Chicken and beef are standard grilling fare, but by no means are they your only options for when you want to fire up the barbecue.
Become a master of all meats — and vegetables — with this guide, learning the secrets to cooking game meats, the right temperatures for safe eating and just what vegetables you should be picking up for a mouth-watering grilled feast (along with some good tools to have on hand). With this guide, you’ll be turning to your grill for every possible meal before you know it.
Tools of the Trade
Just as chefs need good knives and pots, grilling enthusiasts should have some key accessories in their toolbox.
Tongs: This is essential in any barbecue enthusiast’s tool kit. Barbecue forks are likely to pierce meat when used to flip it over on the grill, letting all those essential juices pour out.
A Flexible Spatula: If you plan to cook fish, invest in a flexible spatula, which will allow you to gently lift pieces off the grill without them breaking apart.
A Meat Thermometer: The only sure way to ensure your grilled meats are perfectly cooked is to use a thermometer. This simple instant-read tool, which uses a steel probe to determine the temperature in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade, will allow you to check whether your proteins are grilled to perfection in a flash. Or take to the next level with thermometers designed to stay in the food as it cooks — alerting you when your dish is ready.
Pork chops are great, but there are more great cuts of meat to explore in the supermarket for grill-ready proteins. Ribs, roasts and tenderloins are all tasty options for your barbecue — not to mention pork products, like sausages. Each of these cuts requires a different approach when you get to your grill.
One of the biggest questions for home cooks and grill enthusiasts is what temperature pork must be cooked to in order to be considered food safe? For many years, the rule was that pork needed to be well done, but now we can cook whole pork cuts to medium (or 145°F / 63°C to 160°F / 71°C) and still meet national health guidelines. That means no more dry, overcooked pork on your plate — something that should definitely have you exploring this type of meat more often. However, ground pork or sausage be cooked thoroughly.
Try: Grilled Pork Tenderloin a la Rodriguez with Guava Glaze and Orange-Habanero Mojo
Pork should be cooked over medium heat but grill times will vary widely depending on what cut you are serving. For all pork cuts, a post-grill rest will give juices a chance to redistribute, making for a tasty and tender dish.
Pork Chops: ¾” thick chops take between 8 to 12 minutes total — flip once about halfway through — while a chop twice that thickness should take anywhere from 22 and 35 minutes.
Pork Tenderloin: A 1- or 11/2-pound tenderloin needs between 20 and 30 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 145°F / 63°C to 160°F / 71°C.
Pork Roast: Whole roasts naturally take longer and cooking times are by weight. For a 2-pound roast, plan on 20 to 26 minutes per pound, while a roast weighing between 3 and 5 pounds takes about 12 to 15 minutes.
Read more: The 36 Best BBQ Pork Recipes
No longer just served for Easter suppers, lamb is ideal for grilling year-round. This meat’s high-fat content keeps it tender and juicy as it cooks. Lamb pairs well with many types of marinades and rubs, so the flavour options are endless.
Lamb Chops: These are a great choice for beginners because it is easier to keep them from overcooking.
Boneless Roast and Lamb Legs: These cuts of meat also do well on the grill, even over direct heat.
Racks of Lamb and Lamb Roast: That doesn’t mean you should avoid racks of lamb or roasts, just keep that instant-read meat thermometer close at hand to prevent these cuts from drying out or getting overcooked. Look for 160°F / 71°C for medium doneness and 170°F / 77°C for well done.
Read more: 20 Simple Lamb Recipes for Chops, Roasts, Skewers and More
Grilling Game Meat
For game meat enthusiasts, grilling is a good way to go. The key difference with bison, venison or elk — compared to beef, say — is that these incredibly lean meats need to be monitored closely. It doesn’t take much to go from juicy cuts to cardboard. Cooking them past medium-rare is not advised.
A quick trick that yields the best results is to start the cooking process in the oven, roasting the meats before throwing them on the grill to get those sear marks and that signature grilled flavour. Brining or marinating the meats, wrapping them in bacon or using wet rubs will help keep game meats juicy and flavourful.
Bison: Bison is fairly common these days and can be picked up at many butchers’ as well as some chain grocery stores. For grilling, try tenderloin or striploin steaks. Ground up, will make a fantastic burger. Remove from the grill when meat reaches an internal temperature 120°F / 49°C to 125°F / 52°C for best results.
Venison: Wild venison is gamier than farm-raised deer, which tends to have a rich flavour. You can purchase it at some butcher shops, but phone ahead first to make sure they have what you’re looking for. Your best bet for this incredibly lean meat is to purchase steaks or tenderloin. Like bison, cook venison to an internal temperature of 120°F / 49°C to 125°F / 52°C.
Wild Boar: Wild boar is generally cooked like its domesticated cousin, the pig, and should come off the grill at 145°F / 63°C for a tender cut of meat.
Elk: The cooking approach for elk is the same as venison, but these two meats have very different flavour profiles. Elk is incredibly tender and has a cleaner, almost slightly sweet, flavour. Opt for roasts or steaks and cook to a temperature of 120°F / 49°C to 125°F / 52°C.
Read more: 11 Tips for Grilling Great Game Meat
When thinking about grilling, most tend to go straight to protein, but vegetables (and fruit!) get great flavour boosts from some flame-kissed time on a hot grill. A little marinating goes a long way and pretty much any veggie is fair game.
Read more: Veggie-Forward Grilled Skewers and Kebabs
Asparagus pairs well with grilled meats — a squeeze of lemon over the plate when they’re cooked is a nice addition. Summer standards, such as corn, tomatoes and zucchini are natural additions to a grilled feast. Even salad benefits with a grilling twist. Simply cut lettuce (or radicchio) in half and cook until there’s a slight char to the cut side. Drizzle over dressing and serve as an appetizer or side dish.
Corral vegetables to keep them from falling through the cooking grids. Either of these will keep food on top of the grill where it belongs, plus they make it easy to turn fruit, veggies or delicate foods over. The hinged basket keeps everything in place, so turning items over is as simple as a flip, while you can use the wok just as you would on a stove with a pair of tongs or spatula to toss and mix.