How to Find the Best Meat for Grilling

While there’s nothing quite like a nice, grilled hamburger or hotdog, sometimes you just want to change things up. There are simply days when you want a juicy steak or a tasty pork chop. But there’s much more than just a few cuts of meat that you can cook on your grill.

What are some of the best meats for grilling? Whether you want chicken, beef, or pork, there are some cuts that are meant for grill cooking. So what are these cuts? Let dig a little deeper into finding the best meat for grilling.

Steak

steak

After hamburgers and hot dogs, steaks might be the most commonly grilled meat. When grilling season starts, steak is often on a weekly meal plan that includes burgers, chicken, and many other types of meat.

There are few things as delicious as a grilled steak, but you don’t want to choose just any cut. When it comes to steak, there are plenty of cuts from which you can choose, but selecting the wrong one could result in a tough, dry steak. Here are the best cuts of steak we recommend for you to have a pleasant grilling (and eating) experience.

T-Bone

Nearly everyone knows what a t-bone looks like. It’s the cut with a T-shaped bone in the middle of it. But what makes a t-bone a t-bone? This easily identified cut is really two steaks in a single cut. One side of the bone is the filet mignon, while on the other is a New York strip cut.

Grilling a t-bone can be a challenge for some as you’re technically grilling two cuts of steak. Since the filet side will cook quicker than the strip piece, you have to be careful and be smart about the way you’re using your heat.

You’ll want to make use of direct and indirect heat when grilling your t-bone. Build your fire or turn the burner on just a single side of your grill. Sear your steak for about five minutes each side, give or take a minute or two depending on how thick it is.

Once you’re done searing, move the steak over to the area of the grill that you’re using for indirect heat. Be sure you have the filet portion over the cooler part of the grill so you don’t overcook it.

Porterhouse

If you’re not familiar with the porterhouse, you really should take a moment and examine your life decision. Only joking. The porterhouse is a steak that comes from the point where the top loin and the tenderloin meet.

Taking out the bone between these two steaks results in the delicious cut we know as the porterhouse. This cut is made up of the New York strip and the tenderloin. So, if you’re out at your favorite steakhouse and decide you want the porterhouse, expect to get a big steak.

You can serve a porterhouse up whole or divide it up. Eating a whole porterhouse is a challenge for anyone, so if you’re looking for a cut to split with your favorite person, you might consider this perfect cut of steak. Grilling a porterhouse requires a nice, hot surface so your steak gets a nice sear. Keep it on the grill until it gets to the point where the fat starts to burn, then turn it over and do the same to the other side.

After your porterhouse is nice and brown on both sides, place it on a cooler portion of your grill. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can try adding a bit of butter to your steak and let it cook for a few minutes. Take it off the grill and enjoy the flavor!

Top Sirloin

cow

When you get a top sirloin, you’re getting a piece of steak that is attributed to where the steak is located. Top sirloins come from the top sirloin butt, or the sirloin subprimal, which is the more tender of the sirloin cuts.

The thing to know about the sirloin is that due to its location on an animal, it tends to get a lot of exercises. As a result, this cut has a firmer texture and less marbling than other cuts that don’t. This isn’t bad and it doesn’t mean a sirloin is going to be tough. Plenty of steak aficionados like steak that firmer.

Grilling a top sirloin involves getting the meat cooked at just the right temperature. You want to get your grill heat between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it cook on one side for three or four minutes, then turn it over and sear it for a few more minutes.

If you’re confident in your skills, you can try some different sauces, rubs, or marinades with your steak. A top sirloin cut is robust and ideal for these types of enhancements and experiments.

Strip Loin

The strip loin is the cut of steak that is commonly referred to as the New York strip and is considered by many to be one of the highest cuts of beef, right after the filet mignon. This cut doesn’t have a lot of fat or connective tissue, which means it has a decent amount of marbling.

Marbling adds moisture and flavor to the steak, which is why it’s one of the primary characteristics used in giving the meat its grade. The more marbling a steak has the better the quality, which is why strip steaks are some of the more expensive cuts you’ll find.

