On the one hand, Santa Maria Style Barbecue is all about tradition. The methods and ingredients of this regional culinary experience have been honed for more than a century, and the official menu has even been copyrighted by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. In other words, there is definitely a certain way to make “true” Santa Maria Style BBQ.

That said, Santa Maria Style Barbecue also lends itself to culinary creativity, and it has always kept pace with contemporary tastes. Indeed, local chefs and backyard BBQ masters in the Santa Maria Valley have been known to break the “rules” and create their own personal riffs on the tradition. Additionally, the main ingredients of Santa Maria Style Barbecue—such as pinquito beans, red oak and the signature seasoning of salt, pepper and garlic salt—are tremendously versatile with other dishes as well.

On that note, for all of you adventurous chefs out there, we suggest that you consider barbecuing your turkey over red oak this holiday season. Truly, if you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out on a magnificent flavor experience. You get that supple grilled quality, and the red oak adds a mellow sweet smokiness to the flavor profile.

Now, admittedly, this isn’t the easiest way to cook your bird, but a cursory Google search will unearth numerous helpful tips. As for the red oak, a little goes a long way, and you can buy it from several local purveyors.

Wishing everyone a magnificent Thanksgiving filled with good food and festive company!