Here are the Top 7 Best Woods for Smoking Turkey (along with a few to avoid).

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Smoking is a terrific method to put real flavor into meat, as well as a great way to prepare a huge bird like a turkey without drying it out.

The first decision you must make when smoking a turkey is the kind of bird you want to utilize. However, the kind of wood you’ll be utilizing and the taste you want it to impart come in a close second.

Now, for that sweet-smokiness and rich color, we like cherry wood with a touch of hickory.

However, the kind of wood you select will be determined by your own preferences, therefore we will provide you with all of your possibilities rather than insisting on a single correct decision.

What are the best types of wood for smoking turkey?

These are The 7 Best Woods for Smoking Turkey (Plus a few to avoid)

As previously said, various woods generate distinct taste characteristics that complement turkey. Among the most popular options are:

1. Pecan

Pecan, one of the most often used woods in meat smoking, adds a fantastic balance of sweetness, smokiness, and sharpness to your turkey flesh.

Pecan has a depth of taste and delicate nuttiness that is really fantastic. It is a touch more robust than many of the fruitwoods we will cover later.

Because of the depth of taste, we don’t suggest adding hickory to it the first time you smoke it, as you do with cherry or apple. The combination of two highly flavored woods might give the turkey flesh an unpleasant sour harshness.

However, if you want a more powerful smoky taste after your initial smoke, you can simply add a tiny bit of hickory shavings or mesquite to increase the volume.

2. Maple

Maplewood imparts earthy, spicy characteristics to smoked turkey without dominating the flavor of the meat.

If you’re using a rub with a lot of strong herbal tastes, smoking over maple might help you highlight those flavors.

The sweeter maple smoke lends a honey-like sweetness to the meat and gives it a gorgeous golden hue.

3. Cherry

Cherry is an excellent smoking wood because it gives a subtle sweetness that may be accentuated with rubs, marinades, or little quantities of other wood.

Cherry pellets are used in our pellet grill turkey recipe because they have a subtle taste that everyone loves.

As previously said, we prefer to combine cherrywood and hickory to impart a deeper depth of smokey flavor to the turkey flesh.

Another advantage of using cherrywood is that it gives your turkey a beautiful red-brown hue when it comes out of the smoker.


One of the more delicate woods on this list is apple. Applewood, when smoked for a long period, imparts a sweet, mild fruity flavor to turkey that complements the earthiness of the flesh.

However, the taste might be quite mild, requiring you to smoke your turkey for much longer to impart that flavor.

The only drawback is that you’ll have to watch your bird a bit, keeping a spray bottle of water or apple juice on hand to prevent the flesh from drying out.

4. Alder

Alder is a lighter option to some of the heavier woods mentioned below, with a deep smoky earthiness that isn’t as overbearing as hickory, oak, or mesquite.

As a result, it may be used to amplify some of the gentler woods, such as apple or maple, or to tone down some of the heavier woods, making it a handy staple.

5. Hickory

Hickory is a great conventional smoking wood that almost any smoker will like. However, it is fairly potent and is more often used in barbeque than in smoking poultry.

However, one of the benefits of smoking is that you are not limited to a single kind of wood. You may use fruitwood to cut your hickory like an apple or cherry, providing your turkey a rich smoky flavor and deep brown coloring without dominating the taste.

6. Oak

Oak, which is more often used in European smoking, is similar to hickory in that it gives a deep smokey taste that, if not utilized judiciously, may soon become overbearing.

One advantage of utilizing oak is that red oak varieties offer a very noticeable crimson hue to the meat and, when used sparingly, mix quite well with cherrywood.

7. Mesquite

Mesquite, another powerful wood, produces the most intense smoky, spicy tastes. When used in excess, mesquite may rapidly overpower the flavor of the turkey and leave a disagreeable bitter taste, so it’s best to avoid this one.

Are wood chips or wood pellets better for smoking turkey?

These are The 7 Best Woods for Smoking Turkey (Plus a few to avoid)

The choice of wood chips or pellets, or even logs or pieces, is determined by the kind of smoker you have.

Pellets work best in a pellet smoker, as you would imagine, but they also work well in an electric smoker as long as they don’t fall through the openings in the wood tray.

Electric smokers, like charcoal smokers, often utilize wood chips, while offset smokers, which have a much bigger firebox, use larger wood chunks or logs.

While there isn’t much difference between wood chips and wood pellets, using the correct wood size for your smoker will usually provide the greatest results.

Top tips for smoking turkey with wood

We’ve previously prepared a whole post full of terrific ideas for smoking a turkey, but we’ll highlight some of the greatest ones for you here:

1. Spatchcock your turkey 

Because turkeys are large birds, spatchcocking them before putting them in the smoker offers many advantages.

For starters, the chicken will cook more evenly, preventing the breast from drying up as the thighs and legs cook.

Second, you’ll have a larger surface area to apply rubs to and absorb the color and flavor of the wood smoke.