Strip cuts are great for grilling because they’re easy to prepare. Be sure you let the steak reach room temperature before you throw them on the grill. Cook them evenly so you get a nice sear on each side. Some people like to add a little butter to bring out the flavor in this cut of steak.

Club

If you come across a triangle-shaped strip of steak that has an L-shaped bone, you’ve discovered a club steak. This well-marbled and juicy steak comes from the same area as the t-bone, strip steak, or porterhouse. However, none of the tenderloins is part of the club steak.

Since a club cut is so tender, they’re ideal for grilling. Plus, since the bone is left in, a club cut can be more difficult to cook in a pan or skillet, which keeps the meat from getting thoroughly cooked.

Before you grill your club cut steak, be sure to let it come to room temperature first. To really bring out the flavor in a club cut, be sure to salt it on both sides before you throw it on the grill. This will give you a nice crust while bringing out the juiciness of the cut.

Flip your steak every five or ten minutes until the interior reaches about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Take it off the grill and enjoy!

Tenderloin

tenderloin meat

The tenderloin comes from the short loin of the cow, and since it comes from a muscle that doesn’t bear any weight, it’s a very tender cut of beef. Tenderloins are not as marbleized as other cuts, which means it doesn’t have as much flavor as other tender cuts.

Grilling these steaks is best done on a hot surface. Cook them quickly, but first, let your grill get nice and hot before you put them on. Hot and fast means hot and fast. Char your tenderloin on the surface, but don’t let the temperature within reach more than medium. If you want to add a little flavor to your tenderloin, us a rub, as marinades tend to overcook your meat.

Tri-Tip

You may sometimes hear tri-tip referred to as a California cut. No matter what you call it, this popular cut offers excellent flavor. Tri-tip comes from the bottom portion of the sirloin subprimal cut, which is why it costs much less than other high-quality cuts of steak, like filets or ribeyes.

Tri-tips have great marbling, which means it’s very tender. Be sure when you throw it on the grill that you don’t overcook it. That’s why many people think the tri-tip is the ideal steak for grilling, so if you can get your hands on some, be sure and throw them on the grill.

However, if you like your steak on the done side, you should probably marinate your tri-tip for a few hours before you cook it. Grill them for 15-17 minutes, turning them over once. For a less-done steak, try cooking your tri-tip for 12 minutes, turning it over once.

See how Tri-Trip compares to other cuts: 

Ribeye

ribeye

If you’re a steak lover, there’s a good chance you’ve had a ribeye. They’re one of the most popular cuts of steak, often found at high-class steakhouses around the world. This cut of steak is well-known for its tender texture and buttery flavor.

Ribeyes come from the primal section of the beef rib, which lends to its excellent fat lines, also known as marbling. As you cook your ribeye you’ll notice that the marbling will melt into your steak, which results in a tender, juicy steak. This is where the ribeye gets its amazing juiciness and immense flavor.

It’s highly recommended that you cook your ribeye to medium-rare so you get the best flavor and experience. If you overcook the steak, you’ll lose a lot of the tenderness and quality that the ribeye is known for. So give it a nice sear on both sides, then enjoy your tender, juicy, ribeye!

See how ribeye compares to other cuts: 

Where to get the best steaks

Now that you know all about which cuts of steak are the best for grilling, you need to know where you can get those steaks. Fortunately, there are several options available to you. Let’s take a look at a few:

Restaurants

Believe it or not, some steak restaurants will sell you their steak and you can grill it up at home. While these may not be the premium cuts saves for customers, many restaurants are willing to part with some of their lesser prime cuts. Still, it’s better than what you’re going to find in a chain grocery store, so it’s not a bad place to find some good steak.

Butcher

This one is probably a no-brainer for a lot of people, but if you’re not familiar with where to get steak, a butcher is a great place to start. With a butcher, you can choose any cut you want and they’ll get it wrapped up for you. Using a butcher is also a great way to support a local small business.

