You know your way around a grill, but have you mastered the meat section of your grocery store? Here’s what to look for when choosing a cut of meat.
Beef can be divided into eight sections: chuck, brisket, shank, rib, short plate, loin, flank, and round. We’ll break down the basic eight, but first, here’s some important terminology. “Marbling” is the fat that runs through the meat to create a juicy, tender texture. Marbling is key to a great cut of meat. The more marbling, the more time your meat can withstand on the grill. Leaner cuts with little to no marbling can result in dry meat if grilled too long.
- Chuck – The shoulder cut of beef known for its toughness. Ideal for stew meat, roast, or ground hamburger meat. It’s very lean and may require some soaking to create a tender cut.
- Brisket – This cut comes from the breast of the animal and contains a lot of fat but is very tough. Smoke a brisket at 225 to 250 degrees for up to 12 hours to tenderize the meat into a tender masterpiece. Ideal internal temperature is 205 degrees.
- Shank – The foreshank comes from the arm and contains a lot of collagen, making this cut perfect for creating beef stock.
- Rib – The rib cut contains more marbling. This cut is extremely tender and cooks well in dry heat (on the grill) to create a delicious rib eye steak.
- Short Plate – This cut contains rib bones and is located right underneath the prime rib cut. Marinate to create short ribs on the grill.
- Loin – Made up of the strip loin (backstrap) and tenderloin. This is where a Kansas City Strip steak or filet mignon and T-bone steaks come from. These cuts are not the leanest but not as fatty as a rib cut, making them perfect for grilling.
- Flank – Flank steak comes from the flank and is tough, but very flavorful. It cooks well after being marinated and tossed on the grill.
- Round – This cut comes from the hind leg and is very lean and tough, making it great for stew meat or lean ground beef.
Grilled chicken is delicious, but can turn dry if not properly marinated. Pick your cut based on your guests’ preferences and cookout theme.
- Wing – Great for a grilled meal while watching the game with the guys. Use a grill pan or wing holders to keep wings from sticking to the grill. They don’t take too long and pair well with Buffalo sauce or Kelly B’s BBQ Sauce. They are small so have several wings per guests prepared.
- Breast – This is the cut you want when having a sit-down dinner. The grilled breast can turn dry if not properly marinated. Use a butter knife to slide butter between the skin and chicken breast to keep the inner meat moist when grilling. Skinless, boneless breasts also do well on the grill. Just turn them often so they don’t dry out. After initial searing, move off direct heat. If desired, paint chicken breasts with your favorite Kelly B’s BBQ sauce 2 to 3 minutes before taking them off the grill. Chicken breasts are also great when marinated in Italian Dressing 12 to 24 hours before grilling.
- Upper Thigh – A thigh is not as thick and juicy as a chicken breast, but still delicious and perfect when mixed with drumsticks for a grilled chicken dinner. For an impressive presentation, cook and serve the drumstick still connected to the thigh (¼ chicken).
- Drumstick – This is also known as the chicken leg and taste great when smothered with Kelly B’s BBq Sauce. There is little meat, so prepare two or three drumsticks per person when serving guests. These are perfect for the kids when the adults are enjoying breasts and/or thighs.
Pork is a lighter meat than beef and tastes delicious in many grilled recipes. Finding the right cut can determine the theme of your meal and the sides you want to serve up. There are many cuts on a pig, but these common cuts are our favorites to grill.
- Pork Butt – This boneless roast is tough and layered with fat, making it the perfect cut for low roasting and long cook times. Smoking a pork butt is the key to a tender pulled pork. Pork Butt can also be purchased “bone-in”. Kelly B prefers this because the bone adds flavor.
- St. Loius Style Spareribs – These come off the ribs and require low and slow cooking. Lay them on the grill over indirect heat using soaked wood chunks for flavor. Turn often so it doesn’t burn. After an hour paint with your favorite Kelly B’s BBQ Sauce and wrap in foil. Finish on low heat for an hour. If desired, finish unwrapped to brown and paint again.
- Pork Chop – This cut comes from meat perpendicular to the spine and often from the loin. When picking your chop, you often can choose between thick, thin, bone-in, or boneless. Grill your chops over medium or low indirect heat for a longer amount of time to create a tender, juicy meal. This cooking method helps break down the fats on your chop which can improve flavor. If desired, use a pork rub and marinade in teriyaki sauce
- Loin – This comes from the pig’s back and is large, lean, and tender. It calls for a slow roast that keeps juices intact. Hotter grilling can dry the meat, so keep some BBQ sauce on hand. It’s also great meat on the smoker. Slice into 1.5-inch to 2-inch pork steaks for grilling. Put leftovers in freezer bags or vacuum pack in a food-saver bag for future meals. This cut can also be cooked medium rare (a little pink in the center).
- Baby Back Ribs – They are a more tender rib option that can be baked or barbecued to perfection with Kelly B’s BBQ Sauce. This cut is a great choice for the smoker. Follow the same cooking instructions as spare ribs.
When it comes to fish, it’s less about the cut and more about the type. For a less fishy taste, try tilapia or flounder. Salmon and tuna are delicious options packed with healthy fats and oils. Swordfish is a real treat. If a fish has a whiter appearance in the skin, grill until the meat turns opaque and pearly white, but not much longer or the meat will feel rubbery. For darker, reddish fish, grill until the meat can easily flake apart with a fork. The meat should turn cloudy and lose its translucent appearance while turning a nice pink. Certain fish (i.e. salmon, trout) are great with the skin on. Cook meat side first then finish skin side down. Paint the fish with butter right before taking off the grill and add sliced lemon on top for flavor and a nice presentation.
Don’t forget the toast!
To the hunters and fisherman who brought us this meal,
And to the grill master who created perfection. Cheers!