Best Meat For Charcoal Grilling + Free Recipes

charcoal grill filled with the best meat for charcoal grilling.

I’m excited to talk to you about one of my favorite things: grilling meat with charcoal! 

When you use charcoal, it adds a smoky flavor to the meat that’s really delicious!

Not every meat is good for grilling but with this list of my personal best meat for charcoal grilling, and my tips on how to cook them you find a great way to get started and after that develop your own grill recipes.

Grilling Tips

Before getting started I will give you some tips and ideas to make sure that all the meat you grill on your charcoal grill turns out the best possible way.

Pre-Heating

First, you always need to pre-heat our grill. 
You do this by lighting up the charcoal and waiting for it to get hot and ready. 

Pre-heating is important because it helps reach the right grill temperature so our food cooks just right!

Once the grill is all warmed up, it’s time to start cooking!

Direct And Indirect Grilling Meats

There are basically 2 ways of using the heat from the charcoal to cook your meat.

Each of these meats has a specific way to grill over charcoal; depending on it, this can be indirect heat or indirect heat.

Direct grilling is placing your meat straight over the charcoal is best for cooking fast

Indirect grilling is placing your meat next to the hot coals and using the radiation heat to cook it.

“Many times you will benefit from this 2-zone setup. It allows you to move your meat from the hot zone to the cooler zone.”

Top 7 Best Meats to Grill on Charcoal

Now, let’s talk about what are, in my opinion, the best meats to grill on a charcoal grill.

#1: Prime Rib Steak

charcoal grilled prime rib steak

Recommended:  Prepare the grill with a two-zone fire

Before grilling, season the steak generously with salt and pepper, letting it rest for at least 10 minutes.

Preheat the grill until it reaches a high heat of about 450°F for searing.

Sear the steak over direct heat, turning occasionally, to develop a flavorful crust, roughly 2-3 minutes per side.

Once seared, move the steak to the indirect heat side and close the grill lid, allowing it to cook to the desired doneness—130°F for medium-rare, which is commonly preferred for prime rib.

Now rest the steak for at least 10 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, yielding a more flavorful and tender steak.

#2: Chicken

charcoal grilled chicken

Recommended: Prepare the grill with a two-zone fire.

Season your chicken pieces appropriately and oil the grill grates to prevent sticking.

Once the grill is adequately heated to around 350°F to 400°F, place the chicken on the direct heat side, skin-side down, for about 5-10 minutes to achieve a golden-brown sear.

Then, move the chicken pieces to the indirect heat side, cover the grill, and allow them to cook through steadily.

For safety, the internal temperature for chicken breasts should reach 165°F, and thighs should reach 175°F, measured using a meat thermometer at the thickest part without touching the bone.

If you want to take this to a new level I suggest you use my chicken leg quarter marinade.

#3: Pork Chops

grilled pork chops

Recommended: Prepare the grill with a two-zone fire.

Before you start grilling, season the pork chops adequately and let them sit for around 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to a medium-high heat of approximately 350-400°F.

Now, sear the pork chops over direct heat for around 2-3 minutes per side to create a flavorful crust.

Once that is done, remove the chops to the indirect heat zone, close the lid, and let them cook till they reach an internal temperature of 145°F for medium, as recommended by the USDA, using a meat thermometer to ensure accuracy.

This may generally take about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops.

Once this internal temperature is reached, you let the pork chops rest for at least 5 minutes. This allows the juices to be redistributed, ensuring a moist and tender eating experience.

Tip: You can also have a look at my reversed sear pork chop recipe.

#4: Babyback Ribs

baby back ribs on a charcoal grill

Recommended: Prepare the grill with a two-zone fire.

Season the ribs with your choice of rub or marinade. I prefer to do that the day before.

Preheat the grill to a medium heat of about 250°F to 275°F, and once ready, place the ribs bone-side down on the indirect heat side.

Close the lid and maintain a consistent cooking temperature, letting the ribs cook slowly for around 2.5 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and has a slight give when lifted.

The internal temperature doesn’t give an accurate doneness indication for ribs due to their bone and fat content, but as a reference, the ribs are usually done when the internal temperature reaches around 190°F to 203°F.

After the ribs are tender, if desired, you can baste them with barbecue sauce and then move them over to the direct heat side for a few minutes to caramelize the sauce and add a seared flavor.

Finally, let the ribs rest for a few minutes before slicing between the bones and serving.

Tip: Have a look at this page to see my favorite recipe.

#5: Hamburger

grilled hamburger on a bun

Recommended: Direct heat.

I could not leave out America’s favorite grilled meat; Hamburgers

Prepare your charcoal grill by spreading the hot coals evenly to create a direct heat zone and preheat the grill to a high temperature of about 450°F to 500°F.

While the grill is heating up, shape your hamburger patties and season them liberally with salt and pepper.

If you like a nice flat hamburger that not bulks up in the middle you should read my post on how to keep hamburger flat on the grill.

Once the grill is hot, place the patties on the grill grates over direct heat.

Grill the hamburgers for about 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare burgers, or longer if you desire a more well-done patty.

Try to avoid turning them more than once to retain the juices.

The internal temperature for a medium-rare hamburger should reach 130°F to 135°F, and for a well-done, it should be 160°F.

Please do not press down on the patties with a spatula, as this drains the juices and you will end up with a dry hamburger.

After cooking to the preferred temperature, take the hamburgers from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes

#6: Flank Steak

charcoal grilled flank steak

Recommended: Direct heat.

 Preheat and aim for a grill temperature of around 450°F to 500°F.

This will give you time to season your flank steak with your preferred seasonings or marinade.

When the grill reaches this temperature, lay the flank steak over the direct heat.

Grill the steak for approximately 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare, achieving a robust sear on each side.

check the internal temperature: 130°F to 135°F for medium-rare and 150°F for medium-well. Given the lean nature of flank steak, avoid cooking it higher than this. It will result in a dry piece of meat that is hard to chew.

Let it rest for around 10 minutes and enjoy!

#7: Turkey

grilled turkey on a dining room table

Recommended: Prepare the grill with a two-zone fire.

You should preheat the grill to a medium heat of around 350°F and place a drip pan under the grill grate. 

I prepare my turkey by seasoning or brining it but this is a personal choice.  Now place the bird on the grill grate centered over the drip pan.

Close the lid of the grill and maintain a consistent internal grill temperature, adding more charcoal as needed throughout the cooking process.

It usually takes me 2 to 3 hours to reach a temperature of  165°F in the thickest part of the breast and 175°F in the thickest part of the thigh.

After this, I remove the Turkey and cover it loosely with some aluminum foil to rest it for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Best Meat For Charcoal Grilling – My Opinion

I understand that this is just a limited list of meats that can be grilled on a charcoal grill, but it is my personal top 7 of meats that I use over and over again on my charcoal grills.

I also try to use different types of seasoning for each of them until I find one that satisfies me for that type of meat.

You don’t need an expensive charcoal grill but I recommend buying one at the top of what you can afford.

One major tip I have for new grills is that you have to season your grill before using it.

I started by using very cheap and flimsy charcoal grills and the result was never that great, another thing is that they don’t last that long.

Eddie van Aken

Eddie van Aken has years of experience in running his full-service restaurant and with this came working with using and dealing with all types of kitchen equipment. With his experience, he can find all the pros and cons of grills and add them to the grill reviews and the outdoor cooking tips he is writing about. You can read more on the About page for Eddie van Aken

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