Rancher/Farmer

Cattle ranchers, which some people refer to as farmers, are a great place to get a steak. However, chances are that you’re not going to be able to pick and choose the cuts you want. You can ask for certain cuts and leave the rest to be ground up into hamburger if you want. Most people get a quarter, half, or whole side of beef. The rancher is paid for his cattle, which is then sent to processing.

After about a month, the meat is sent to a butcher, who then cuts up the meat for you. If you have to travel very far, you probably want to take some coolers or cardboard boxes to keep the meat cool until you can get it into your freezer. Either way, you’re supporting a local farmer, local processing company, and local butcher when you use this method.

Subscription Plans

There are subscription plans for almost anything nowadays. You can get clothes, shaving equipment, and shoes on a monthly basis. Why not steak? If you don’t want to mess with leaving the house, just sign-up for a steak subscription and have it delivered right to your doorstep. Not a bad option if you don’t want to mess with the hassle of going to the grocery store.

Pork

pork on grill

Now that you’re a pro on the best cuts of steak, let’s switch gears and talk about pork. Most people know that pork chops are great on the grill, but what other cuts of pork can you throw on the cooker?

Boston Butt a.k.a. Pork Shoulder

You’re probably thinking there’s a reason people don’t grill this cut, as the name itself leaves something to be desired. Or not. In reality, the Boston Butt is the pork shoulder. There is actually a pretty interesting reason why it’s called the Boston Butt, so take a moment and Google it.

Also known as the pork shoulder, the Boston butt offers a lot of flavors. If you like using marinades, sauces, or rubs, this is a great meat to do so. However, when you grill it, you’ll want to do so on low temperature using indirect heat. You’ll probably spend a few hours cooking a Boston butt, so grab your favorite beverage and enjoy the outdoors for a bit.

Pork Loin

Next on our list, the pork loin is located behind the shoulder and is arguably the most tender and leanest cut of meat you’ll get from a pig. You’ll pay a bit more for it than you will other cuts, but once you get it cooked and in your mouth, you’ll understand why.

Some people like to let their pork loin soak in a nice marinade prior to grilling, while others prefer a dry rub or brine. Grill your pork loin over indirect heat, then slice it nice and thin for tasty grilled pork loin sandwiches.

Ham

A lot of grillers don’t often consider grilling ham, but it’s a great meat for throwing on the cooker when you want something a little different. Some like to simply take the whole ham and throw it on the grill, while others prefer to slice it up before cooking it.

For whole hams, you’ll want to take the slow and low approach. With this method, you can really add to the flavor of your ham by getting creative with brown sugar, apple juice, or anything else that sounds appealing.

Ham steaks, on the other hand, are great with a little dry rub. Add a little olive oil as well, then throw it on the grill over direct heat. This helps to bring out the flavor in your ham steaks. While grilling your ham, be sure to use some apple vinegar to keep your meat moist.

Bacon

grilled bacon

What needs to be said about bacon other than it’s quite delicious. Whether it’s a side for breakfast or a topping for your burger, bacon is the perfect addition to almost any meal. Bacon, as you may or may not know, comes from the pig’s belly, and is salted or smoked, then cut into slices.

Grilling bacon isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when preparing this delicious meat, but doing so enhances its natural, smoky flavor. Be sure your grill over indirect heat and keep a close eye on your bacon. You could wind up with burnt bacon if you don’t pay close attention.

Spareribs

Well-known for how delicious and bold they taste, spareribs are the cut of the hog that comes from its upper belly. Spareribs are high in fat, which means you’re getting great flavor when you cook them on the grill.

When are ready to throw them on the grill, find your favorite dry rub and apply it liberally. Cook your ribs slow and low; take your time and grill them on a low temperature. How you finish your spareribs may depend on where you’re from. Kansas City spareribs are usually covered in sauce, while other places, like Texas, prefer theirs wrong, I mean dry.

Where to get pork

Just like with steaks, there are several places you can get some nice cuts of pork for grilling. Here are a few to consider if you don’t like what you’re getting at your local grocery store:

Butcher

Just like with your steaks, you can visit a local butcher and have them wrap up your favorite cuts. Whether you want some fresh bacon or some thick-cut pork chops, chances are good that your butcher can take care of you.

