Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon
How-To

Grilling Guide

Fine Cooking Issue 40

Part of the thrill of grilling is learning to manage all the surprises that come your way. With so many variables— the heat of the fire, the way your food is prepared, the weather conditions, even the state of your party guests— it’s hard to get it perfect every time. But by using the information in the charts as a guide (and by trying a few of the recipes for marinades, spice and herb rubs, and barbecue and basting sauces linked at right), you’ll be well on your way to mastering a wide range of grilled and barbecued food.

Is it done yet?

With experience, you can learn to judge how well done a piece of meat is by touching it—the firmer it is, the more done it is. And in a pinch, you can always make a cut to take a peek. But for large cuts of meat and bone-in pieces, an instant-read thermometer is still your best way to gauge doneness. An instant-read thermometer only gives an accurate reading if inserted at least a couple of inches deep, so you can’t use it on the thinnest cuts (in such cases, use visual clues). The internal temperature tends to go up 5 to 10 degrees as meat rests off the heat, so pull your food off the grill a few degrees shy of the temperatures.

Type of meat Ideal temperature (in °F)
Chicken and turkey breast: 160° to 165°
thigh: 170° to 175°
Beef and lamb rare: 120° to 130°
medium rare: 130° to 135°
medium: 140° to 150°
medium well: 155° to 165°
Veal medium: 140° to 155°
Pork medium: 140°
medium well: 155° to 165°
Fish medium rare: 120°
medium: 135°

Beef and veal

   Preparation   Grilling technique   Cooking time
Skirt and flank steaks Pound skirt steak to 1/4-inch thickness to tenderize; cut off the thinner end of flank steak to grill for shorter time if you like. Marinate skirt and flank for at least an hour or as long as overnight; drain well and season with salt and pepper. Grill directly over medium-hot to hot coals, turning once. Grill skirt steak 4 min. per side for medium rare; grill flank steak 5 to 6 min. per side for medium rare (thin end will be medium).
Top round or chuck steak (London broil) Marinate in soy- or wine-based marinade overnight; drain well, season with salt and pepper; prepare sauce for basting, if you like. Grill directly over medium-hot coals. Grill 8 min. per side for medium rare; brush on sauce during last 2 to 3 min.
New York strip, top sirloin, or filet mignon Coat generously with a peppery spice rub (or salt and pepper) and a little oil. Grill directly over medium-hot coals. Grill thick steaks 6 to 8 min. per side for medium rare; grill thin steaks 4 to 5 min. on the first side, 3 to 4 min. on the second.
Rib-eye steak (boneless) Coat with a peppery spice rub or a fresh herb-mustard rub, or season with salt and pepper. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning once. Grill 5 to 6 min. on the first side, 4 to 5 min. on the second side.
Porterhouse or T-bone steak Season well with salt and pepper or coat with a spice or herb rub. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning once. Grill thick (2-inch) steaks about 8 min. per side; grill thinner cuts 5 to 6 min. per side.
Sirloin beef kebabs Cut beef into 2-inch cubes (smaller pieces tend to overcook). Marinate 2 to 12 hours, drain well, and season with salt and pepper or other rub. Thread on two parallel skewers for easier turning. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning to cook all sides. Grill for 2 min. on each side for medium rare (7 to 8 min. total).
Beef tenderloin (whole), prime rib roast (rolled and tied if boneless), or veal loin roast Rub whole roast with dry or wet spice rub or plenty of salt and pepper and a little bit of oil. Grill indirectly (on cooler side of grill) with a medium-hot fire; cover grill; rotate roast occasionally so that a different side is closest to heat. Add coals as needed to maintain heat. Grill long, narrow roasts like tender­loins (2 to 5 lb.) 35 to 50 min. total. Grill large, round roasts like prime rib 15 to 20 min. per lb. Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer.
Hamburgers Hand-shape 3/4-inch-thick patties from half ground chuck and half ground sirloin; season well with salt and pepper. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning once; don’t ­flatten with spatula. Grill 4 to 5 min. per side for medium rare; 5 to 7 min. per side for medium.
Veal chops Choose thick (1-1/2- to 2-inch) chops. Season well with salt and pepper or marinate for 1 to 2 hours in a lemon and fresh herb marinade; drain well and season. Grill directly over medium coals, turning once; move to indirect heat to finish.  Grill directly 5 min. per side; finish with indirect heat for 10 to 12 min. with the grill covered.

