Recipe: Merry Christmas from the Family Smoked Turkey

Robert Earl Keen’s classic Christmas song “Merry Christmas from the Family” (sometimes styled “Merry Christmas from the Fam-O-Lee”) features several food mentions. Champagne puncheggnogmargaritasbloody marys, and turkey are all mentioned outright. This smoked turkey recipe is part of a series of REK-inspired recipes for your next Christmas party!

The Idea

Who doesn’t love a juicy helping of smoked bird? Personally I’m not a huge fan of preparations of turkey other than smoking. While this does say “smoked,” and is best on a smoker, it can be accomplished in an oven. Just be sure to add some liquid smoke to the turkey at the beginning of the cooking process. This is great for a crowd, and makes very tasty leftover sandwiches. Serve with Feliz Navidad Scalloped Potatoes, one of our Merry Christmas cocktails, and something sweet for dessert.

The Recipe

What You’ll Need:

1 whole turkey not to exceed 15 pounds (otherwise it becomes susceptible to foodborne illness-spreading bacteria)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
At least 4 cups of water (4 cups will start, but more may be needed)

The Dry Rub:

3 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
2 tablespoons of black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of white pepper
1 tablespoon of dry mustard
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of lemon pepper
2 teaspoons of crushed rosemary
2 teaspoons of thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons of parsley
1 teaspoon of celery salt
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Mix the dry rub ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 45 days. This recipe will use about 4 tablespoons of the dry rub. This rub is also good on all poultry as well as pork loin, pork shoulder, pork ribs, veal, and lamb.

  1. Preheat indirect smoking vessel to 225°F. If using a propane or natural gas grill, turn half of the burners to medium-low and leave the other half off. If using charcoal, preheat your coals they are completely ashed over, spread them to one side of the grill, and set the vents to about 1/4 open. If using a pellet smoker, preheat your grill to 225°F. Add the wood chunks or chips, if needed, to achieve a thin blue smoke. If using a standard smoker, get a fire going and adjust vents and wood until the temperature gauge reads a steady 225°F. If using an oven, preheat to 225°F. Have one rack on the lowest setting and put a drip pan on that rack to catch any liquids that drip off the bird. Place another rack as close to the bottom as possible without disrupting the drip pan.
  2. Remove your turkey (defrosted if it was previously frozen) from its packaging and remove the neck as well as the giblets from inside the cavity. If your turkey was brined, rinse with cool water and pat completely dry. Tuck the wings behind the shoulder joint and tie the legs together with butcher’s twine.
  3. Coat the turkey on all side with olive oil. Olive oil works best here because the cooking temperature is so low and the oil will not begin to smoke. If you are cooking the turkey in an oven, mix the olive oil with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of liquid smoke and cover the turkey. Once oiled, coat the bird liberally with the dry rub.
  4. Place the bird directly on the grill/smoker/oven rack, etc. If using a gas or charcoal grill, place the bird AWAY from the heat source.
  5. Cook for approximately 25 minutes per pound. If you are using a gas or charcoal grill or an oven, rotate the bird 180 degrees halfway through cooking. Try to minimize the number of times you check the temperature until it starts getting close, no more than once an hour or so.
  6. Check the temperature in the thighs and breasts on BOTH SIDES of the turkey. Once all temperature readings are 165°F, remove the turkey to a platter or cutting board and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.

To serve, slice with a sharp roast-slicing knife or an electric knife.

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