6 Best Types Of Wood For Smoking Turkey: Pros & Cons

Smoking meat can bring out some of the best flavors you will ever enjoy when it comes to meats (and even some non-meat products). 

Once you have started smoking your own meat and gotten good at it, there is no turning back. And, for me, Turkey is a particularly delightful meat to smoke as its initial blandness makes it a perfect canvas to soak almost any smoke flavor.

But, to get the perfect smoked turkey, you will need to find the best wood for smoking turkey (by your standards). So, in this article, you’ll learn about the best kinds of smoking woods for turkey, their flavor profile, and what their pros and cons are. So, let’s dive into it.


Best Woods For Smoking Turkey

Best Types Of Wood For Smoking Turkey

Hickory Wood

This is a classic wood with a classic flavor profile that can be an excellent fit for almost any type of meat. Also, you can also get it basically anywhere as wood chips, wood chunks, pellets, etc..

Hickory smoking is pretty easy and effective too, 20-30 minutes and you will get a classic smokey taste that is rich and slightly sweet. 

So, if you don’t have time to smoke your turkey for hours and hours (or don’t have any specialty shops around to get a more unique smoking wood), hickory will do the trick.

Apple Wood

This fruity and delicate smoky flavor is one of the most prized smoking profiles you can get. If you get it right

Applewood smoked turkey will require 2-3 hours of smoking to get the flavor to imbue, and roughly 30 minutes to rest. 

You will also need to be sure to balance the heat throughout the smoking process so that you don’t get a charred smokeflavor.

Getting the light and delicate flavor of apple from your smoking process just right requires a balance of heat and time that can be hard to learn.

Some people will balance applewood with a bit of hickory wood to make sure that it burns better and has a more balanced flavor.

I would say, try for yourself and see what you like. Smoking meat is completely subjective, and what works for one person, doesn’t work for another.

But remember, applewood needs to be smoked at a lower temperature and for a longer period to get the delicate fruity flavor to sip in.

This is fairly common among fruitwoods and is very easy to get wrong when initially using a fruit wood.

Pear Wood

Despite the delicacy of pearwood overall, I think most people will love the sweetness and softness it has. There is something sugary and almost caramel-like in it.

And turkey really makes the perfect match for this wood since it doesn’t have a strong flavor that will overpower the delicate pear, such as beef or pork. 

Many people add smokey notes from stronger woods to their pear wood to make the meat have a more dominant smokey flavor; though I’m not a fan and prefer enjoying a more soft flavored smoked turkey.

Pecan Wood

Pecan is one of the best choices to make for beginner smokers. You will get all the smoky notes you are expecting as well as a slight sweetness. 

Applewood is similar to pecan but is way more delicate making it harder and longer to execute properly. Smoking turkeywith pecan offers the best of both worlds.

This is one of the best benefits of stronger flavored smoking woods; you can be done smoking sooner as the flavor is so strong it will imbue itself enough within a shorter time.

Oak Wood

Oak wood has a very strong flavor but it can be delicious when handled correctly. Its flavoring is very often used when making jerky, but you can also use it when smoking turkey with ease since it takes on flavors like no other meat.

A quick smoking session (15-45 minutes, depending on the heat) will give you a nice dominant flavor.

Smoking meat with oak can add a great balance to the lighter flavored woods mentioned before, or you can use it alone for a deep smoky flavor.

Cherry Wood

Cherry wood is a great choice to make if you want your smoked turkey to have a light fruity and yet a bit tart flavorprofile. 

This is the preferred choice for other game birds to make sure that the gamey flavor is mitigated by the plesasnt light smoky flavor of cherrywood.

Turkey might not be gamey, but cherry wood can give it a nice edge. There is nothing more delightful than a sweet, fruity and tart flavor to your smoked meat, and cherry wood is perfect for that.

Note: Cherry wood can cause very dark skin on many meats, and turkey is no exception. You might think that the dark color is a sign that something is wrong, but it is a normal part of smoking with cherry wood. 

You can use apple wood for your smoking process if you do not like the dark color but still want a similar flavor.

Mesquite Wood

Going back to the first wood I mentioned, Hickory, its everlasting opponent is mesquite wood. It has a slightly heavier smoke flavor that many people find too strong. 

But, if you really like your smokey flavor, this might be the best wood for smoking turkey, for you. Just make sure your guests are just as enthusiastic as you about smoky flavor.

You’ll need roughly 20-40 minutes to get enough flavor to imbue itself, making it a really effective wood to smoketurkey with.

You can also use it as an addition to softer woods I mentioned before.


There isn’t really a best wood for smoking turkey, simply because it is so versatile. Being so bland initially it can work with many flavors, from weak to strong, from fruity and sweet to heavily smoky.

So, write down a few of these woods that sounded good to you, and start trying. As I mentioned, taste is subjective, you’ll need to find your own.

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