Best Wood for Smoking Turkey
Choosing the best wood for smoking turkey is not that simple. Turkey meat is softer than other meat products that if you smoke it like red meat, the smoke will overwhelm the turkey flavor, making it taste sour.
Note that turkeys are part of the poultry family and that poultry have more delicate meat than livestock meat and it requires the proper way of smoking it. If you don’t know which is the best wood to smoke a turkey, then this article is for you.
Mild Flavored Woods
If you want to pick the best wood to smoke a turkey, you may go for milder woods first because these can complement better with the delicate meat. Despite the little smoke they produce, these woods will not overpower the turkey’s meat flavor unlike the hickory, oak, and mesquite woods. Milder woods are the better choice for newbie turkey smokers.
Here some examples of these woods:
This can be your top choice for the best wood for smoking turkey. Its cherry wood flavor will give a sweet mellow taste to the meat accompanied by a fruity flavor while not overpowering the taste of the meat. If you use cherry wood for smoking turkey meat for several hours, the sugar that comes from the wood can caramelize on the turkey’s skin making the meat taste naturally sweet. The only problem with cherry wood is that this does not produce too much smoke. So to produce smoke more, you can add some hickory wood into the fuel.
You might probably hear that Applewood is also one best wood for smoking turkey. And it should be because Applewood has that sweet taste like fruity with a tinge of cherry or pecan flavor. Some smokers also prefer apple wood more than cherry and other woods. Yet, the only problem with apple wood is that just like cherry wood, it also produces very little smoke which makes cooking the turkey meat longer.
Unfortunately, the longer you expose the meat to the smoke, the more chance that the meat may dry out. So to avoid meat drying, lower the temperature inside the smoker to prevent the moisture from the meat evaporating or sprinkling the turkey meat with flavorings or place a water pan inside your smoker to make the inside of the smoker a bit moist.
If you want a nutty flavor with your turkey, pecan wood would be your best wood to smoke a turkey. Unlike apple and cherry wood which provide a subtle taste, pecan wood has a much richer taste for the turkey. It has a bit stronger flavor than fruit-flavored woods but a perfect alternative if you don’t have fruit woods available.
Pecan woods can stand alone without using other medium wood flavors such as hickory and oak and adding these “earthly” wood flavors can even overpower the meat flavor of the turkey. If you plan on using pecan wood, use wood chips to make the flavor more infused into the meat on a short smoking session.
If cherry wood or Applewood is too sweet for you, we suggest using maple wood as your next option for smoking turkey. It can create a sweet flavor, however, it can only coat the outer layer of the skin. The good thing about maple wood is that it can keep the natural flavor of the turkey.
Strong Flavored Woods
Although turkey complements better with woods that have milder flavors, it doesn’t mean strong-flavored woods are not the best wood for smoking turkey. Some people also prefer the strong-flavored wood to create a distinct taste on the meat while some meat smokers combine these woods with milder flavored wood.
Here are the most common strong-flavored woods used for smoking a turkey.
This wood is commonly used with Texas barbecue. It has a strong flavor that can add more taste into the meat but used alone can overcome the real taste of the turkey. To lessen the effect of the smoke, combine it with any of the milder wood but cut these into smaller pieces to balance the smoke of the mesquite.
This wood is one of the best wood for smoked turkey. It can offer a perfect Smokey taste that can complement well to any kind of meat. However, some people find hickory to be kind of pungent for turkeys so they combine it with woods with milder flavors.
This wood has a rich, and intense, Smokey flavor that can overwhelm the natural taste of a turkey a bit. Oak has a much lighter flavor compared to hickory and mesquite but it can still overshadow the turkey’s taste if used alone. To prevent the oak from taking over the flavor, this should be mixed with milder wood. Used properly, oak wood can also be the best wood for smoked turkey.
For starters, better avoid the strong-flavored woods first for smoking a turkey and start with the milder-flavored woods.
Tips For Using the Best Wood For Smoking Turkey
There are considerations when using strong flavored wood as your best wood for smoking turkey. First, take note that hardwood with medium to strong flavors can put up an overpowering taste on the meat and this can cause an unpleasant taste if you over smoke your turkey for too long. Unlike the milder ones, these won’t affect the taste of the turkey meat so better mix these with the stronger flavored woods for a better taste.
The number two tip we can give you is to use wood chips for smoking instead of big chunks of wood. Wood chips burn easier than wood chunks. However, because the turkey has softer meat than red meat, the smoke from the wood chips can easily penetrate the meat in a short time. So our number three tip is not to put too many wood chips at one time on the smoker. Wood chips also do not produce too much heat, unlike wood chunks which makes it the best wood to smoke a turkey. In our experience, putting in 1 to 2 cups of wood chips in a portable smoker would be enough to smoke a turkey. But if you’re using a smoker box, you can fill it with 5 ounces of wood chips.
Last tip, if you are to use the best wood to smoke a turkey in a smoker better set your timer no more than 3 hours. Medium to strong-flavored woods can produce a lot of smoke which can alter the meat flavor of the turkey or can also dry its meat quickly. You can also set your timer to a much lesser time and monitor the meat’s state.