 

Pork

   Preparation   Grilling technique   Cooking time
Pork chops (boneless or bone-in) Coat generously with spice or herb rub or marinate for 2 to 12 hours; drain well and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning once. Grill thick (1-1/2-inch) chops 6 to 7 min. per side; grill thinner chops 4 to 5 min. per side.
Boneless pork loin or pork loin rib roast Trim roast of excess fat, leaving a thin layer if ­possible. Coat generously with a spice or herb rub or salt, pepper, and a little oil. Or marinate for 2 to 12 hours; drain well and season with salt and pepper. Grill indirectly (on cooler side of grill) with a medium-hot fire; cover grill; rotate roast occasionally so that a different side is closest to heat. Add coals as needed to maintain heat. Grill boneless pork loin 40 to 50 min. total; grill rib roast 20 min. per lb. Check doneness with instant-read thermometer.
Pork tenderloin Leave whole or butterfly; coat generously with spice or herb rub. Or marinate in a soy- or citrus-based marinade for 2 to 12 hours; drain well and season with salt and pepper. Grill whole tenderloin directly over medium-hot coals, turning 2 to 3 times to sear all sides; move to indirect heat to finish. Grill butterflied tenderloin directly over medium-hot coals. Grill whole tenderloin 2 to 3 min. on all sides over direct heat; move to indirect heat and cover grill for 6  to 8 min. Grill butterflied tender­loin 4 to 5 min. per side.
Pork back ribs or spareribs Coat generously with spice rub; prepare basting sauce. Grill indirectly with low heat until very tender:back ribs, 1-1/2 to 2 hours; spare­ribs, 3 to 5 hours. Baste with sauce only during last 20 to 30 min. Grill 1-1/2 to 5 hours total time with indirect heat; grill covered. Optional:parcook ribs first by baking ­(covered, with a little water in the pan) in the oven at 350°F for 1 hour; reduce grilling time.
Pork kebabs (loin or sirloin) Cut meat into 1-1/2- to 2-inch cubes. Coat generously with a spice rub or salt, pepper, and a little oil. Or marinate for 2 to 12 hours; drain well and season. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning 2 to 3 times or as necessary. Grill 2 to 3 min. on each side (8 to 12 min. total).
Sausages Uncooked: parboil for 6 min. if desired; coat lightly with oil. Fully cooked: coat lightly with oil. Grill all sausages over medium-hot coals until browned all over; to finish cooking fresh sau­sages that weren’t parboiled, move to indirect heat, cover grill. Grill directly for 8 to 10 min. total; move to indirect heat if necessary (cover grill) for 8 to 10 min.

 

Lamb

   Preparation   Grilling technique   Cooking time
Loin lamb chops Choose thick (1-1/2- to 2-inch) chops. Marinate for 2 to 12 hours in wine marinade. Or coat generously with a spice or herb rub or salt, pepper, and a little oil. Grill directly over medium-hot coals. Grill 6 to 7 min. on one side; turn and grill 4 to 5 min. on other side for medium rare.
Rib lamb chops Coat generously with a spice rub or salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. Grill directly over hot coals. Grill 3 min. per side for ­medium rare.
Butterflied leg of lamb Trim excess fat; separate thicker loin from the rest of the meat if desired; marinate overnight in wine or ­yogurt marinade; drain well and season with a rub or salt, pepper, and a little oil. Grill directly over medium-hot coals and sear all sides; move loin to indirect heat to finish cooking. Grill directly 6 to 8 min. per side; move loin to indirect heat (cover grill) for 5 to 10 min. Check ­doneness with an instant-read thermometer.
Boneless leg of lamb (rolled and tied) Spread purée of fresh herbs, olive oil, and garlic on ­interior of lamb if rolling yourself; season exterior generously with salt, pepper, and oil. Grill indirectly (on cooler side of grill) with a medium-hot fire; cover grill; rotate occasionally so that a different side is closest to heat. Grill 14 to 15 min. per lb. Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer.
Lamb kebabs (sirloin or leg meat) Cut into 2-inch cubes, marinate for 2 to 12 hours; drain well and season with a spice rub or salt and pepper; thread on two skewers for easier turning. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning 2 to 3 times as necessary. Grill 2 to 3 min. on all sides (8 to 12 min. total) for medium rare.

 

