Smoking a turkey is a popular Thanksgiving tradition for many families. With the right wood, it can be one of the best tasting turkeys you have ever had! Today, I suggest some woods that work well for smoking turkey and give instructions on how to smoke a turkey using your electric smoker.
Smoking with different types of wood provides flavor variations in your smoked meat. There are various flavors from fruitwoods such as cherry, apple or apricot; to hickory, oak or pecan. The type of wood used will depend on what you want your end product to taste like – sweet or savory? Let’s take a look at some recipes and guides below if you’re ready to start smoking!
What is the best wood for smoking turkey?
Smoking a turkey with the right wood can be hit or miss since everyone likes the flavor of food differently. You may find that when you smoke a turkey with certain woods, it might taste bitter or burnt in some parts of your bird. However, there is a way to make sure that you have the best smoked turkey for your Thanksgiving! Elderberry, apple and cherry woods are a good start when smoking turkey. These fruits produce a milder smoke flavor so make sure you use lighter grilling temperatures when cooking your bird with these types of wood.
My top 3 types of wood to use when smoking a turkey
Applewood has a sweet, fruity aroma. Adding applewood to your smoker will give your meat a more subtle flavor and aroma than other types of wood. Some people say that the flavor is very mild compared to the citrusy flavors you get with hickory or oak.
Cherry tends to give meat a slightly sweet flavor, which works well for smoking turkey and chicken. What’s more, many people like the color of the turkey when it is cooked using cherrywood smoke!
Oak tends to have a very smoky flavor, with aromas that are strong and sweet. This is probably the most common type of wood used when smoking, but some say that it tastes bitter or has an unpleasant taste to it.
Alternatively, you can use fruitwoods such as cherry, apple or apricot which have a sweeter flavor, rather than more savory hickory, oak or pecan
Why you should always soak your wood chips before using them in your smoker
Soaking wood before putting it in your smoker helps to release the flavor of the smoke. Wood that has been boiled for a number of hours will give off a more intense aroma than if you had just placed the chips straight into your smoker. To get really flavorful meat, soak your wood overnight and then place them on embers right before you are ready to begin smoking.
You can also use charcoal instead of wood for smoking – see this blog post on the best charcoal to use for smoking to get a great smoky flavour!
How long should you smoke a turkey for and at what temperature?
Smoking times will vary depending on the type of wood you use, so it is a good idea to look at this guide when smoking turkeys. If you are using charcoal, then remember that too much heat can result in burnt meat, so keep an eye on your smoker as well!
The ideal temperature for a turkey depends on what texture you like:
If you want a turkey with more of a crispy texture, then smoke it at 175˚F for 12 to 14 hours.
For a moist, tender turkey, then smoke the bird at 190˚F for 2 to 4 hours.
How to prepare your smoker before smoking your turkey
In order to get the best results from your smoked turkey, you should make sure that your smoker is clean and ready to go before you begin. This way, any papery bits of skin or meat will not fall onto your coals or wood which could smoke onto the bird.
If cooling racks are provided with your smoker, then it is advised that you place the meat on them with tongs. This will prevent any juices from dripping onto your coals or wood, which could also impart a bitter flavor to your bird.
The important thing is not to over-smoke your turkey – try to regulate how long you leave it in the smoker and use a timer if possible.
Tips to make sure your smoked turkey turns out perfect every time
Now that you know what temperature and type of wood to use and have soaked your wood chips, here are a few other tips for smoking your turkey:
Try not to over-smoke the meat. This can be hard since it is easy to get carried away when tending your smoker! As long as you remember to keep an eye on the meat and not to leave it in the smoker for too long, you should have no problem.
The turkey will rise as it cooks, so make sure that you put a tea towel underneath it before smoking it. This will keep the juices from dripping onto your coals or wood and also helps prevent your smoker getting messy! It is important to make sure that the bird is not too close to any hot parts of the smoker, as this could burn your turkey.
How to prepare a smoked turkey for storing and reheating
The best way to store your smoked turkey is in an airtight container. It can keep for up to 7 days, but will soon lose its smoky flavor. If you want to keep the turkey for longer, wrap it in foil and then store it in a freezer bag. This will help preserve the smoked flavor much better than an airtight container.
The best way to reheat a turkey is slowly. The meat needs to be heated through gradually otherwise you risk drying out the meat or even burning it. When reheating a smoked turkey, make sure that you use low heat to give the meat time to cook.
How to check if your turkey is ready and how long to leave it in the smoker
A good way to tell when your turkey has been smoked for the correct amount of time is by using a meat thermometer. If you do not have a meat thermometer, then you can check the turkey by inserting a skewer or knife into the thickest part of the bird. If it goes in quite easily and there is no resistance, then the bird is ready to come out of the smoker.
When checking on your smoked turkey, remember that opening your smoker will allow the heat and smoke to escape.
How to carve a smoked turkey
If you have soaked your wood chips as mentioned earlier, then there will be very little work involved in carving your smoked turkey! This is because once cooked, the skin of the bird should come away from the meat much more easily than it would do with just cold smoking.
If you have not soaked your wood chips, then when carving the turkey, it may be a good idea to use kitchen shears to cut around the joints and then pull out any meat that has been cooked. This will make it much easier to carve.
Smoking a turkey can be tricky, but with these tips you should have no problem getting the best results. If your smoker has a cool-down rack then it is advised to place the meat on them with tongs to avoid any juices from dripping onto coals and wood which could impart an unpleasant flavor.
The important thing is not to over smoke your turkey – try regulating how long you leave it in the smoker by using a timer if possible. When checking on your smoked bird make sure that opening your smoker will allow the heat and smoke escape as this could burn or dry out the meat while cooking.
Lastly, when carving your smoked turkey make use of kitchen shears around joints because pulling cooked pieces of meat away form skin can be difficult without them!