Best Wood for Smoking Turkey - Balancing the Ratio of Wood Combination
If you want to create a unique flavor follow this simple rule of mixing wood to yield a good outcome. So it’s either you mix woods with a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 for light and strong wood and this rule also works both for wood chunks and wood chips. If you’re using a larger smoker, you can use wood chunks with the same ratio.
For example, there will be 2 wood chunks of cherry wood and 1 wood chunk for hickory. The same goes for wood chips, 1/3 cups of oak, and 2/3 cups of cherry wood. Following this simple rule will prevent you from overshadowing the meat flavor with the woods when you smoke your turkey.
Although there are no certain rules for choosing the kinds of wood for combination, it also helps to categorize the wood according to their smoke flavor so it will still depend on you on how you want your turkey to taste. But as long as you have woods in there that can produce fruity flavor, your meat will still taste better.
For the most part, we’ve found that people prefer mostly the hickory and any combination of the fruit woods such as maple and plum. This combination can give the turkey a mildly sweet and slightly smoky taste without killing the turkey’s natural meat flavor. You can also use Mulberry, Peach and Olive for fruit wood and among the fruit woods, each of these is considered the best wood for smoked turkey. Remember that you can be a better meat smoker if you can experiment with the wood you use so you have to explore different wood flavors from time to time.
Can Barked Wood Be the Best Wood for Smoking Turkey?
Some people believe that barked wood can be the best wood for smoking turkey. This is one of the issues that is still being debated by many grill masters. If you have bark on your wood chips, does it matter whether you remove the bark or not?
Some people claim that having a bark on the wood can make the food taste bitter than wood without bark. Other people, on the other hand, say that bark on the wood can also provide a different flavor to the food. So when it comes to choosing barked wood or bare wood it will still depend on your taste which of these woods would suit your smoking taste. But note that some wood types can keep their chemical compounds in their bark and some of these can be toxic.
Another issue that some people want to address using barked wood is its potential to create flames when it gets exposed to high temperatures. High temperature inside the smoker, especially with a flame can affect the taste of the smoked turkey because the wood can burn faster and release so much smoke that can badly influence the taste of the meat.
How to Grill Using the Best Wood to Smoke a Turkey?
Now that you have picked your best wood for smoking turkey using a smoker, we’ll also give you some tips on using wood on grills. The thing is, whether you’ll use a grill or a smoker, the wood will still influence how the smoke will be produced. Most people prefer to use charcoal-based grills or smokers because these are both convenient and easy to use for smoking turkeys.
If you prefer to use your charcoal smoker, you should consider choosing the charcoal in chunk forms. Chunks can burn longer than other alternatives but avoid the charcoal briquettes because most of these contain starches and wood by-products that can cause pungency on the turkey meat while it does not also generate a good amount of smoke. Therefore, charcoal briquettes are not effective in enhancing the taste of the meat unlike pure charcoal.
You can also use a propane smoker for smoking a turkey although this can be a bit more difficult to use than a charcoal smoker. So for a propane smoker, wood chips must be used instead of wood chunks.
To smoke a turkey using a propane grill, kindle the wood chips first then place the wood chips in an aluminum tray and ignite them until they produce smoke. Put the tray with the smoking wood chips under the grates. If your grill has a cover, cover the meat and let the smoke circulate inside the grill. Finally, monitor the temperature inside the gas griller. Turkey contains less fat than other types of meat and the optimal smoking temperature to smoke it in a grill should be around 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where Can I Buy Wood Chips for Smoking Turkey?
You can buy the best wood for smoking turkey on many online stores but there’s a lot of it found on Amazon stores. Ordering them is just as easy as browsing. Once you pick your type of wood, add it to your virtual cart and pay. Amazon will then ship your wood chips and you’ll get your wood within a week if you’re in the US. But if you live outside of the country, your goods could take up to a couple of weeks to reach your home.
You can also buy the best wood for smoked turkey in many grocery and hardware stores. Most large stores today have a wide supply of flavored wood chips and in a variety of forms. But remember our advice, if you’re not up to using barked wood especially with the wood chips, check the label first of the goods before purchasing it. Also, check if the size of the wood chips are in equal cuts.
Lastly, check the manufacturer of the wood. Some branded wood products may be more expensive than other brands but generally the more expensive the wood and the more popular the brand, the more genuine the wood. Stay away from some brands that you suspect do not have authentic woods on their products because this can destroy the taste of your turkey.
Generally, a mild-flavored wood can be the best wood for smoked turkey. If you like that sweet fruity flavor for your turkey and you have to choose the wood type, the milder woods are the best choice, unlike the stronger flavored woods that can cover the taste of meat. So learn how to mix the right types of woods when smoking any meat. Be it with beef ribs, chicken or fish, the proper mixture of woods can always bring out that savory flavor courtesy of the smoke from your woods.
Smoking a turkey is different from smoking other forms of meat because the turkey consists of lesser fat content and the meat can easily dry out when you smoke it. So smoking a turkey always requires no special skills but just the proper understanding in choosing the right wood or the combination of woods, settings of temperature control and monitoring of smoking time.
For our next article, we will be tackling the best wood for smoking ribs. Pork ribs are some of our favorites and these are easier to smoke than beef ribs which are also equally delicious. We will tell you how to choose the right wood for smoking baby back ribs.