Best Wood Chips for Smoking Turkey: Top Recommendations for Flavorful Results

If you’re looking to smoke a turkey, you’ll need to find the right wood chips to get the perfect flavor. The type of wood you use can greatly affect the taste of your turkey, so it’s important to choose the right one. In this article, we’ll discuss the best wood chips for smoking turkey and what makes them stand out.

When it comes to smoking turkey, there are several factors to consider. The type of wood you use, the smoker you choose, and the cooking method all play a role in the final flavor of your turkey. While there are many types of wood chips available, not all of them are suitable for smoking turkey. Some may be too harsh and overpowering, while others may not provide enough flavor.

In the following sections, we’ll explore the different types of wood chips that are best for smoking turkey and what makes them unique. We’ll also provide tips on how to choose the right smoker and fuel, as well as how to create the perfect smoke and flavor. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, this guide will help you achieve the perfect smoked turkey every time.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the right wood chips is crucial for smoking a delicious turkey.
  • Fruit woods such as apple and cherry provide a subtle fragrance and attractive color to the turkey.
  • Hickory and mesquite should be avoided as they can overpower the taste of the turkey.

Understanding the Basics of Smoking a Turkey

Best Wood Chips for Smoking Turkey: Top Recommendations for Flavorful Results

Smoking a turkey is a popular cooking method that infuses the bird with a smoky flavor while keeping it moist and tender. Here are some basic guidelines to help you smoke a perfect turkey every time.

Choosing the Right Turkey

When it comes to smoking a turkey, choosing the right bird is crucial. You want to select a fresh, whole turkey that is not pre-brined or injected with any solutions. This will give you more control over the flavor and seasoning of your smoked turkey.

Preparation and Brining

Before you smoke your turkey, it’s important to prepare it properly. This includes cleaning the bird, removing the giblets and neck, and rinsing it thoroughly inside and out. You can also brine your turkey to add flavor and moisture. A simple brine solution of salt, sugar, and water can work wonders for your smoked turkey.

Importance of Temperature

Temperature is a critical factor when it comes to smoking a turkey. You want to ensure that the internal temperature of the bird reaches at least 165°F to ensure that it is fully cooked and safe to eat. It’s important to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey throughout the smoking process.

To achieve the perfect temperature, you need to maintain a consistent temperature in your smoker. This can be achieved by using the right type of wood chips and adjusting the temperature of your smoker as needed.

Overall, smoking a turkey can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following these basic guidelines, you can smoke a delicious and flavorful turkey that will impress your friends and family.

Types of Wood for Smoking

When it comes to smoking turkey, the type of wood you use can have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat. Here are some of the most popular types of wood for smoking, along with their unique characteristics.


Fruitwoods such as apple, cherry, and pecan are popular choices for smoking turkey because they impart a subtle, sweet flavor. Applewood, in particular, is a favorite among many pitmasters due to its mild, fruity aroma. Cherrywood, on the other hand, has a slightly stronger flavor and can add a beautiful reddish hue to the meat.


Hardwoods like oak and hickory are also commonly used for smoking turkey. Oak is a versatile wood that can add a subtle smoky flavor without overpowering the meat. Hickory, on the other hand, has a stronger, more robust flavor that pairs well with turkey. However, it’s important to use hickory sparingly as it can easily overpower the meat if used in excess.

Woods to Avoid

While there are many types of wood that can be used for smoking, there are a few that should be avoided when smoking turkey. Mesquite, for example, has a strong, earthy flavor that can be overwhelming when used with poultry. Alder is another wood that should be avoided as it has a very mild flavor that can get lost when used with turkey.

When selecting wood chips or chunks for smoking turkey, it’s important to choose high-quality, natural wood that is free from chemicals and additives. Some popular brands of smoking wood include Camerons, Western Wood, and B&B. Whether you prefer the subtle sweetness of fruitwood or the robust flavor of hardwood, choosing the right type of wood can take your smoked turkey to the next level.

Choosing the Right Smoker and Fuel

When it comes to smoking turkey, choosing the right smoker and fuel is crucial. There are many different types of smokers available, including charcoal, gas, electric, offset, and more. Each type has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the one that works best for you.

Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal smokers are a popular choice for smoking turkey because they provide a rich, smoky flavor that many people love. They are also relatively inexpensive and easy to use. However, they do require more attention than other types of smokers, as you need to constantly monitor the temperature and add more fuel as needed.

Gas Smokers

Gas smokers are another popular option, as they are easy to use and maintain a consistent temperature. They are also more convenient than charcoal smokers, as you don’t need to constantly monitor the fuel or temperature. However, they don’t provide the same rich, smoky flavor as charcoal smokers.

Electric Smokers

Electric smokers are a great option for those who want a set-it-and-forget-it approach to smoking turkey. They are easy to use and maintain a consistent temperature, but they don’t provide the same rich, smoky flavor as charcoal or gas smokers.


When it comes to fuel, there are many options available, including wood chips, wood chunks, charcoal, and more. Each type of fuel provides a different flavor profile, so it’s important to choose the one that works best for you. Some popular options for smoking turkey include hickory, apple, maple, and oak.

