Why Does Smoked Turkey Taste Like Ham?

Turkey is a versatile meat that can satisfy everyone at the table, making it a go-to choice for many families. Smoking the turkey is one of the most common prep methods, but people often find it challenging to get the desired flavor without it tasting like ham. So, why does your smoked turkey taste like ham?

A few factors can contribute to your smoked turkey tasting, like ham, but the main factor is sodium nitrate. This is a salt that is added to brine and can make your turkey taste like ham. Other factors are the wood chips you use, the smoking temperature, the smoking time, and more. 

why does smoked turkey taste like ham

What other factors can affect the taste of your turkey? How can you help prevent your smoked turkey from tasting like ham? 

We will examine all you need to know to ensure your next smoked turkey tastes like turkey and not ham in this article!

Why Do Some Smoked Turkeys Taste Like Ham?

Not only is turkey delicious, but it can also be served at many different gatherings. So, turkey is always a great option if you’re looking for a holiday meal like Thanksgiving or something more low-key like a Friday night family dinner.

Smoking a turkey adds delicious flavor and makes the meat juicier. Many people argue that smoking is the best way to cook a turkey. When you smoke a turkey, different herbs and spices infuse the meat with a fantastic flavor. 

However, smoking a turkey can come with its challenges. For example, some people might go through the entire smoking process only to have their smoked turkey taste like smoked ham. 

This can be irritating as you want your turkey to taste like a turkey. 

So, why do some turkeys come out of the smoker tasting like ham? 

The leading cause of this problem is sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate is a salt added to soaking brines that helps cure the meat by preserving it and keeping it fresh for longer.

Sodium nitrate is found in store-bought soaking brines but is sometimes required for specific homemade brine recipes. This salt gives the turkey meat a rosy color, which can trick your eyes into thinking it’s ham. 

This, along with an intense smoky and salty flavor, can make your smoked turkey taste like ham. 

How To Prevent Your Turkey From Tasting Like Ham When Smoked?

Now you know why your turkey might taste like ham after being smoked, but how can you prevent this from happening? 

There are a few other factors that contribute to this problem.

You can use a few methods to help prevent your turkey from tasting like ham when smoked. 

These methods are easy to implement and will have you eat delicious smoked turkey that tastes like a turkey in no time. 

So, let’s go through them to ensure your next smoked turkey is perfect!

Don’t Brine Your Turkey

The first thing you can do to help prevent your turkey from tasting like ham once smoked is not to brine your turkey. As we explained, brine generally has sodium nitrates in it that will cause your smoked turkey to taste more like ham. 

You could try and make your own brine and leave out a large portion of the sodium nitrate from the brine, but this is not guaranteed to fix the issue. 

There are other methods to flavor and season your turkey instead of brining it that will keep your turkey delicious but still tasting like turkey. 

You can use dry rubs on your turkey, or you can baste your turkey; you can inject your turkey with a turkey baste or chicken broth and spices to prevent the hammy taste after smoking. 

Use Different Wood Chips  

The next possible issue for the hammy taste of your smoked turkey is the type of wood chips you use. 

When many people smoke a turkey, they think that hickory wood chips are suitable.

However, this is a mistake that many new smokers make. In truth, you want to avoid hickory wood chips when smoking a turkey. This is because the hickory flavor that gets soaked up by the turkey through the smoke often resembles the flavor of hickory ham. 

This can further confuse your tastebuds into thinking you are eating ham and not turkey. 

Instead of using hickory wood to smoke your turkey, you should use applewood chips. This will enhance the flavor of the turkey without adding to the hammy taste. 

Smoke The Turkey For Less Time

Another factor that could be increasing the hammy flavor of your turkey is the length of time you are smoking your turkey. Keep an eye on the clock, so you don’t accidentally overcook it.

Over smoking, your turkey will make the meat much more smoky flavored than desired, making it taste like ham. 

To avoid this, only smoke the turkey for 30-40 minutes per pound. This way, you can be confident that your bird is cooked properly and has not been over smoked. 

In addition to cooking time, you should also use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey. This will help you determine when the turkey is ready. 

Use a food thermometer to frequently check the turkey’s internal temperature while it is smoking. 

Once the internal temperature reaches 165°F, the turkey is cooked and can be removed from the smoker, even if there is still some cooking time remaining based on the 30-to-40-minute rule. 

Keep The Temperature Constant

When smoking a turkey, you need to keep the temperature consistent. The more consistent the temperature is, the less time the turkey needs to be in the smoker, which can help prevent the turkey from tasting like ham. 

If you cook the turkey at a temperature that’s too low, it will spend extra time in the smoker, soaking up the smoke and seasoning, and the meat will start changing color. 

This can make your turkey taste more like ham after being smoked. 

For a tastier smoked turkey, adhere to a temperature between 325° and 350°F.

Final Word

Having a smoked turkey that tastes like ham is sometimes what you want, but when you want your smoked turkey to taste like turkey, and it doesn’t, this can be frustrating. 

A few factors can contribute to this problem, but they are relatively easy to fix. 

If you follow the information in this article and prepare your turkey well, you should avoid your turkey coming out of the smoker tasting like ham. Good luck with smoking your next turkey!

Related Articles




Skip to content