2. Use a digital thermometer

We repeat it in almost every cooking advice, but always use a decent digital thermometer.

You’ll receive a lot quicker and more precise reading on the temperature of your turkey than you would with a regular thermometer, making it much simpler to maintain it at the proper temperature.

3. Use a drip pan

The primary goal of smoking a turkey is to add depth of flavor to the flesh. A drip pan in your smoker captures the fat from the turkey and converts it back into flavorful smoke.

Fill the tray with chopped onions, carrots, celery, herbs, and stock to add extra flavor.

4. Skip the stuffing

If you do not intend to spatchcock your turkey, do not fill it. The filling will insulate the bird’s core, causing it to cook unevenly. This will cause your breasts to dry out.

Making your stuffing in the oven and serving it with your evenly smoked turkey will provide superior results.

5. Keep your smoker closed

We understand that smoking a large bird is exciting, and you’ll want to constantly checking to ensure that everything is going well.

However, the best approach to guarantee that your turkey receives the most even smoking and taste is to keep that smoker door closed until absolutely necessary.


So you have all the knowledge you need, here are the most often asked questions and answers regarding what woods to smoke a turkey with:

Q: Is mesquite bad for smoking turkey?

A: Mesquite is a highly flavorful wood that may quickly overpower the flavor of the turkey. We suggest saving it for more strong BBQ meats and smoking turkey with lighter woods.

Q: Which woods should you avoid for smoking turkey?

A: When smoking a turkey, we suggest avoiding the more intensely flavored woods such as mesquite, oak, and hickory. However, if you must utilize them, tone them down by cutting them with fruitwoods, maple, or pecan.

Q: Is it safe to smoke a turkey with wood?

A: Yes, as long as you use your digital thermometer to ensure that all areas of the smoked chicken reach the USDA minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Q: How often do you add wood when smoking a turkey?

A: Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to this question. A reasonable rule of thumb is to replace the chips every five to six hours, although this can vary depending on your smoker, the weather, and the sort of wood you use.

Wrapping up

A well-smoked turkey is a work of art, with the wood smoke adding taste and color. You’ll be able to pick the precise correct wood to impart the taste you desire with our guide, and you’ll be able to smoke the ideal chicken with our advice!


What woods are bad for smoking?

EASTERN CEDAR, CYPRESS, ELM, EUCALYPTUS, SASSAFRAS, LIQUID AMBER, PINE, REDWOOD, FIR, SPRUCE, or SYCAMORE should never be used to smoke meats or other sorts of food.

What is the best wood combination for smoking turkey?

What are the finest woods for smoking a turkey?
Pecan. Pecan, one of the most often used woods in meat smoking, adds a fantastic balance of sweetness, smokiness, and sharpness to your turkey flesh.
Oak. Mesquite.

Is hickory or mesquite better for turkey?

Mesquite wood offers the biggest taste punch on our list. Mesquite is the way to go if you want a bold, pungent, smoky taste. There will be no need to season the turkey. You’ll just need to set the chicken in the smoker and wait.

What not to do when smoking a turkey?

Stuffing the Turkey

Cook the stuffing separately on your smoker or grill, or bake it in the oven. Heat takes longer to reach the middle of the bird. If you attempt to stuff it, the turkey breast will be overcooked and dry by the time the stuffing is finished.

What wood should you avoid burning?

Softwoods are among the worst woods to burn in a wood-burning stove. Softwood burns fast, inefficiently, and emits hazardous chemicals. They also have a lot of resin in them, even when seasoned.

What types of wood should you not cook with?

Because they contain terpenes and sap, softwoods such as pine, redwood, fir, cedar, and cypress are not suitable for cooking. This imparts a nasty taste to the meat. Each wood has a distinct taste. The taste is strongly influenced by the temperature and soil in which it grows.

What flavor is best to smoke a turkey?

For smoking a turkey, I suggest using apple, cherry, or hickory wood chips. These woods provide a subtle taste that does not overpower the turkey while yet imparting a nice BBQ smokiness.

What do you smoke turkey too?

Preheat the smoker to 225°F. Cook the turkey for 8 to 12 hours, or until the inner thigh temperature reaches 180° F, on a cooking rack. After 312 hours, check the temperature of your turkey. Your turkey must cross a crucial temperature range of 40° F to 140° F in 4 hours or less.

What is the most common wood in turkey?

Black poplar accounts for about 57% of Turkey’s yearly poplar wood output of 3.5 million cubic metres. Poplar wood businesses, notably furniture, packaging, particleboard, plywood, and matches, have grown rapidly in recent years and mostly employ hybrid poplar wood.

What is the best meat to smoke with mesquite?

Mesquite wood is ideal for smoking dark meats that can withstand mesquite’s powerful taste, such as Texas-style brisket, wild game meat, duck, lamb, and Tex-Mex barbacoa. Grill steaks, veggies, and other quick-cooking, tasty dishes over mesquite flames.


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