Choosing the Right Meat for the Grill and How to Grill It

Do you get bored with the same meats on your grill week after week? You shouldn’t have to because there are so many different options. A perfect backyard BBQ meal is the result of a combination of the right cut and type of meat and cooking technique.

If you are ready to take your grilling game to the next level, here is what you need to know.

Beef

When most people think of firing up the grill, they choose some type of beef as the main course. Whether you are grilling burgers, flank steak, or a NY strip, the quality of the beef you purchase and your technique matters.

Choosing the Right Cut of Beef

If you are making burgers, regular ground beef will have the most flavor only because it has the highest fat content (roughly 25%). If you want a burger with less fat content, choose something like ground chuck or ground sirloin.

When choosing steaks to grill, you will want to think about how you plan to grill it as well as your budget. For example, flank and skirt steaks and beef tri-tips are budget-friendly and do well with a dry rub or marinade. A NY strip or filet mignon is more costly, but also incredibly flavorful.

When picking out your meat, here are some of the ways you can judge it:

  • Marbling– Pay attention to the fat (white lines) on the meat. This gives the meat flavor and moisture during the cooking process.
  • Grade– Higher grades of meat will generally have more marbling. For beef, look for USDA grades that are Prime, Choice, or Select (Prime is the highest).
  • Color– Beef should dark red or cherry in color, not brown.
  • Cut – Different cuts of beef work better with different styles of cooking. Smaller cuts are better for grilling and larger ones are ideal for smoking.

How to Grill It

Hamburger patties are quick and easy to cook on the grill. Maintain a medium-low heat to make sure your burger cooks evenly and achieves the proper internal temperature before the outside of the burger burns. Your target internal temperature is 160° F. For best results flip your burger once and do not press your burger with you grill tool (i.e. spatula) as it will allow juices to escape and dry your burger out. You will also want to use high to medium heat to cook steaks on the grill, again flipping them just once to lock in the juices and avoid drying them out. And remember, temperature matters.

Pork

If you want to grill pork, most people go for the ribs, but other popular options are pork chops as well as a pork butt or shoulder roast.

How to Choose Pork for Your BBQ

Pork doesn’t come in grades like beef, but certain breeds will have higher levels of marbling, such as Berkshire and Duroc. Pork should be red to pink in color, never green or brown.

How to Grill It

If you are cooking ribs, they need low heat for a long time. When cooking pork chops you should consider two levels of heat. First, sear your chops over a high heat for about 3 minutes per side to create the grill marks on the outside of the chop. Then, lower the heat to medium and cook for about 7 minutes to finish cooking the chops. When grilling pork of any type, make sure you do not overcook it so that it becomes dry.

Chicken

Chicken is excellent on the grill! You can grill chicken wings, drumsticks, or boneless breasts. Or, you could just cut up a whole chicken and put it on the BBQ.

How to Choose Chicken for Your BBQ

Poultry comes in grades A, B, and C, but you are likely to only see Grade A chicken at your local grocery store. Poultry should also be pink, not white, or brown.

How to Grill It

Chicken is one of the easiest meats to grill, and it’s so versatile. You can marinate it with lime juice or teriyaki or coat it with your favorite BBQ sauce for additional flavor and moisture. Grill your chicken on medium heat. Chicken breasts and thighs will tend to cook the most evenly. For white meat, your chicken is done at about 170-degrees and you should aim for 180-degrees with dark meat.

Turkey

Turkey on the BBQ? You bet! Similar to chicken, you can purchase turkey breast cutlets that are low fat and delicious when grilled.

How to Choose Turkey for Your BBQ

When choosing turkey for your next BBQ, simply use the same criteria that you would for chicken.

How to Grill It

Since turkey can dry easily, it’s a good idea to marinate it before grilling to lock in some of its moisture. Grill your turkey similar to chicken and aim for the same internal temperatures.