Rancher/Farmer

Again, this is a great option if you want a lot of meat. Most people get a half or whole pig when they order from a local rancher. By the way, if you don’t know the difference, a rancher produces primarily meat, while a farmer produces mostly crops. Anyway, the same process applies. The pig is processed, then sent to the butcher, where you can pick it up.

Chicken

chicken breasts

No matter what part of the chicken you’re grilling, you can’t go wrong. Here are a few suggestions when it comes to cooking up the tastiest parts of the chicken on your grill.

Thigh

A chicken thigh is located on the top of a chicken where the leg connects to its body. The bottom half is the drumstick for those that are curious. Since chicken thighs are dark meat, they tend to be tender and moist when you grill them.

Find your favorite marinade and let the thighs soak for a few hours. Then, light your grill, and sear the meat for 2-3 minutes until the skin on the thighs begins to turn a light golden color. Be careful not to char them. Once they’re seared, move your chicken over indirect heat and continue to cook them until the internal temperature gets to 165-degrees Fahrenheit.

Wing

If you live in the United States, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered chicken wings at some point in your life. Whether it’s chowing down before you watch your favorite game at home or tailgating as you prepare to head into the stadium, wings are essentially a staple.

You can prepare your wings for the grill by either seasoning them with your favorite dry rub or wet marinade. Once they’re ready, set your grill up so you can cook your wings over direct and indirect heat.

Sear your wings over direct heat for a few minutes, usually until they’re nice and brown. Be sure not to burn them, as sauces tend to catch when they’re on the grill. When you’re finishing browning the wings, move them over to the indirect portion of the grill.

Once the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees Fahrenheit, your chicken is ready to eat. Total cooking time should take roughly 8-10 minute

Breast

Usually, breasts are some of the thickest cuts you’ll get from a chicken, which is why many grillers pound this cut flat before throwing it on the grill. Doing so allows for a more evenly cooked breast while allowing the meat to remain moist throughout.

A lot of people like to use a rub or marinade on their chicken breasts, so if you have a favorite you should give it a try. Once the chicken is ready you can throw it on the grill. They’re best when cooked at around 425-degrees Fahrenheit.

Grill your chicken breasts for 9-10 minutes, turning them over after 4 or 5 minutes. You should have some nice sear marks on both sides of your chicken when it’s done. When the internal temperature of your chicken reaches 165-degrees Fahrenheit, take it off the grill and serve it up!

Leg (Drumsticks)

Chicken legs, also known as drumsticks, are perhaps the most popular piece of the chicken people like to grill. It’s easy to eat with your hands and you can prepare chicken drumsticks in a variety of ways, ranging from a barbecue marinade to a nice lemon-flavored rub.

When you’re ready to grill your drumsticks, set up two zones so you can ensure that your chicken is thoroughly cooked. Place them on direct heat for a few minutes to get a nice golden brown color. Then, move them over to indirect heat until the internal temperature of your drumsticks reaches 175-degrees Fahrenheit. Now take them off the grill and get messy!

Whole Chicken

If you really want to have some fun, set some time aside so you can grill a whole chicken. That way, instead of having to choose which part of the chicken you want to eat, you can have them all! To grill-roast your whole chicken, you’ll need to have both direct and indirect heat available.

First, though, you need to remove the gizzards and innards from the chicken, then be sure to trim off any extra fat. Rub your chicken with oil, then season it with a tasty dry rub. Put the chicken smack dab in the middle of your grill with the breast side up.

Then, close the lid on the grill and let your chicken cook for an hour. After that, pull the lid off and check your chicken every fifteen minutes with a meat thermometer. Once it reaches 165-degrees Fahrenheit, your chicken should be pretty close to done.

Of course, the amount of time it takes to grill your chicken will depend a lot on its weight. A four-pound chicken might take an hour and a half to grill. If you’re not entirely sure your chicken is done, you can stick a skewer into it. If the juice that comes out is clear, your chicken is ready to eat!

Where to get chicken

Other than the grocery store, it can be difficult to find a good, quality chicken. Here are a few places you might consider as you look for places to get your chicken:

Subscription Boxes

Just like with your steaks, you can get free-range, GMO-free chicken through an online subscription. This is a route that many people are taking to ensure they get high-quality chicken that won’t cost near as much as their local Whole Foods grocery store. Plus, several online options offer discounts when you order more than one type of meat.

Butcher

Again, going to your local butcher is a great option if you want quality chicken. It’s not going to cost as much as you’ll pay at the grocery store if you plan on buying your chicken in bulk, and you’re helping to support a small local business.

Seafood

seafood

Many people don’t think about grilling seafood, but it’s a great way to eat a little healthier while trying something different and new. Cooking seafood on your grill means you’re cooking a thicker and firmer cut of fish.

That means if you decide to try something like flounder or tilapia, it probably isn’t going to hold up well. Here are some options to try if you decide you want to grill some seafood.

Swordfish

If you’re looking for a nice, meaty piece of seafood, you might give a swordfish steak a try. These are thick cuts of swordfish that are perfect for grilling. The sweet and mild flavor of the swordfish is great for rubs and marinades, so long as you don’t wind up overcooking the swordfish.

Swordfish is almost always sold as a steak, which is a great choice if you want to wade into the seafood waters. Plus, its texture makes swordfish great for your grill and aids in keeping the meat from falling in between the grates. Grilling your swordfish is pretty straightforward. Just treat it like you would a steak cooked rare. Sear the outside using high heat while keeping your swordfish rare in the center. Five minutes on each side should be plenty.

Peel the skin off after you’ve finished grilling, but leave it on while the meat is cooking as it serves to keep your swordfish nice and moist. Remove it from the grill, take off the skin, and serve it up!

Salmon

Grilling salmon is a great, healthy option if you want some seafood, plus it’s one of the more commonly grilled fish. If you want to cook some salmon on your grill, there are a few things you should know before you get started.

For starters, you should know to grill your salmon skin side down. You’ll know your salmon is done cooking when its internal temperature reaches 145-degrees Fahrenheit. However, many people prefer to simply use a fork to check for doneness. If the salmon flakes from the pressure of a fork, you know it’s ready to eat!

Another challenge with grilling fish is flipping it over without making a huge mess. Fish typically sticks to your grates, so you don’t want to flip them over too early and have them fall through, lost forever to the grill gods. Wait for the char marks on the bottom before you try to turn your salmon over. Doing so will make it easier to flip. If you do try and you feel resistance, don’t flip it yet. Wait until it’s nice and firm before attempting to flip it over.

Tuna

Tuna is another cut of fish that comes in steaks, so when you’re looking for some, be sure you find a nice, thick cut. You’ll want tuna with a deep red color that doesn’t have a lot of dark patches. Tuna is lean, so you might try using a little marinade or lemon juice to keep it juicy until you throw it on the grill.

There are two ways you can cook your tuna: grilling or searing. Grilling is best done with a 1-inch cut of tuna, cooked on your grill for roughly 10 minutes. Turn it over about 6 minutes after you put it on the grill. Pull it off the grill when the surface of your tuna starts to get crusty.

To sear your tuna, you need a very hot grill and a cut of tuna that’s roughly three-inches thick. You’ll need a charcoal grill to use the sear method, as they allow you to pile up your coals to get a nice, hot burn.

You’re only going to grill your turn for about 45 seconds on each side, so your interior is going to be raw. Get a nice, seared crust on every side of your tuna steak, but leave the middle raw. Take it off the grill, throw it on your plate, and dig into a delicious piece of seared tuna.

Mahi-Mahi

mahi mahi

Even though mahi-mahi isn’t as well known as popular fishes like tuna, salmon, or swordfish, it’s still an excellent choice if you’re looking for something unconventional to throw on the grill. Mahi-mahi is great for grilling and is an excellent source for protein.

