seasoned woods like mesquite and hickory while smoking your bird. You can cut their flavor down by pairing them with fruitwoods like maple or pecan if you wish to have them.
Q: Can You Smoke A Turkey Safely Using Wood?
A: Of course, so long as you keep a digital thermometer to ensure that all the smoked turkey parts reach the USDA minimum temperature requirement of 165℉.
Q: Can You Add Wood When Smoking A Turkey Often?
A: Sadly, there isn’t a fixed contract or answer for such a question. A general rule is to switch the wood between five-to-six-hour intervals, depending on the smoker type, the weather, and the wood.
Keep reading: How To Smoke A Turkey In A Gas Smoker [GUIDE]
A smoked turkey is delicious, with the wood smoke providing both more flavor and color. Thanks to our guide, we can find precisely the suitable wood to get the taste you want, and you’ll end up with the perfect smoked turkey!
Scot has loved smoking food in his free time for the last few years. Each major holiday or off-weekend, Scot spends days testing and prepping new recipes for perfection.