For Some Families, It Just Wouldn't Be Thanksgiving Without a Greenberg

For Some Families, It Just Wouldn't Be Thanksgiving Without a Greenberg

Food & Drink

For Some Families, It Just Wouldn't Be Thanksgiving Without a Greenberg


Have you heard of the turkey known as “the holiday aristocrat”? Well we hadn’t either, but apparently it has quite a cult following around Tyler, Texas, and well beyond.

Greenberg Smoked Turkeys, Inc., founded in 1938 by Samuel Isaac Greenberg, sells about 20,000 turkeys at about $4 per pound to walk-in customers in the Tyler area each holiday season, and as many as 200,000 “Greenbergs” are shipped to online and mail customers.

Some cult.

As described in a story by John T. Edge for The New York Times, the Greenberg bird is smoked in pit houses using real hickory logs until it reaches a color Edge calls “burnt umber with a black licorice wash.”

The rich, smoky flavor is what brings customers back year after year. According to the Greenberg website, the turkey was named one of “Oprah’s favorites under $100.”

Sam Greenberg, Isaac’s grandson, says they start with birds much like the ones you and I buy in the supermarket—white turkeys with a big breast and small legs.

Just as in Isaac Greenberg’s day the employees still hand-trim every bird, cutting the wing tips and neck flap from the carcass, and knife-jab each one a half-dozen times or more so that the proprietary seasoning mixture permeates the meat. They hand-truss the legs before hanging the bird in the pit house for smoking.

Some things have changed, however. The company no longer includes a hand-written gift card, and the family business now accepts credit cards instead of billing the customer after shipment with payment on the honor system.

For customers outside of Tyler, the birds are shipped frozen and arrive thawed and ready to eat. They can be warmed in the oven or eaten cold or at room temperature. The turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 6 – 8 days.

If you were to pass by the Greenberg plant on the Monday before Thanksgiving, you’d see a line of folks pouring out into the street and around the block, as they wait to pick up their “holiday aristocrat.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Greenberg Smoked Turkey, you can visit the company’s website:

Now that’s a great url. Grandfather Isaac would have loved that.

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