9 Best Woods for Smoking Turkey (Strength & Characteristics)

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

Smoking Turkey not only keeps it nice and juicy, but it also imparts some delicious flavors into the meat.

There are different types of wood that you can use to smoke a turkey, and each offers a unique smokey flavor.

If you are looking for the perfect wood to smoke your turkey, we have selected the most ideal classic smoking wood this article is for you.

This article will discuss the top woods to use to smoke turkey and what makes them so great.

Quick Summary

  • The most ideal wood for smoked turkey includes Alderwood, Applewood, Cherrywood, Hickory, Maplewood, Mesquite, Oak, Peachwood, and Pecan Wood.
  • These smoking wood types all have different smoking times, flavors, and intensities.
  • Each type of wood gives the smoked turkey breast a distinct color.

Best Wood For Smoking Turkey

Comparison between two wood for smoking a turkey

Choosing the right woods to smoke turkey meat depends on the kind of flavors you want to achieve. Some woods have a sweet flavor compared to other woods, and some have more intense flavors.

Expert smokers like to combine different types of wood to invent new and exciting smoky flavors.

The wood used for smoking meat comes in various forms, such as:

  • Chips – Up to 1” in length & width. Great for long-term smoking. For the best results, soak the chips overnight before you use them.
  • Chunks – Up to 4” in the size of a fist. Great for long-term smoking. No soaking is necessary.
  • Planks/Logs – Up to 18” Great for short-term smoking. For the best results, soak the planks for about +/- 1 hour before using them.
  • Sawdust Coarse powder form. Produces instant smoke. No soaking is necessary.
  • Flat Disks – Compressed sawdust. Produces wood smoke quickly. Do not soak as the disks will disintegrate.
  • Wood Pellets – Compressed sawdust resembling chicken feed. Produces smoke quickly. Do not soak as the wood pellets will disintegrate.

Let’s take a look at the 9 best wood to use for smoked turkey:

1. Alderwood

Compared to Oak, Hickory, and Mesquite, Alderwood is the lighter choice yet still imparts a lovely rich and earthy smokiness to the meat.

Smokers usually add Alder wood shavings to tone down strong wood such as hickory or enhance the smoke flavor of milder woods such as Maplewood and Applewood.

2. Applewood

Close up image of Applewood chunks

If you are looking for subtle natural flavors with sweet fruitiness, Applewood is the best wood to use.

Out of all the types of wood mentioned in this article, Applewood is the most subtle, and it brings out the earthiness in the meat.

If you choose to smoke your turkey meat with Applewood, make sure to keep basting the meat as Applewood takes a bit longer to smoke meat than the other types of wood.

3. Cherry wood

Cherry wood is a favorite amongst smokers because its subtly sweet flavor pairs beautifully with other wood flavors, marinades, and rubs.

After the smoking process is complete, Cherry wood also gives the turkey meat a lovely reddish-brown hue.

Many meat smokers love to add a small amount of hickory to Cherry wood for an increased depth of sweet, smoky flavors.

4. Hickory

Close up image of Hickory wood chunks

If you like bold, smoky solid flavors like what smokers usually use for barbecues, then you will love the strongly flavored wood of hickory shavings.

Hickory has such a robust flavor, and mixing it with Cherrywood or Applewood gives the turkey meat a strong flavor with a slightly sweet, fruity flavor.

This combination of wood shavings provides the turkey with gorgeous brown color and rich natural flavors.

5. Maplewood

If you prefer your turkey to have an earthy flavor with a hint of spice, Maplewood is the one for you.

Maplewood underlines intense herbal flavors from meat rubs or marinades. The Maple imparts a honey-like flavor and gives the turkey and beautiful golden color.

6. Pecan Wood

Pecan is one of the most popular woods used for smoking and adds a sweet, sharp smokiness to the meat, with a delectably rich yet subtle nuttiness.

Add Mesquite or Hickory shavings to the mix for an enhanced, more robust flavor.

7. Mesquite Wood

Close up image of Mesquite Wood chunks

Mesquite is often used in Southwestern state barbeques and imparts robustly smoky flavors.

If you do not use this wood sparingly, you might end up with an unappealing, bitter-tasting whole turkey.

However, if you use only a small amount of mesquite shavings and pair it with Alderwood, you will achieve a subtler flavor with a beautiful richness.

8. Oak Wood/Red Oak Wood

Smokers who prefer to smoke their meat with Oakwood are after its distinct red color that tints the meat a subtle reddish-brown.

Oak provides a strong, sharp, rich smoky flavor that, if not used sparingly, can result in a very overpowering flavor. Oakwood is most prevalent in European smoking.

9. Peach (Fruitwood)

Peach (Fruitwood) has a mellow, smoky, delicately fruity flavor that goes nicely with turkey, chicken, duck, pork, and even deer.

It also gives the skin of the turkey a beautiful color, ranging from golden to mahogany.

Exploration is also important in determining what you like and dislike, so don't be hesitant to mix a few fruitwood types and try new things.

Top Wood For Smoking Turkey – Info & Products

Type Of Wood Strength Characteristics Products
Alder (Hardwood) Mild Sweet & delicate
  • Smokehouse Alder Wood Chips
  • Cameron’s Alder Smoker Wood Chips
Apple (Fruitwood) Light Sweet & fruity
  • Oklahoma Joe's Apple Wood Smoker Chips
  • Outset Natural Apple BBQ Smoking Chips
Cherry (Fruitwood) Mild Subtly sweet
  • Cameron’s Cherry Smoker Wood Chips
  • Weber Cherry Wood Chunks
Hickory (Hardwood) Strong (milder than Mesquite) Traditional & earthy
  • Mr. Bar-B-Q Hickory Smoking Wood Chips
  • Weber Hickory Chunks
Maple (Fruitwood) Mild Subtly sweet
  • Western Premium BBQ Products Maple Wood Smoking Chips
  • Cameron’s Maple Wood Chips
Peach (Fruitwood) Mild Sweet & woody
  • Western Premium Products BBQ Peach Wood Smoking Chips
Pecan (Fruitwood) Mild Sweet
  • Western Pecan BBQ Smoking Chips
  • Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker Pecan Wood Chips
Mesquite (Hardwood) Strong Traditional smoky flavor & spicy
  • Cameron’s Mesquite Wood Smoking Chips
  • Mr. Bar-B-Q Mesquite Wood Smoker Chips
Oak (Natural Hardwood) Strong Traditional smoky flavor
  • Cameron’s Premium, Kiln-Dried Oak BBQ Wood Chips

Wood To Avoid When Smoking Turkey

While we don't have a specific answer as to which types of wood should not be used to smoke a turkey, we can advise you that if you do not like intense, bold, and sweeter smoke flavors, then it would be best to avoid Hickory, Mesquite wood, and Oak.

However, if you want to use them, you could always use fruitwood, Pecan, and Maple to tone them down a bit.

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About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy Woods holds a Kinesiology and Exercise Science degree from Jacksonville University and is CCC & GMU Certified. He's also the main man behind Carnivore Style. This food aficionado combines science and experience to spread the word about the carnivore lifestyle.
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One thought on “9 Best Woods for Smoking Turkey (Strength & Characteristics)

  1. Fruitwoods like apple and cherry, which have a sweet and mild flavor that will make your turkey a favorite with any crowd, are the ideal wood selections for a wonderful and delicate taste when smoking turkeys, like I did.

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