Poultry

   Preparation   Grilling technique   Cooking time
Boneless chicken breasts or thighs Remove tenderloin from breast for even cooking. Un­roll thighs and remove excess fat. Coat generously with a spice or herb rub. Or marinate for 1 to 12 hours; drain well and season with salt and pepper. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning once. Grill breasts 5 to 6 min. per side. Grill thighs 4 to 5 min. per side.
Chicken kebabs Cut boneless breast or thigh meat into 2-inch pieces; marinate for 1 hour or as long as overnight; drain well; season with a spice rub or salt, pepper, and a little oil; thread on two parallel skewers for easier turning (fold pieces in half if necessary). Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning 2 to 3 times as necessary. Grill 2 to 3 min. on all sides (8 to 12 min. total).
Bone-in chicken pieces Coat generously with a spice rub; prepare sauce for basting. Or marinate 2 hours or as long as overnight; drain well and season with salt and pepper. Grill indirectly (on cooler side of grill) with a low or ­medium fire. Or grill directly over medium-hot coals (skin side down); turn over and move to indirect heat to finish. Grill indirectly for 2-1/2 to 3 hours with low heat or 1 to 1-1/2 hours with medium heat. Or grill directly, 5 to 7 min. to sear skin; turn over and move to indirect heat for 25 to 35 min. Baste with sauce, if using, only during last 10 to 15 min.
Chicken halves or butterflied Cornish game hens Season with a spice or herb rub or marinate for 2 hours or as long as over­night; drain well and season with salt and pepper. Grill skin side down (weight with foil-wrapped bricks for even cooking) directly over medium-hot coals. Turn and move to indirect heat to finish.. Grill 5 to 7 min. over direct heat to sear skin well; turn over and finish with indirect heat for 30 to 40 min. (chicken halves) or 18 to 22 min. (butterflied hens).
Whole chicken or Cornish game hens Rub generously with a spice rub or marinate 2 hours or as long as overnight; drain well and coat gener­ously with salt and pepper or a spice rub. Grill indirectly with a medium fire on coolest part of grill over a foil drip pan (use a cone-shaped stand to hold the bird, if available). Grill chicken about 18 min. per lb. (about 1 hour, 15 min. for a 4-lb. chicken). Grill game hens 40 to 45 min. Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer.
Whole turkey Coat generously with a spice or herb rub and olive oil, or marinate turkey in a salt and sugar brine for 2 to 3 days; drain well and coat with a spice rub or salt, pepper, and a little oil. Grill indirectly with a medium-hot fire. Put the turkey in the center of the grill over a drip pan. Add coals as necessary to maintain consistent heat. Grill about 18 min. per lb. Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer.
Turkey burger Hand-shape patties (no more than 3/4 inch thick), season well with salt and pepper, and brush with oil. Grill directly over medium coals with grill covered. Grill 6 to 8 min. on each side, or until nicely browned; move to ­indirect heat to finish if necessary. Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer.

 

Shellfish

   Preparation   Grilling technique   Cooking time
Shrimp Coat generously with a spice or herb rub; or marinate for 30 min., drain well, and season with salt and pepper. Skewer smaller shrimp (use two parallel skewers for easier turning); large shrimp can be cooked ­directly on grill grate or on an enameled grill rack. Grill directly over hot coals, turning skewers or individual shrimp only once. Grill small shrimp 2 min. per side, or turn when edges turn pink. Cook larger shrimp 3 to 4 min. per side.
Sea scallops Rub with a spice or fresh herb rub; or marinate for 30 min., drain well, and season with salt and pepper. Thread on two parallel skewers for easier turning. Grill directly over medium-hot coals on preheated enameled grill rack or directly on the grill grate, turning once. Grill 4 to 6 min. per side, depending on size. Grill small bay scallops in a preheated enameled grilling basket, stirring frequently.
Hard-shell clams, mussels, oysters Scrub thoroughly. Prepare dipping sauce or melt ­butter. Grill directly over medium-hot coals on grill grate or on a shellfish grate. Grill until shells just open, 3 to 6 min.; don’t wait until they open very wide or they’ll overcook. Use tongs to finish prying shells open.
Lobster Split open a live 1-1/2- to 2-lb. lobster with a chef’s knife, head section first, followed by the tail. Remove the head sac and intestinal tract. Crack the claws. Brush the shell and exposed meat with melted butter and oil. Grill the halves, shell side down, directly over medium coals, cover­ing with a metal pie pan or small roasting pan to create an oven-like atmosphere. Grill 8 to 12 min. (depending on size of lobster), basting with butter or oil twice, until the tail meat is creamy white.

 

Fish

   Preparation   Grilling technique   Cooking time
Whole small fish (trout, mackerel) Fill cavity with herbs, lemon slices, or other seasonings. Brush skin with oil. Make sure grate is very clean and oil it lightly. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning only once with two spatulas. Grill 5 to 7 min. on each side.
Whole medium to large fish (snapper, salmon) Stuff cavity with herbs, garlic, onions, or other seasonings. Tie with butcher twine to keep stuffing in. Score skin with a paring knife and brush skin with oil. Make sure grate is very clean and oil it lightly. Grill fish directly over medium coals, turning once with two large spatulas. Grill 10 to 12 min. on each side for medium fish, 20 min. per side for large fish. If fire seems too hot, reduce direct cooking time and gently move fish to indirect heat to finish cooking for 10 to 15 min. (cover grill).
Fish steaks (salmon, halibut) Marinate for 30 min., coat with a spice or herb rub, or season with salt and pepper and brush lightly with mayonnaise (to help ­prevent sticking). Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning once. Grill 5 to 7 min. per side.
Fish fillets, thin (sole, catfish) Cover fish with lemon slices and herbs and wrap in foil. Or season lightly with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Grill foil package directly over medium-hot coals, turning once. Or oil and preheat an enameled grilling rack, slide fillets onto it, and cover grill (do not turn). Grill foil package 5 min. on each side. Grill fillets on rack 8 to 10 min. total.
Fish fillets, thick (swordfish, mahi-mahi) Marinate for 30 min. or coat with a spice or herb rub or salt and pepper. Or lightly coat with mayonnaise. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning once. Grill 5 to 7 min. per side.

