Last Updated on May 23, 2022
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the best meats to throw on the grill or barbecue—and by barbecue, we mean both the pitmaster’s definition of cooking with wood and smoke and the interchangeable synonym for grilling and cooking outdoors. Depending on the type of meat, the cut, and your cooking method, certain meats outperform others. This is especially true when it comes to flavor, quality, versatility, and preparation.
So, what is the best meat to barbecue? We think there are 10 cuts of meat—six types, five of them being cuts of beef—that perform the best on a grill or in a smoker for the perfect bbq.
6 Best Meats for Barbecuing and Grilling (Including Non-Beef Options)
The possibilities are endless for smoking and barbecuing other non-beef meats. A high-quality salmon filet should be a go-to when you want fast preparation without compromising on flavor. Marinated and cooked thoughtfully, grilled salmon is hard to beat.
Grilling a salmon filet is both simple and straightforward. It is one of the fastest meats to bbq or grill, taking only 1-2 minutes per side when cooked on a preheated, oiled grill grate. Prep the meat with a marinade and add some grilled veggies as a side, and salmon tops the charts as one of the easiest preparations and healthy options you can grill.
2. Pork Butt
There are some clear winners when it comes to smoking and grilling meats for flavor and versatility. Pork butts have a well-earned reputation for being the go-to meat for pulled pork barbecue.
A pork butt can be prepared, smoked, grilled, and served up in 100 different ways. To achieve the fall-apart tender meat, cook the pork butt low and slow. Plenty of moisture and steam are keys to a juicy and tender texture. Find a dry rub or wet marinade to use before and during cooking that fits your flavor preferences, and you’ll be ready to enjoy one of the best meats to bbq.
3. Bison Burgers
Other non-beef meat options like ground bison can be formed into patties and grilled for bison burgers. This alternative to the traditional beef burger has a bolder, almost umami, flavor. Plus, it will cook quicker because it usually has less fat than ground beef.
Ground bison is a great meat to bbq when you’re looking for a lean meat alternative to ground beef, but you want to prepare it in a similar way—whether that’s burgers, tacos, or meatloaf.
4. Top Steak Cuts for Grilling
There’s something so perfect about a grilled steak. But picking the right cut of steak can be overwhelming—especially when the desired end result is a juicy and tender steak.
The best meats for bbq when it comes to steaks on a grill are based on a combination of marbling, thickness, and location. The top cuts of steak, particularly for grilling, are listed below:
- Filet mignon
- New York strip steak
- Top sirloin
- Ribeye steak
- Steak tips
Tip: Even though these cuts vary slightly in flavor and style, they can all benefit from seasonings or marinades. Whether it’s a traditional steak sauce, barbecue sauce, chimichurri, or an all-purpose dry rub, take some time to prep the steak before throwing it on the grill.
Cooking lamb can seem like a daunting task. But it’s easier than you think. Lamb makes the list as one of the best meats to bbq for how flavorful and well-balanced it is when prepared correctly.
Lamb rack, chops, loin, or even kebabs are all great cuts for throwing on the grill. Often compared to beef in flavor, lamb is juicy and incredibly tender when grilled correctly. Lamb is a wonderful alternative protein to beef and packs a robust punch when it comes to flavor.
6. Chicken Legs and Thighs
Both chicken legs and thighs can be smoked for a fall-off-the-bone delicious meal. One of the best meats to barbecue or grill, chicken and its various cuts earn an award for being versatile, flavorful, and easy to prepare.
A grilling tip for bone-in chicken is to let it rest for at least 20 minutes after cooking. This ensures the meat is cooked evenly and is tender.
8 Recipes to Try Using these Best Meats to BBQ
Garlic adds a punch to this delicious cut of ribeye steak, making it the perfect meat for the grill.
Earning its spot as one of the best steak cuts to grill, these ribeye steaks are hard to beat. The side of smoky, scalloped potatoes pairs beautifully with the seasoned, grilled steaks.
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
This recipe describes a searing method, but it’s just as easy on the grill. Try this recipe for a quick marinade and tasty side dish to accompany one of the best meats to bbq, the NY strip.
Total Time: 25 Minutes
Diet: Gluten-Free, Keto
A grilled sockeye salmon filet, simply marinated is a great meat to bbq.
This recipe uses a South African sweet piquant pepper to spice up these grilled salmon filets.
Total Time: 20 Minutes
The oregano salt rub used in this recipe makes the pork tenderloin a clear best meat to bbq for any occasion.
Total Time: 25 Minutes
The dry rub used in this pork butt recipe is garlicky, herby, and citrusy. You can cook the pork butt in a dutch oven or on the grill for a delicious and juicy result.
Total Time: 3 Hours
Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Whole30
A grilled bison burger with a Greek spin is a win-win.
A delicious take on a bison burger that adds tzatziki sauce as a burger condiment. This recipe can be prepared with ground bison or ground beef. Plus, check out the tips on how to cook a burger without drying it out that are included at the end of this recipe.
Total Time: 15 Minutes
Diet: Gluten-Free, Keto, Whole30
Chicken thighs are easily one of the easiest and best meats to throw on the grill. And this recipe takes the marinade to a whole new level, using the rind and fruit of oranges, lemons, and limes.
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Keto, Paleo, Whole30
The perfect crispy, grilled chicken to pair with any recipe or meal.
A fancy word for a whole chicken split open and grilled, spatchcocked chicken is a great way to prepare one of the best meats to bbq. We walk you through it step-by-step.
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Diet: Dairy-Free, Keto, Paleo
If you’re looking for more ways to cook some of these best meats to bbq that we mentioned, check out this list of recipe hauls:
- ButcherBox’s Complete Guide to Grilling Steak
- Best Beef Cuts from the Chuck
- Pork Butt – Pulled, Smoked, or Slow-Cooked, This Cut Is Not What You Think
- 10 Great Ground Bison Recipes to Try in Your Kitchen
- Our Favorite Grilling Marinades and Rubs
For more recipes, tips, and cooking guides like this one, check out JustCook!