Get Help Choosing the Right Meat for Your Next Cookout

The good and bad news is that you have a ton of options when it comes to choosing the best meat for your next cookout. If you are still not sure where to start, we can help. Nick’s of Calvert offers a full-service meat counter and our store takes pride in delivering superior customer service. We are also known for providing some of the freshest meats in the area at the most affordable prices. Visit us today in Prince Frederick or call us at (410) 414-7105.

Food Prep – How to Stay Safe When Handling Raw Meat

There is nothing more delicious than a juicy steak, a homecooked chicken, or a pork roast that you leave simmering in the crockpot all day. Meat is rich in protein, and many families include it as part of a balanced diet. But if you handle and cook meat at home, you need to exercise some caution to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

The truth is that various types of bacteria can grow on animal products. Sure, there are safety concerns with just about everything you eat today. But understanding basic food prep with meat is vital. Here is what you need to know about the dangers of handling raw meat incorrectly and what you can do with your food prep to stay safe.

How Dangerous is Raw Meat?

Nothing about raw meat is safe. It can contain harmful bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter that can lead to food poisoning. When cooked correctly, those same bacteria are destroyed and are not a safety concern.

There is a common misconception that you are more likely to get sick from low-quality meat than you are from high-quality meat. If you fail to take the proper safety precautions, either can get you sick, which is why safe handling and proper food preparation are so essential.

Selecting Your Meat

Staying safe with meat begins at your local grocery store. First, never buy meat that is past its sell-by or expiration date. It is also a good practice to purchase your meat at a specialty store with a wide selection of meat choices or the same place you are buying your other groceries, so it reduces the time your food is out of the refrigerator.

Here are some other tips to help you select the best and safest meat:

  • Avoid any meat that has a strong odor, is discolored or brown, or feels slimy or tough.
  • Avoid any poultry that has a strong odor, looks faded, or feels slimy or tough.
  • Avoid any fish that has a strong “fishy” smell or an ammonia-like odor, is discolored or faded, or has slimy or squishy flesh.
  • Avoid any meat that is torn, damaged, or leaking packages since it is likely been exposed to harmful bacteria through the air.

Safe Handling of Meat

When you handle meat, always wash your hands first and continue to do so frequently. Use soap and water, washing your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds before and after handling meat.

The bacteria from meat can spread quickly and easily. To prevent this, separate your preparation area from your other food and cooking items. Be sure to keep vegetables separate from meat, particularly if you won’t be cooking them together.

If you have different types of raw meat that you are cooking, there is no problem if they touch each other as long as they are thoroughly cooked before consumption. The main concern is raw meat touching other foods, like a tomato, and transferring bacteria to those foods.

Always have a separate cutting board for meat. And clean all utensils separately once they have come into contact with raw meat. Use different utensils to serve your cooked food.

Cooking Your Meat Properly

We all have our preferences about cooking meat. Medium-rare to well-done is an age-old argument. But a big part of food safety is ensuring your meat is cooked all the way through.

Different meats have different minimum internal temperatures that are safe.

For example, the minimum cooking temperature for poultry is 165 degrees F and 145 degrees F for beef and pork. You can get a simple meat thermometer to gauge your progress.

How to Safely Store Meat

A big part of meat safety comes down to proper storage. In general, raw meat is safe to store in your refrigerator for about three days. If you plan to wait any longer before cooking it, the best thing to do is put it in the freezer. Frozen meat can last several months.

How you handle leftover meat after it has been cooked also matters. It may be tempting to take a few hours off to relax after all that food preparation, but it is safer to put your leftovers away as soon as possible after the meal. The less time your food sits at room temperature, the better.

Get Your Meat Questions Answered Quickly

Bacteria can grow quickly on bad meat, so it is never a good idea to take unnecessary chances. If you are ever in doubt about something you have in your home, it is best to err on the side of caution.

If you have questions about meat food prep, the highly trained butchers at Nick’s can help. We offer a full-service meat counter and take pride in superior customer satisfaction. We also provide a wide variety of some of the freshest meats at the most affordable prices.