 

Vegetables

   Preparation   Grilling technique   Cooking time
Artichokes Trim whole and baby artichokes and cut in quarters (in half if small). Parboil just until tender; cool and toss with oil, herbs, and salt. Grill directly over medium coals, cut side up first, turning once; keep grill covered. Grill 5 to 7 min. on each side until nicely browned. 
Asparagus Trim tough stems; coat with olive oil and salt. Grill directly over medium coals, turning frequently. Grill 5 to 8 min. total, until ­nicely browned. Roll over every 1 to 2 min. to brown evenly..
Bell peppers Leave whole or halve and seed. Or stem, seed, and cut into chunks to thread on two parallel skewers; coat with oil, salt, and fresh herbs. Grill whole peppers directly over medium-hot or hot coals until charred. Grill halves and skewers directly over medium-hot coals until soft and slightly charred. Grill whole peppers 3 to 5 min. on all sides until black. Grill halves, skin side up, 5 to 8 min; skin side down 4 to 5 min. Grill skewers 2 to 3 min. on all sides. Move to indirect heat if not soft.
Corn Shuck corn, rub with butter and salt, wrap in aluminum foil; or leave corn in the husk and remove just a few outer layers. Grill corn in foil directly over medium coals, turning as necessary. Grill corn in husk over hot coals, turning ­fre­quently. Grill corn in foil 20 min., turning once. Grill corn in husks 8 to 10 min., until charred all over.
Eggplant Cut small or Japanese eggplant in half lengthwise; cut bigger eggplant in 38-inch slices on the bias; brush generously with oil. Grill directly over medium coals, turning once. Grill 5 to 6 min. per side, until nicely browned; stack on cooler side of grill to let them steam to finish cooking.
Mushrooms Wipe clean, remove stems, leave whole, toss well with olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar; sprinkle with salt or soy sauce; thread smaller mushrooms on skewers. Grill large mushrooms and skewers directly over medium-hot coals; turn portabellas once, skewers 2 to 3 times. Grill portabellas 5 min. per side, skewers 2 to 3 min. per side, until nicely browned. 
Red or yellow onions Slice large onions 12-inch thick, hold together with 1 or 2 bamboo skewers for easier turning, and brush with olive oil. Or cut into chunks and toss with oil and herbs; skewer or heat an enameled grill ­basket. Grill slices or skewers directly over medium-hot coals. Stir-fry chunks in grill basket. Grill 5 to 7 min. per side, until soft, lightly charred, and translucent. If charring too fast, move to indirect heat and stack (or wrap in foil) to finish.
Potatoes Quarter or halve small red or yellow potatoes; cut Idahos lengthwise into “fries”; parboil if desired; toss with olive oil, salt, and fresh rosemary; a mixture of mayonnaise and Dijon; or olive oil and a spice rub. Grill directly over medium-hot coals; move to indirect heat (with grill covered) to finish cooking if not parboiled. Grill 4 to 5 min. per side, until well browned all over; cook with ­indirect heat 6 to 8 min. to finish if not parboiled.
Tomatoes Choose plum tomatoes for best results; cut in half, sprinkle with oil, salt, and a bit of balsamic vinegar; or heat an enameled grill rack. Grill directly over medium coals, skin side down; when skin is well-browned, turn over and lightly char cut side. Grill 6 to 8 min. on skin side; turn and grill cut side down 2 to 3 min. until charred and slightly softened but not collapsed.
Zucchini and summer squash  Cut small squash in half lengthwise, cut larger squash into 38-inch slices on the bias; toss with oil, herbs, and salt. Grill directly over medium-hot coals, turning once. Grill 4 to 5 min. per side, until lightly charred outside and tender inside.

 

Save to Recipe Box
Print
Add Private Note
Saved Add to List

    Add to List

Print
Add Recipe Note

Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Delicious Dish

Find the inspiration you crave for your love of cooking

Fine Cooking Magazine

Subscribe today
and save up to 44%

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Videos

View All

Moveable Feast Logo

Season 4 Extras

Livorno, Italy (511)

In the port city of Livorno, host Pete Evans is joined in Italy by two chef-authors with US roots: Bryan Voltaggio, who visits from Maryland, and Pamela Sheldon Johns, who…

View all Moveable Feast recipes and video extras

Connect

Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks