Pitmaster Matt Horn has some ideas to add a fresh take to your classic holiday turkey.

pitmaster Matt Horn
Horn Barbecue

Sometimes, you need to take that perfectly prepared menu, grab the grocery list again, look it over one last time … and throw it away.

It’s a bold strategy, that’s for sure, but the holidays have been a bit different in recent years, so why not approach your menu differently, too? Maybe this is finally the time to ditch the turkey (we know, not for everyone) and try a new main course. (May we recommend a Cornish game hen?) Maybe your family needs more options than the classic pumpkin pie. Maybe, just maybe, you take this whole holiday outside and cook a Thanksgiving meal on a campground, beneath the stars.

If you’re ready to switch it up this year, legendary pitmaster Matt Horn is here to help.

“People are looking for new ways to approach the holidays instead of doing the same thing year after year,” says Horn, the renowned pitmaster and chef who recently received a Bib Gourmand nod from the Michelin Guide for Horn Barbecue in Oakland.

For that reason, Horn has a cost-effective and creative solution: smoked turkey legs, instead of the whole bird. Just like the ones he brines for hours at his Northern California restaurant, this deconstructed dish is centered on juicy, dark meat. And it’s an ideal size if you’re planning on a smaller gathering this year. The key? Take your time.

“Smoking a turkey shouldn’t be rushed at all,” Horn tells us. “Like all great things you do in life, have patience in the process.”

Horn graciously shares with us a recipe that serves five. The chef suggests going to a local market or butcher and requesting a quality, or heritage, turkey. A butcher “can also break down your turkey into quarters (legs, breast meat, and back bone for stock/gravy),” Horn says. Life hack: The smoking technique can be applied to any part of the bird, timing will just vary.

Ready to tackle a deconstructed turkey? Check out the recipe below.

This is excerpted from Sunset’s Holiday Survival Guide newsletter, sent every Wednesday through the holiday season. Click here to sign up.