Give us enough time and we can figure out how to grill it. Trust us, with 75 years of experience under our belt, we’ve done the legwork here.
Of course, just because you can grill something doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best meats to grill.
There’s grilled chicken, seared steaks, smoky pork chops, flame-kissed shrimp and salmon—some proteins just lend themselves to the flavors of the grill, as well as the cooking method itself.
But when it comes to cooking outdoors, which are the best meats to grill? How do you pick a steak that cooks up tender instead of tough? A filet of fish that doesn’t fall apart on the grates? Which pieces of chicken grill up flavorful and moist, instead of dry before it’s even done?
Here are the meats we shop for when it’s time to fire up the grill.
Best meats to grill: How to grill steak
Nothing says grilling season like steak. With that charred crust, rosy center, and big meat flavor, steak tops our list of the best meats to grill.
These are the keys to an incredible grilled steak, every time:
Pick the best beef. Look for marbling versus big chunks of fat, because this is the key to a nice cut. The steak should feel firm to the touch, and the lean parts of the steak should be bright red in color. Don’t be afraid to ask your butcher for help when selecting. After all, this is dinner we’re talking about here. If you’re anything like us, this is serious business.
Trim the exterior of your steak on all sides to expose more meat for salt, pepper, marinade, or seasoning. Do this, and you’ll have one of the best meats to grill available anywhere.
Try our Head Country All-Purpose Premium Marinade on steaks. Our competition BBQ cooks swear by it, calling it the best-kept secret in BBQ. An umami bomb in a bottle, it’s a real game-changer for steaks. Rub the Marinade on all sides, then shake on a medium coat of salt and pepper, or our Original Championship Seasoning.
Add your seasoned steaks to the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps get the outer layer of the steak cold and reduces the chance of the “grey ring” that sometimes happens with steaks. It also helps to ensure a red, juicy center, from top to bottom and side to side.
Cook steak over hot-and-fast heat, or try this smoke-and-reverse sear method: Heat your grill to 225 degrees F. Add steaks to the grill, flipping every 15 minutes. Cook to an internal temp of 120 degrees F. Finally, take the steaks off the grill and tent them with aluminum foil.
Increase the heat on the grill to 400-500 degrees F, with a cast iron griddle on the grates. Once the griddle is hot, butter it. Add the steaks and flip every 4 minutes, to your desired temperature for steak doneness. The crust you get from this method is unparalleled—you’ll never go for grill marks again.
Don’t worry about resting your steak. You could lose precious, delicious juices.
Using a good instant-read thermometer, cook to these steak temperatures according to how done you like your meat:
Rare: Remove from the grill at 120 degrees F; final temperature will be 125 degrees F.
Medium rare: Remove from the grill at 130 degrees F; final temperature will be 135 degrees F.
Medium: Remove from the grill at 140 degrees F; final temperature will be 145 degrees F.
Medium well: Remove from the grill at 145 degrees F; final temperature will be 150 degrees F.
Well done: Remove from the grill at 155 degrees F; final temperature will be 160 degrees F.
Scroll down to get our full time-and-temp Grilling Guide for all the best meats to grill.
When it’s steak night, we always go with these cuts:
- Porterhouse. Big enough to serve two (at least most of the time), this cut is actually a combination of the strip and the tenderloin. All you need is a little salt and pepper, or a simple seasoning, to bring out the flavor.
- T-Bone. Smaller than the porterhouse, this cut delivers on tenderness and flavor.
- Top Sirloin. Very versatile, you can serve this steak as a full steak, or cube it up for kebabs.
- Tenderloin. The winner for tenderness, with an incredible buttery texture. It’s pricey, but well worth it.
- Ribeye. The marbling is what adds flavor to this popular cut, making it tender and simple to grill.
- Chuck Eye Steak. We love this low-cost alternative to the ribeye. It’s tender and savory, making it ideal for the grill.
Our favorite steak recipes
Marinated Beef TenderloinGrilled Beef Tenderloin
Best meats to grill: Winner, Winner, (Grilled) Chicken Dinner
It’s not grilling season until you’ve had chicken hot off the grill. There are lots of ways to cook up a yard bird: whole, cut into quarters, thighs, legs, and the always-popular chicken breast. No matter which way you decide to go, chicken is, without a doubt, one of the best meats to grill.
For us, it’s all about getting the crispy skin on the outside and the juicy tender meat on the inside.
You can serve your bird on its own or with a variety of the classic side dishes, like potato salad, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese.
These are our favorite chicken cuts to grill:
- Chicken Thighs. Chicken thighs are more foolproof than a chicken breast. That’s because chicken breast can easily end up dry before it reaches that safe-to-eat temperature of 165 degrees F. Even if you slightly overcook chicken thighs, they will still be juicy and flavorful (and always more juicy and flavorful than a chicken breast, in our opinion).
- Chicken Legs. These meat lollipops are best when you pat them dry before adding a seasoning. You’re gonna love the extra-crispy skin.
Our Favorite Chicken Recipes and Tutorials
21 Pro BBQer Tips for BBQ Chicken
Grilled Boneless Chicken Thighs
Caramelized Onion Glazed Chicken Thighs
Best meats to grill: How to Grill Pork
Let’s pig out. To do right by pork, go with a good rub, some rolling smoke, and grilled vegetables like asparagus and squash. Bonus points if the veggies came from your own garden.
The key to making pork one of the best meats to grill? Pick the right cut (see below), and pick a seasoning you love, even if it’s just salt and pepper, then cook to a temperature of 145 degrees F. That’s it.
You want juicy, tender, flavorful meat, with a light sear on the outside. When you cook to temp, you avoid the dreaded chewy chop.
Here are our favorite pork cuts when we’re ready to grill:
- Pork Chops. Because they’re juicy and tender, grilled pork chops pair with practically any side dish. Use thick, bone-in pork chops for the best grilled bbq pork chops to withstand the heat of the grill.
- Pork Tenderloin. This cut loves a smoky char from the grill. Add a simple seasoning to achieve a crisp crust and juicy interior.
Our Favorite Grilled Pork Recipes:
Classic Marinated Pork Chops
Sweet & Spicy Grilled Pork Chops
Smoked Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Classic Pork Tenderloin
Best meats to grill: How to grill fish, salmon, and shrimp
Don’t be intimated. Grilling seafood is simple, and it’s quick—it’s nature’s fast food.
The key to great seafood from the grill is selecting types of fish that can stand up to the cooking method. Flaky or delicate fish like tilapia or flounder will fall apart. You need a fish that is thick and firm, like your resolve to grill deliciously this summer.
These are our favorite fish to grill:
- Swordfish. Mild in flavor, this firm and meaty fish holds up like a steak on the grill. You can also cube it for kebabs.
- Salmon. Cook it hot and fast, just like a steak. Try using a cedar plank for added flavor.
- Tuna. The flavor of tuna is so fresh, making it extremely versatile with a wonderful flavor. Sear and cook until just medium rare.
- Snapper. A mild white fish that you can cook in portioned filets or as a whole fish.
- Cod. Firm-bodied and mild, this cut isn’t just made for fish and chips. It’s a very forgiving cut that resists drying out on the grill.
- Shellfish. We love throwing shrimp kebabs on the grill with a good coating of seasoning. Skewer them for grilled shrimp skewers, or use a grilling pan (or even a layer of foil) so the shrimp don’t fall through the grill grates.
Our Favorite Grilled Seafood Recipes:
Classic Marinated Salmon
Wood Fired BBQ Salmon
Seared Shrimp and Sausage Skewers
Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Chimichurri
Our Best Meats to Grill Time and Temp Table