Wondering how much wood you need to smoke your turkey?
The key to getting a perfect smoky flavor in your turkey can be by matching it with the right type of wood chips and ensuring that you have enough wood to get the job done.
You don’t want to run out of wood chips or pick the wrong chips, so make sure you follow my steps below.
Table of contents
How Much Wood Do You Need for Smoked Turkey?
Poultry has a mild flavor that can be overpowered by too much smoke.
Hence, starting with about 1 cup of wood chips is recommended.
You may then proceed to add another cup every 45 minutes or so until the turkey is done.
However, this can vary depending on the size of the turkey and the smoker’s temperature.
How Much Wood in Total?
When the smoker temperature holds steady at 275°, the turkey should cook at a rate of 20 to 25 minutes per pound.
This means a 12-pound turkey will be done in 4 to 5 hours.
If you follow the one-cup measure for every 45 minutes of cooking time, it will total to you using at least 5 cups of wood for a 12-pound turkey.
A 15-pound bird smoked at the same temperature will require about 6 cups of wood chips.
Keep the Air Flowing
It is essential to ensure that your grill has sufficient airflow before you begin the cooking process.
This is because the smoke will give the meat an unpleasant flavor if the wood burns too fast.
How Should the Smoke Look Like?
A good way to know if the wood is burning at a proper rate is by looking at the smoke.
If the smoke is thick and white, it is burning too fast.
Instead, a thin column of smoke that rises steadily and is silvery-blue in color is what you should be after.
Should You Soak Wood Chips?
Although this is a widely debated topic, it is best to leave wood chips dry.
Firstly, it will take more than 24 hours of soaking for a noticeable amount of moisture to penetrate the chips.
This means the practice is useless unless done a day in advance.
Furthermore, when the wood is saturated with moisture, it will produce steam- not smoke.
This means it will be pointless because you are trying to give the turkey a smoke flavor.
Soaking the wood can also lower the temperature of the smoker.
Adding saturated wood to the fire can cool things down when it is already hard enough to keep the smoker running at the target temperature.
Should You Use Wood Chunks or Wood Chips?
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.
Wood chips need to be soaked before being lit and may catch alight easier.
On the other hand, wood chunks don’t need to be soaked and can last much longer.
It ultimately depends on your personal preference and the type of smoker you are using.
Where to Buy Wood?
You can buy wood from most BBQ stores and even Walmart.
Best Wood for Smoking Turkey
Choosing the right wood is as important as the amount you use to smoke your turkey.
The choice of wood you pick will give the turkey its distinctive delicious flavor- whether it’s smoky, strong or sweet flavor.
Below are some of the best options you can use to smoke your turkey.
Applewood is best for first-timers as it is mellow and sweet, making it ideal for smoking a whole turkey with wood for beginners.
Some do tend to feel that the apple flavor is too subtle for the turkey meat, especially since the meat cooks relatively quickly.
This can be avoided by setting the smoker at a lower temperature than you otherwise would, which would mean a longer cook time.
Cherry wood not only provides a sweet, fruity flavor but also gives the skin of your turkey a lovely ruby hue.
It won’t overwhelm the natural flavor of the turkey either as it is a milder wood.
This makes it a great choice if you’re smoking a large bird as it will take longer to finish cooking.
Pecan is another sweet and nutty wood, with a combination of smokiness and sharpness.
It has a more intense and distinct flavor than cherry wood and can be too sweet and rich for some palates.
Although it is not a perfect wood to use for first-timers due to its bold flavor profile, pecan wood will definitely complement the juicy turkey.
Especially if you enjoy a touch of sweetness to the meat.
Woods to Avoid
Not every flavor may complement the turkey well due to white meat being delicate and easily overpowered by robust types of hardwood.
Below are some woods to avoid when smoking turkey.
Mesquite is one of the strongest and most robust-flavored woods out there and is often used with tough red meats.
This wood is sure to overwhelm the natural flavor of the turkey meat, which is why people avoid it while smoking turkey.
This is another deep, ‘earthy’ wood and is used as a base layer for different types of meat.
Although it is a classic wood, it simply has too much of a distinct and heavy flavor for poultry.
There is no hard and fast rule on how much wood to use when smoking turkey or any cut of meat.
However, following the steps mentioned above, using your best judgment, and ensuring the stream of smoke burns steadily throughout is key to achieving a juicy turkey with the perfect smokey flavors that the entire family will enjoy!
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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