Smoker Box

If you’re using a gas grill to smoke your turkey, you’ll need to use a smoker box to hold your wood chips or chunks. A smoker box is a small metal box that sits on top of your grill grates and holds your wood chips or chunks. It allows the smoke to flow through your grill and infuse your turkey with flavor.


No matter what type of smoker you’re using, it’s important to pay attention to the vents. Vents control the flow of air and smoke through your smoker, so it’s important to adjust them as needed to maintain a consistent temperature and smoke level.

Creating the Perfect Smoke and Flavor

When it comes to smoking turkey, the perfect smoke and flavor can make or break the dish. Here are some tips to help you get the best results possible.

Combining Different Woods

Combining different types of wood chips can add depth and complexity to the flavor of your smoked turkey. Consider using a mixture of classic smoking woods like hickory and mesquite, along with milder woods like cherry, apple, and pecan. This can help balance out the strong, smoky flavors of the classic woods with the sweeter, nuttier flavors of the milder woods.

Using Rubs and Seasoning

In addition to using the right wood for smoking, using the right rubs and seasonings can also help enhance the flavor of your smoked turkey. A sweet rub can add a touch of sweetness to the meat, while a savory rub can add depth and complexity. Consider using a sweet rub with a classic smoking wood like hickory or mesquite, or a savory rub with a milder wood like apple or pecan.

When applying rubs and seasonings, be sure to coat the meat evenly and thoroughly. This will help ensure that the flavors are distributed evenly throughout the meat. For best results, apply the rub or seasoning at least an hour before smoking, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.

Remember, smoking turkey is all about low and slow cooking. This allows the meat to absorb the flavors of the wood and seasoning, resulting in a rich, smoky flavor. With the right wood, rubs, and seasonings, you can create a delicious, perfectly smoked turkey that will be the highlight of any meal.

Additional Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Smoked Turkey

Now that you have selected the best wood chips for smoking turkey, it’s time to perfect your smoked turkey recipe. Here are some additional tips and tricks to help you achieve a juicy and moist smoked turkey with a beautiful red color.


Basting your turkey with a mixture of melted butter, onion, sage, thyme, brown sugar, kosher salt, and maple syrup will add flavor and moisture to your bird. Baste your turkey every 30 minutes during the smoking process to keep it juicy and moist.

Preheat and Indirect Heat

Preheat your smoker to 225°F before adding your turkey. This will ensure that your smoker is at the correct temperature and ready to smoke your turkey. Use indirect heat to prevent the turkey from burning and to allow the smoke to circulate around the bird.

Smoked Turkey Legs

Smoked turkey legs are a delicious and easy alternative to a full turkey. Simply season your turkey legs with your favorite spices and smoke them for 3-4 hours until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

Smoked Turkey Gravy

Don’t let the bones, giblets, and neck of your turkey go to waste. Use them to make a flavorful smoked turkey gravy. Simply simmer the bones, giblets, and neck in water with onion, sage, thyme, and salt for a few hours. Strain the liquid and use it to make a roux with butter and flour. Add the liquid back in and simmer until the gravy thickens.

Turkey per Person

Plan on 1 pound of turkey per person for a whole turkey. If you are only smoking turkey legs, plan on 1-2 legs per person.

By following these additional tips and tricks, you will be able to create the best smoked turkey that your family and friends will love.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best wood to use when smoking a turkey?

The best wood to use when smoking a turkey depends on your personal preference. Some popular options include apple, cherry, hickory, maple, mesquite, oak, and pecan wood. These woods offer different flavors and intensities, so it’s important to experiment and find the one that suits your taste.

What flavor wood chips for most smoking meat?

Hickory and mesquite are the most popular wood chips for smoking meat. Hickory gives a strong, smoky flavor, while mesquite offers a bold, earthy taste. However, other woods like apple, cherry, and pecan can also provide delicious flavors that complement the meat.

Is pecan wood a good wood to smoke turkey?

Yes, pecan wood is a great wood to smoke turkey. It provides a sweet, nutty flavor that pairs well with the mild taste of turkey. Pecan wood also burns slowly and produces a lot of smoke, which helps to infuse the meat with flavor.

Can you use post oak to smoke turkey?

Yes, you can use post oak to smoke turkey. Post oak is a popular wood in Texas for smoking meats, and it provides a mild, smoky flavor that pairs well with turkey. However, it’s important to note that post oak burns hot and fast, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on the temperature to avoid overcooking the meat.

How long to smoke a turkey?

The amount of time it takes to smoke a turkey depends on the size of the bird and the temperature of your smoker. As a general rule, you should plan on smoking the turkey for about 30 minutes per pound at a temperature of 225-250°F. This means that a 12-pound turkey will take approximately 6 hours to smoke.

Best smoker for turkey

The best smoker for turkey is one that can maintain a consistent temperature and produce a lot of smoke. Electric smokers, pellet smokers, and charcoal smokers are all good options. However, it’s important to choose a smoker that is large enough to accommodate the size of your turkey and has enough ventilation to allow for proper airflow.

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