It’s time for some open admissions! I always loved smoked turkey! Still love it, even when I am a fully-fledged adult with children. Furthermore, it’s not because I disliked turkey. Every Christmas meal I ever had had turkey as the main course, and turkey soup and sandwiches continued until January. I even had a lighthearted neck fight with my granny. However, they were always roasted in an oven. Later on, to free up the oven for other uses, my mother would roast the turkey on a gas grill.
The meat can be flavorfully enhanced by smoking, which is also a great way to roast a large bird like a turkey without drying it out. Of course, the type of turkey you intend to utilize is the first decision you must make when smoking a turkey. The type of wood you’ll be utilizing and the flavor you want it to have come in second, though. Personally, we like cherry wood with a hint of hickory because of its combination of sweet-smoky flavor and deep color.
However, the type of wood you use will rely on your particular preferences! Therefore we’ll present all your possibilities rather than imposing a single best decision on you. Here is a quick summary of all of our top suggestions. For more information on how to select the best wood for smoking your next smoked turkey, keep reading!
What kinds of wood work best for smoking turkey?
As we’ve already established, various types of wood offer various flavor profiles that go well with turkey. Among the most popular options are:
Your smoked turkey has a layer of earthy, spicy characteristics from maple wood without the meat’s flavor being overpowered. Smoking over maple can help you highlight the herbal qualities in a rub that already has a lot of potent herbal flavors. The meat acquires an almost honey-like sweetness from the maple’s sweeter smoke, which also gives it a gorgeous golden hue.
Try smoking with maple if you want a mellow, sweet, aromatic turkey that tastes and looks like a million bucks. The taste of maple smoke is really mild and has a trace of honey and a somewhat sweet floral smell. This complements the turkey’s rich, golden hue that maple smoke may give it particularly effectively.
Maple can be an obvious choice if you want to maintain the natural flavors of your turkey while enhancing it with a few picky herbs and aromatics and a hint of sweet smoke. The visual appeal of maple-smoked turkey is also excellent, especially when served with the appropriate glaze or sauce.
One of the more understated woods on this list is apple. Applewood, which is smoked for a very long time, gives the turkey a sweet, mildly fruity flavor that complements the earthiness of the meat extremely well. To impart that taste, you’ll need to smoke your turkey for a lot longer since it can actually be quite faint. The only drawback to this is that you’ll need to watch over your bird a little bit, making sure the meat doesn’t dry out by having a spray bottle of water or apple juice nearby.
Apple is one of the best fruitwoods that may give your whole turkey a delicately sweet flavor. The natural flavor of the turkey is not overpowered by the smoke, which is not overly aromatic. The best approach to smoking a turkey with apples is low and slow, being careful not to overcook it by adding a water pan to the smoker or basting it frequently.
Apple is a fantastic smoke source for a whole turkey for novice barbecuers. If you keep the bird at the proper temperature and make sure that the middle of the bird reaches the desired temperature, very little can go wrong.
One practical choice is to use a flesh probe.
Hickory is a great classic smoking wood that almost all smokers will utilize. It is actually fairly potent and is used more frequently for barbeque than for smoking poultry. But one of the great things about smoking is that you don’t have to use a certain kind of wood. To give your turkey a rich, smoky flavor and deep brown color without overpowering the taste, you can cut your hickory with fruitwood like an apple or cherry.
Hickory, one of the most adaptable woods for smoking, can be a great method to make your turkey look, smell, and taste amazing. White turkey meat in particular, which is comparatively bland, can benefit from the wide variety of complex flavors and aromas that hickory smoking can impart to the meat.
If you smoke your turkey with hickory, the rich, brown appearance can also have an inviting quality. When using hickory smoke, it can be a little challenging to strike the right balance and avoid overpowering the turkey. If you want that perfectly balanced deep, rich flavor that works well with the natural flavors of the turkey, it is a good idea to take your time.
And determine exactly how much wood to use and how long you should smoke your bird.
Pecan, one of the most popular woods for smoking meat, gives your turkey flesh a delicious balance of sweetness, smokiness, and sharpness. Pecan is a little more vigorous than many of the fruitwoods we’ll talk about later, but it still has a depth of taste and a delicate nuttiness.
Because of its rich flavor, we don’t advise adding any hickory to it the first time you smoke, as you might with cherry or apple. The meat of the turkey may acquire an unpleasant sour harshness from the mixture of two highly flavored kinds of wood.
To increase the volume, you may always add a few hickory shavings or mesquite after your first smoke if you prefer a stronger smoke flavor.
Because it offers a delicately sweet flavor that can be accentuated with rubs, marinades, or modest amounts of other wood, cherry is a fantastic smoking wood. Cherry pellets are used in our recipe for pellet-grilled turkey because they add a crowd-pleasing, moderate flavor.
As we’ve already indicated, we like to combine cherrywood and hickory to give the turkey flesh a richer, more complex smokey flavor. The wonderful red-brown hue that cherrywood will provide your turkey when it comes out of the smoker is another great advantage of utilizing it.
Cherrywood is frequently regarded as the best option for smoking a whole turkey.
The deep, rich, smoky flavor that cherry can give to the meat is the ideal complement to the naturally bland and lean nature of turkey. Bringing your whole turkey and smoking it over cherry wood can be one of the best ways to cook it if you want your turkey to be a statement piece without the help of other flavoring ingredients.
Additionally, cherry wood smoking gives your bird a rich red color that is excellent for presentational appeal.
Alder gives a deep smokey earthiness that isn’t nearly as overbearing as hickory, oak, or mesquite, making it a milder alternative to some of the heavier woods we’ve got listed below. It can therefore strengthen some softer woods, like apple or maple, or weaken some stronger woods, making it a useful tool to have on hand.
When smoking turkey, an unconventional choice like alder wood can produce exquisite results. Although smoking seafood is where it is most frequently used, turkey can benefit as well. Alder is a wise choice if you prefer to emphasize the tastes of your dry rub, marinade, or herb butter and minimize the flavor impact of the smoking process.
It has a very faint smokey flavor that only slightly overpowers your other flavors while adding a hint of smoke. Alder is a wood that likewise burns extremely slowly and produces a soft heat. If you smoke your turkey this way—low and slow—there are a lot fewer potential problems. Using a pellet grill means that the burn rate of alder is not as much of a concern.
Oak, which is more frequently used in European smoking, is quite similar to hickory in that wood has a deep smoky flavor that, if used excessively, may soon become overpowering. One advantage of utilizing oak is that red oak varieties provide the meat a flamboyant scarlet color and, when used sparingly, pair quite well with cherrywood.
One of the traditional options for red meat is oak. However, if utilized properly, it can produce fantastic results with turkey. If you choose a comparatively shorter cook time for your turkey, the rich, earthy taste of the smoke can work wonders.
If you wish to incorporate other types of wood, oak makes an excellent base.
For example, combining the right fruitwood with oak can produce a fantastic sweet and savory outcome. Just make sure the ratios are correct.
Mesquite, another wood with a lot of punch, produces the most potent smokey, spicy flavors. Mesquite is frequently used in barbecue in Southwestern states, but if used excessively, it can soon overpower the flavor of the turkey and leave a harsh aftertaste. Some folks find this wood to be overly excessively smokey.
Even so, it gives lovely color and a deep, smokey flavor, so you might like it infusing a large bird. Too much mesquite, however, tastes bitter and unpleasant, so take it easy on this one. Not advised for first-time smokers.
What Qualities Should the Best Wood for Smoking Turkey Have?
You want light wood when it comes to the best wood for smoking turkey. Hickory or mesquite, for example, are too potent and will overpower the flavor of the bird. Find a fruit wood or any sweet wood that suits your palate because poultry goes well with them.
You should search for chips or pellets in whatever kind of wood you’ve chosen if you have a smaller smoker or grill set up. A turkey can be smoked if you have some chunks or logs handy.
Like everything else related to barbeque, there is a lot of room for creativity and experimentation. The greatest flavors are entirely up to you, but it’s helpful to start with some fundamental principles. Start out easy with one of our suggested woods, and then gradually experiment with adding or subtracting smoke and combining two or more types of wood.
Do you have a preferred wood or mixture for turkey that we missed? Inform us!
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We appreciate your company and wish you luck with your upcoming turkey.