Smoking a turkey is a classic way to infuse juicy, tender meat with incredible flavor, but the variety of wood you choose can make or break the end result. Find out the best woods for achieving the perfect balance of smoky richness and subtle flavor notes to take your holiday turkey to the next level.
Table of Contents
- Best Wood for Smoking Turkey
- Girl Carnivore Favorite Smoking Wood for Thanksgiving Turkey
- Helpful Grilling Guides
- Our favorite Smoked Turkey Recipes
- Girl Carnivore Tips for Smoking with Wood
- What smoking wood to avoid when smoking turkey
Smoking turkey is a backyard tradition that adds an irresistible smoky flavor to this popular holiday bird. While the cooking method itself plays a crucial role in achieving a moist and flavorful turkey, the choice of smoking wood can elevate the taste of your turkey recipes to new heights.
With various types of wood available, each imparting its unique characteristics, it’s essential to select the best wood that complements the rich flavors of turkey. We’ll explore some top contenders for the best wood for smoking turkey, helping you unlock the secrets to a perfectly smoked and delectable Thanksgiving feast.
Skim this for the type of wood you want
- We love a combo of maple and pecan wood chips and post oak for our smoking our Thanksgiving turkey.
- For smoking turkey all year long, try hickory, pecan, and apple smoking wood.
- Our favorite wood chips and wood chunks are by Western Wood because they are kiln-dried and burn clean.
- Our favorite pellets for smoking turkey are B&B Pecan pellets or Jack Daniel’s Pellets.
- We use Cowboy hardwood lump charcoal for the best flavor.
Best Wood for Smoking Turkey
If you’ve decided to smoke your Thanksgiving turkey, you are already adding an additional layer of flavor you simply can get with a traditional roast turkey. We love smoking our poultry because we find it remains juicy and tender with incredible flavor.
But, it’s not as simple as using whatever you have on hand, as each wood flavor imparts different notes mild, sweet, nutty, and strong. So picking and choosing the right ones is important.
Check out our full guide to smoking wood for more flavor pairings.
Girl Carnivore Favorite Smoking Wood for Thanksgiving Turkey
For our Smoked Thanksgiving turkey, we love a combo of
We find this combo to be a great choice without being too strong, which means that even the pickiest of eaters will love your Thanksgiving dinner. Feel free to mix and match your flavor options for the holiday season or every time you grill to find your perfect flavor combo.
The best wood for A smoked turkey
Smoking a turkey is an excellent way to infuse it with delicious smoky flavors and achieve moist, tender meat. We love a combination of different types of wood, like fruit woods with a sweet flavor or nut woods mixed with hardwood for our turkey meat. Not only does the smoking wood add that rich smoky flavor, but it also adds a beautiful color to your whole turkey or smoked turkey breast.
Here is the best types of wood for smoking a turkey, whether you’re using wood chips or wood chunks:
- Apple – mild, sweet fruity flavor
- Cherry – where we love this mild sweet wood, it is also great for adding a rich mahogany color to your meats.
- Pecan – nutty, rich flavor
- Maple – subtle, mild, and sweet smoky flavor
- Post Oak – medium flavor
- Hickory – the most popular choice for smoking wood, this has a classic barbecue flavor with a robust flavor.
Pro Tip: Remember, always let the wood smoke burn clean and whispy, known as blue smoke, before adding your food when charcoal grilling. Dark thick smoke or too much smoke leaves an acrid taste.
Girl Carnivore’s Favorite Smoking Wood:
- Western Wood Smoking Wood Chips and Chunks – we love how this product is kiln-dried and burns consistently. It’s been our go-to choice for over five years.
The best charcoal for grilling a turkey
You’ve picked out your wood, and you may think you’re good to go, but unless you are burning only wood for your fuel, chances are you need charcoal too. And who knew that charcoal could make your food taste different? It can, and buying the right charcoal for your smoked turkey is important.
Look for all-natural charcoal with no fillers or chemical additives. If your charcoal lights quickly and goes up in flames, it’s probably got an accelerant added, which can leave a flavor on your food.