When looking for mahi-mahi to grill, watch for a cut that has yellow, golden skin. Keep in mind that you’ll need to remove it before you cook it. Cuts with dark spots could have a stronger fish taste, but you can still eat it if that’s something you want.

To get a nice sear on your mahi-mahi, pile up your coals on one side of your grill. Let the fish cook for just a few minutes on each side so get a good looking sear. If you want to get fancy, you can add a little lemon butter to your mahi-mahi, or grill up a tasty side like asparagus.

Sea Bass

Sea bass is a tasty fish found in saltwater that’s perfect for grilling. But did you know that most types of fish that are called sea bass aren’t really bass? Perhaps the most popular type of sea bass is the Chilean sea bass. In reality, this is actually an Antarctic toothfish, which is codfish.

It was renamed as sea bass because toothfish wasn’t really selling that well, but it’s still very tasty. Real sea bass is an endangered species, so if you do find some, it probably didn’t get into your hands through legal methods.

Sea bass has a wonderful flavor and nice texture when grilled, which makes it a great choice for serving in a fish taco. It’s basically the fish version of chicken breasts, so if you want lean fish, try to find some sea bass.

Get your grill nice and hot, then throw your sea bass on for about 10 minutes. Five minutes on each side should be plenty. Don’t cook it much longer than that as it will start to dry out. You’ll know it’s done when the center is opaque and the meat flakes when you try to lift the fish.

Grilling Fish with a Cedar Plank

If you’re not comfortable throwing your fish directly on the grill, a lot of people like to use a plank to cook their seafood. This is a hardwood plank that naturally adds in smoky flavor to your fish. The most commonly used planks are cedar, but you can get other woods like hickory, sugar maple, or black cherry.

If you want to try plank grilling, try to remember a few things. First, let your plank soak for half an hour before you throw it on the grill. This prevents a fire from starting with a dry piece of good. Be sure it’s completely submerged while soaking.

Second, put the empty plank on your grill for at least 3 minutes. Then, flip it over so that the charred side is facing up. Now you’re ready to grill your fish on a plank! Just remember to put your fish on the plank with the skin facing down.

Where to get your seafood

Finding seafood can be a hit or miss endeavor depending on where you live. For those further from the coast, are you willing to pay a little more to have fresh fish? Or would you prefer to save a few dollars and purchase frozen seafood? Either way, here are a few places to consider getting your seafood:

Seafood Market

Seafood markets are typically found at a farmer’s market. It’s a great place to get fresh fish, including salmon, tuna, and mahi-mahi. You might have to make a special request for swordfish or sea bass depending on your market and your location. Still, it’s a great place to get fresh fish when you decide you’re in the mood for some seafood.

Online

There is no shortage of subscriptions or places online from which you can order seafood. Whether you want it fast and fresh or frozen, there are plenty of options available. Plus, no matter what you want, there’s someone who can deliver it right to your doorstep. The drawback is that you might have to wait for your order, but at least you’ll get exactly what you want without needing to leave the comfort of your couch.

FAQs

How do I select the right steak for grilling?

The right steak has a lot to do with personal preference, but there are plenty of choices available. You can choose between bone-in and boneless steaks, a variety of cuts, and thin or thick selections. When it comes to finding the right steak, there are plenty of options, so find what works best for you.

What are some ways I can make my steak tender and juicy?

There are a few ways you can make your meat a little more tender and juicy. One way is through the use of a marinade. Let your steak soak before you throw it on the grill. Cook is slow and low, then let your meat rest, and be sure to cut against the grain of the meat.

How to restaurants make their steaks tender?

If you’re dining at a good steak restaurant, you’ll find that their steaks are nice and tender. This is done through a combination of long aging, which allows proteins to break down the meat and high-fat content. The best steaks are dry-aged for at least a month.

Why is it recommended to put butter on a steak?

Many people recommend putting butter on the steak to make the steak more tender while softening the charred exterior of the cut. However, remember that steak butter should complement that flavor of your meat, not cover it up.

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