It's summertime in the USA, and that means it's time to light up the grills for some good eats. There are few things that better represent our country than grilling out in the summer, so we're here to help make sure you are doing it right. What follows are several different cuts of meat commonly used for BBQs and a guide to grilling them like a pro.
Pork Butt (Shoulder)
Best Way to Cook: Slow and low
Grilling Tip: This is a flavorful cut with enough fat to stay moist for a longer grilling, so plan ahead for time, and bring buns in case you want to use for pulled pork sandwiches.
You Left It On Too Long If: Your pork butt resembles an old man butt -- dry and wrinkly.
Baby Back Ribs
Best Way To Cook: Only light half the burners, leave the other half unlit, and place on the cooler side of your grill. Cover and cook for an hour and a half.
Grilling Tip: If you handle the prep work properly (use a good rub, soak some wood chips to add smoke flavor), then all you need is a little patience. Wait one hour before applying the sauce that makes baby back ribs so good. Waiting one hour keeps the sauce from burning and allows the rub to form a delicious bark or crust.
You Left It On Too Long If: The rub bark resembles tree bark.
Best Way To Cook: Heat on high, reduce to medium for cooking.
Grilling Tip: Boneless tenderloin has little marbling and dries out faster than fattier cuts, so DO NOT leave on too long if you don't like dry meat.
You Left It On Too Long If: Everyone is eating the 99 cent hot dogs your uncle brought to the cookout instead.
Rib Chops (Pork Chops)
Best Way To Cook: High heat
Grilling Tip: For thicker chops especially, brining the pork is a good way to add moisture. For thinner chops a good marinade is the way to go.
You Left It On Too Long If: The dog insists your pork chop scraps belong in the trash.
Best Way To Cook: Sear first, then move to the cool side of the grill, close the lid and leave it alone. After about an hour it should reach the magic temperature of 130 degrees.
Grilling Tip: Pay a little extra to have the butcher trim it for you first, and allow the tenderloin to come to room temperature before you grill it or else it won't cook evenly. Once it hits 130 degrees, pull from grill and let it rest under aluminum foil for 15 minutes for maximum juiciness.
You Left It On Too Long If: You take a bite and don't think it's one of the most damn delicious things you have ever tasted, or you feel the need to add any sauce or seasoning. This is the cut that provides us with the filet mignon, so if you have these thoughts, you screwed up and probably overcooked it.
Best Way To Cook: Intense heat
Grilling Tip: The grill is the best place to build up the blazing hot fire needed to sear skirt steak, and also provides the most surface area for this long cut. Each side should sear in a matter of minutes and finish in the medium rare to medium range. When it's done, let sit for ten minutes then slice it up against the grain (very important) and serve.
You Left It On Too Long If: You are spending more time chewing the meat than socializing with your BBQ guests.
Best Way To Cook: High heat (500-600 degrees), closed lid, only flip once.
Grilling Tip: Choose a steak that is an inch to an inch and a half in thickness and make sure it is at room temperature. Cook 5-6 minutes on each side to reach medium (only 3-4 minutes after flipping for medium rare, though).
You Left It On Too Long If: When you push down on the top of your steak with your finger, it feels more like a hardcover book than a sponge (it should feel more like a sponge).
Best Way To Cook: Very similar to the sirloin. High heat, keep the lid closed and do not overflip.
Grilling Tip: The porterhouse is the best of both worlds, a cut that includes filet mignon and sirloin. In order to pick the perfect porterhouse, choose one that is a bright red color with abundant marbling (fat running through the steak that makes it more flavorful).
You Left It On Too Long If: The seared crust of your steak resembles a marshmallow that went up in flames over the campfire.
Best Way To Cook: Medium-low indirect heat (slow and low).
Grilling Tip: Beef ribs require more time to prepare than pork baby back ribs, so set aside roughly 4-5 hours to do them justice. And you will need to rotate the ribs occasionally to evenly cook them.
You Left It On Too Long If: The term "chewy cigar" ever crosses your mind. Cooked properly they are tender and oh so delicious.
Best Way To Cook: Indirect heat from a hot grill for an hour and a half tops.
Grilling Tip: Before you grill, it would be wise to marinate the whole chicken overnight (up to 8 hours). While on the grill, baste the chicken every ten minutes or so on all sides with your delicious marinade.
You Left It On Too Long If: You cut into it and it resembles the family dinner scene in "Christmas Vacation" where Clark starts to carve the turkey.
Chicken Breast (boneless, skinless)
Best Way To Cook: Direct, medium-high heat for just a few minutes per side (with one 90 degree rotation per side to create cool grill marks for presentation points). Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Grilling Tip: Clean and oil the grate of your grill before cooking. Because breasts are so lean, they have a tendency to stick when they get hot.
You Left It On Too Long If: Someone says, "I've never had chicken jerky before."
Chicken Legs and Thighs
Best Way To Cook: Medium-low heat, turning occasionally.
Grilling Tip: Rinse, and possibly brine, before throwing on the grill. Legs and thighs require a longer time on the grill than breasts, and should be rotated more often for even cooking. Internal temperature should reach 170 degrees before taking off the grill.
You Left It On Too Long If: The children start using the drummies as weapons against one another.
Best Way To Cook: Fast on high heat
Grilling Tip: Just like with chicken breasts, be sure to oil the grill, and maybe even the fish, in order to avoid sticking. Fish cooks quickly (just a few minutes on each side if it's about an inch thick), and will flake easily with a fork when it's ready.
You Left It On Too Long If: You attempt to do the flake test with a fork and it bends the tines backward.
Best Way To Cook: Direct, medium-high to high heat.
Grilling Tip: Depending on the type of shellfish you are grilling up (crab, shrimp, lobster, clams, etc.), cooking time will vary, but the general rule is to cook 'em up quickly to keep in the juices and avoid drying the meat. Small items like shrimp and scallops should be places on skewers.
You Left It On Too Long If: After eating your rubbery shellfish, your BBQ guests decide they need to go to Long John Silver's for some quality seafood.
Next: 10 Summer Beers for More Fun in the Sun
Best Way To Cook: Medium heat. Place small vegetables on skewers. Larger pieces can be placed right on the grate.
Grilling Tip: Turn frequently and brush with oil or butter to prevent drying. Remove when the veggie skin begins to blister and the middle becomes soft.
You Left It On Too Long If: You'll actually never know, because everyone will be too focused on all the delicious meats you served up to care.