We love real hickory lump charcoal or charcoal briquets with only vegetable binders. We use an all-natural fire starter over a charcoal chimney to light our coals. It takes about 15 minutes for the charcoal to be ready. If using hardwood charcoal, you are going to get a smoky flavor, even without adding wood, so be conservative when adding your smoking wood, as less smoke is better.
Girl Carnivore’s Favorite Charcoal:
Here are our favorite fuels depending on the charcoal grill model for a perfect smokey flavor. Not sure what grill to smoke a turkey on? Check out our best grills to see our favorites.:
- Drum Smokers: Cowboy All Natural Lump Charcoal
- Masterbuilt Gravity Series: B&B Competition Oak Charcoal Briquets
- Kamado Style Grills: B&B Charcoal XL Premium Lump Charcoal
- Weber Kettle & Similar: Jack Daniel’s Charcoal Briquets *yes, that is a thing, and we love this charcoal
- Hasty-Bake Grill: B&B Competition Char Logs (wait, what’s a char-log? Check these out for holding long, steady heat).
The best pellets for smoking a turkey
When it comes to smoking with pellets, picking the right ones can be a hard choice too. Now, we know a lot of people buy the pellets with the same name brand as the pellet smoker they use. But there are a lot out there, and we’re here to tell you it’s worth experimenting to see how they burn. Just like wood chips and chunks, different woods burn differently.
We love using charcoal pellets in our pellet grill because we love the more robust flavor. Those, combined with pecan or post oak pellets, and we love the combo for smoking turkey.
Pro tip: Add some wood chunks to the hottest corners of your pellet grill, on top of the grill grates for an added boost of flavor.
Girl Carnivore’s Favorite Pellets:
Girl Carnivore Tips for Smoking with Wood
- Use chunks rather than chips for longer, cleaner smoke if you have a bigger grill.
- Use wood chips in a smoker box on a gas grill to impart a mild flavor.
- Do not soak wood chunks before smoking.
- Mix woods for more complex flavors.
- Try different woods to see what you like best.
What smoking wood to avoid when smoking turkey
We avoid mesquite wood when smoking turkey. Mesquite burns hot and fast, and it adds a very strong smoke flavor to whatever you’re cooking. Where we love a classic barbecue flavor, we find that for the length of time it takes to smoke a turkey and how mild the meat is, the flavor can be a bit acrid. We suggest pairing mesquite with chicken leg quarters or trying it mixed with a mild apple wood on a spatchcocked turkey if you want to use it.
Avoid any wood that is not specifically for cooking, as some can be harmful.
When it comes to smoking turkey, the choice of wood can greatly impact the overall flavor and aroma of the meat. While there are several types of wood that can be used, such as hickory, maple, and applewood, each offering its own distinct characteristics, it is ultimately a matter of personal preference. But we’re keen to mix a mild fruit wood with a stronger post oak or hickory every time to get real smoky flavor.
Experimenting with different woods and finding the perfect combination to suit your taste buds is part of the joy of smoking turkey. Whether you prefer a bold and smoky flavor or a subtle hint of sweetness, choosing the best wood for smoking turkey ensures a deliciously smoked turkey that will have everyone coming back for seconds. Fire up your smoker with confidence because we’ve yet to taste a combo that we didn’t love.
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If smoking with wood chips, be prepared to add fresh chips every 35 to 45 minutes. If using wood chunks, you should not have to add more wood depending on your type of smoker.
The right wood is dependent on your smoker or grill. You can only use pellets in pellet grills. Wood chips are ideal for kettle-style grills or to be used in a smoker box on a gas grill.
No. Do not soak your wood chips before smoking. Soaking the wood chips creates steam, which burns off darker than the whispy flavorful smoke you will get if using dry wood chips. Soaking slows down how quickly the wood chips burn but does not produce the best flavor.
The kind you own. When it comes to flavor, we have smoked turkeys on drum smokers, gas grills, pellet smokers, and more. No matter what grill you have, you can get a perfectly smoked turkey. Be sure to review our tips on wood choices and charcoal choices and use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temp of the bird so you don’t overcook it, which is about the only way to mess it up.