ribs and steaks in smoker

6 Best Meats to BBQ and Grill

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)

1. Salmon

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.

5. Lamb

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


ribeye steak

Garlic adds a punch to this delicious cut of ribeye steak, making it the perfect meat for the grill.

1. Garlic-Crusted Ribeye with Smoky Hazelnut Scalloped Potatoes

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.

14 Ingredients

Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free

2. NY Strip with 5 Minute Marinade & Bruschetta Salad

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.

16 Ingredients

Total Time: 25 Minutes

Diet: Gluten-Free, Keto


grilled salmon tomato and asparagus

A grilled sockeye salmon filet, simply marinated is a great meat to bbq.

3. Grilled Sockeye Salmon with Asparagus and Charred Tomatoes

This recipe uses a South African sweet piquant pepper to spice up these grilled salmon filets.

9 Ingredients

Total Time: 20 Minutes

4. Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Oregano Salt Rub

The oregano salt rub used in this recipe makes the pork tenderloin a clear best meat to bbq for any occasion.

4 Ingredients

Total Time: 25 Minutes

5. Cumin and Orange Pork Butt

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.

8 Ingredients

Total Time: 3 Hours

Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Whole30


griddled greek bison burger

 A grilled bison burger with a Greek spin is a win-win.

6. Greek Bison Burger

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.

11 Ingredients

Total Time: 15 Minutes

Diet: Gluten-Free, Keto, Whole30

7. Smoky Citrus Grilled Chicken Thighs

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.

12 Ingredients

Total Time: 30 Minutes

Diet: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Keto, Paleo, Whole30


spatchcocked grilled chicken

The perfect crispy, grilled chicken to pair with any recipe or meal.

8. Spatchcocked Grilled Chicken

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.

6 Ingredients

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:

For more recipes, tips, and cooking guides like this one, check out JustCook!


Olivia is a Charlotte-based writer and content strategist. Olivia has over 6 years of experience freelance writing for many different companies and publications focused on retail and consumer goods & services. When she's not writing, she can be found in her garden, growing her own food and flowers.