Best Wood For Smoking Turkey — Your Top Choices

Bored meat days are over! Smoked turkey is delicious. Smoking a turkey helps infuse woody flavors to the meat and you can enjoy a great-tasting juicy smoked turkey.  

To get the right flavors, you have to choose the best wood for smoking turkey. However, there are many things to consider while making this choice, as a strong wood can leave this precious poultry tasting bitter and harsh. 

So, here are some of the best options to pick from.

Best Woods For Smoking A Turkey

1. Cherry Wood

Cherry is a great pick to get that perfect smoked turkey. It adds an excellent flavor without being overpowering. But even so, it’s best not to let cherrywood do it alone. Mixing in some hickory will get the ball rolling the right way. 

This mix adds a nice sweet flavor to the poultry while not overpowering the actual taste of the turkey. Additionally, cherrywood gives the dish a deep-brown color, making it look all the more appetizing and delicious. 

2. Pecan Wood

Pecan is the default choice for most of us when it comes to meat smoking. In a way, it is the best wood for smoking turkey, enhanced further by its innate qualities. 

Using this wood will give the meat a nice and sweet flavor with a little nutty kick. Pecan is rich enough in taste, so there is no need to mix it with other woods for flavor. It has a good depth of taste and doesn’t need mixing with other woods. Getting some hickory into the mix is more likely to mess up the flavor, rather than add to it.

One thing to keep in mind is that pecan adds a slightly sweet touch. If that’s not what you want, consider picking another wood to smoke the meat. 

If you want a more pronounced smokey touch after the initial preparation, you may always add a tiny bit of hickory shavings or mesquite to increase the volume.

3. Maple Wood

Maple wood also adds a very subtle and lightly sweet flavor to the turkey. This wood is very good for adding some flavor notes without altering or overpowering the original taste. It offers a layer of earthy, peppery notes to your smoked turkey that doesn’t overshadow the meat.

You can also add some herbs to the maple wood while smoking the turkey meat to bring those flavors out even more. The maple’s sweeter smoke imparts a honey-like sweetness to the meat, as well as a beautiful golden color.

The aromatic feel and honey blended flavor give a unique taste as compared to other woods. So you can enjoy the mouth-watering turkey meat with an earthy aroma and highlighting taste. 

4. Apple Wood

The next best wood has a somewhat sweet and fruity flavor to the meat. applewood, when smoked for a long time, imparts a sweet, mildly fruity flavor notes to turkey that complements the meat’s earthiness.

This wood is a good choice, but it does require some expertise for cooking it as the flavor takes quite a long time to infuse in the turkey. 

Cooking the turkey for a long time dries out the meat, but when done perfectly, it leaves a perfect and rich flavored turkey meat. Apple is a staple wood for turkey because it is sweet and delicious, but it is much milder than cherry or pecan.

So, there is a balancing act to be made for keeping the turkey flavorful. It’s a lot of work, but for experienced meat smokers, it could very well be the best wood for smoking turkey. The delicate balance is what makes all the difference. 

When using applewood, consider keeping a spray bottle of water or apple juice handy. This way, you can add moisture and touches of flavor to prevent the turkey from drying up. Done right, a turkey smoked with applewood can turn out to be legendary.

You can serve your smoked turkey with cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, roasted apples, and so on.

5. Alder Wood

Alder imparts a deep smokey earthiness that isn’t as strong as hickory, oak, or mesquite and is a lighter option to some of the heavier woods. So, if you enjoy the flavor of hickory and oak, alderwood is the chosen medium. The others can overpower the natural flavor of the turkey, but alderwood manages to keep it right and steady.

As a result, it may be used to amplify some of the lighter woods, such as apple or maple, while also toning down some of the heavier woods, making it a useful backup.

Alderwood burns slowly, making it an excellent choice for beginners. This prevents hasty errors, but there’s another benefit as well. Not having to refill the smoker or checking up on it all too often can make things easier.

You also get more options for seasoning as the mild Alderwood flavor lends itself well to several herbs and spices. 

Popular Woods For Smoking Meat To Avoid For Turkeys

smoked and cooked turkey

The usual top picks for smoking turkey are on the sweeter side. Here are three kinds of wood that are immensely popular for smoking food, and for good reason. However, their strong flavor means they aren’t the best choice for smoking a turkey. You might still use them in small quantities in a mix, but know that it’s necessary to maintain a good balance.

1. Hickory

Hickory is a conventional wood that almost any meat smoker will appreciate. It is, however, generally employed in barbecuing than in smoking poultry.

One of the advantages of smoking is that you are not limited to a single type of wood. You can combine any fruitwood along with hickory, such as apple or cherry, to give your turkey a rich smoky flavor and deep brown color without overpowering it. 

Hickory is one of the most flexible woods for smoking, and it may be a great way to make your turkey look, smell, and taste amazing. Because turkey is bland meat, it can benefit from a variety of complex flavors and scents.

In the same vein, hickory can overpower the original flavors of turkey. That’s one reason it’s best to avoid using this wood. You can add it in small quantities with the likes of cherrywood, but keep the risks involved in mind. 

6. Oak Wood

Oak, like hickory, is commonly employed in European smoking and gives a deep smokey flavor that may rapidly become overbearing if not handled carefully.

One of the advantages of utilizing oak is that red oak varieties offer a distinctive scarlet color to the meat. And when used in small amounts, blend well with cherry wood.

Oak is a top pick for smoking red meat and it works wonders there. But for turkey, which is disposed to be bland, this wood can prove overpowering. 

This wood is best left out for your turkey smoking needs. There are far better options available to smoke the turkey. And to be fair, oakwood can work wonders with the right meat, but be wasted on an unequal match like turkey.

Because of the oak wood’s rich aromas, it is best left for smoking red meats like steak, ribs, and even brisket.

7. Mesquite Wood

Mesquite is another wood that packs a punch, with very strong smokey, spicy characteristics. Mesquite, which is popular in Southwestern BBQ, may quickly overpower the flavor of turkey and create an unpleasant bitter taste if used too much, so it’s better to avoid it.

Still, it lends a wonderful color and a rich smoky flavor to turkey, so you can consider adding some mesquite with other woods. But take it gently on this one; too much mesquite may be harsh and unpleasant. It’s not a good idea to start smoking if you’ve never done it before.

Also, while using any of the strong woods such as oak, mesquite and hickory, you can add other lighter woods to get the desired flavors. 

Getting The Right Wood For Turkey Smoking

Turkey is a bland meat, so the best choice is to pick wood that adds some flavor and color when smoking the poultry. There are some excellent options listed here, which can be the best wood for smoking turkey. 

We’ve also included some common options that work well for smoking food in general, but aren’t the best choices when you’re smoking turkey. Getting the right wood will greatly enhance the taste of turkey and your meal.