Best Foods for Grilling Outdoor Cooking Method: Top Picks for Flavor & Nutrition

best foods grilling outdoors

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Selecting the best foods for grilling is essential to maximizing both flavor and nutrition in the outdoor cooking method. Begin with lean proteins such as chicken breasts, fish fillets, and plant-based burgers, which are well-suited for the high heat of the grill. Incorporate a variety of vegetables like bell peppers, asparagus, and corn, which develop a rich, charred taste while retaining their nutritional value.

These foods not only absorb the smoky flavors imparted by the grill but also benefit from the quick cooking process that preserves vitamins and minerals. When choosing the best foods for grilling, you want foods that can withstand direct heat and their propensity to gain enhanced taste from this high-heat outdoor cooking method.


Steak refers to a cut of beef that is typically grilled. When you choose steak for your outdoor grill, seek cuts with good marbling for flavor. Grill marks are desired for their visual appeal and the caramelized flavor they add.

  • To achieve perfect grill marks, place your steak on a hot grill; then rotate it 45 degrees after a few minutes.
  • A grilled flank steak benefits from high heat and a short cooking time, locking in juices.
  • For a grilled sirloin tip roast, maintain a consistent temperature and use a meat thermometer to cook to the desired doneness, typically medium-rare.

Creating a steak sandwich with crispy onions adds variety to your grilling repertoire. Slice the steak thinly and assemble with onions on toasted bread.

Carne asada, a marinated steak dish, embraces the char and robust flavors from grilling. Marinate the steak in citrus and spices, then grill to charring briefly on each side.

Pairing grilled stone fruits with balsamic syrup can complement the savory taste of steak. Grill halved fruits until charred lines appear and serve with a drizzle of syrup.

Remember to let your steaks rest after grilling; this ensures the juices redistribute throughout the meat, enhancing flavor and tenderness.


Burgers, a classic staple of outdoor grilling, are versatile patties that can cater to a wide range of tastes and dietary preferences. From juicy meat burgers to flavorful vegetarian alternatives, the options on a grill are plentiful.

Turkey Burgers

Turkey burgers are a leaner alternative to traditional beef burgers. To grill a turkey burger, you’ll need to ensure the grill is preheated to a medium-high temperature. Use ground turkey that has a bit of fat to keep the patties moist, as turkey tends to be drier than beef. For added flavor, mix in diced onions, Worcestershire sauce, and your favorite herbs before forming the patties. Grill each side for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).

  • Ingredients: Ground turkey, onions, Worcestershire sauce, herbs
  • Grill Time: 5 to 7 minutes per side
  • Internal Temperature: 165°F (74°C)

Examples of gourmet turkey burgers might include sun-dried tomatoes within the burger mix for a Sun-Dried Tomato Turkey Burger, or you could top your grilled turkey patty with crispy onions for a twist similar to Steak Sandwiches with Crispy Onions.

Veggie Burgers

Veggie burgers offer a vegetarian or even vegan option for grilling. Start with a base of beans or lentils for protein. Incorporate vegetables such as grated zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms for moisture and flavor. Binding agents like breadcrumbs or oat flour, along with flaxseed or chia seed as egg substitutes, can help hold veggie patties together. Grill on medium heat until the burgers are heated through and have a nice char on the outside, typically around 4 to 5 minutes per side.

  • Base: Beans, lentils
  • Vegetables: Zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms
  • Binding Agents: Breadcrumbs, oat flour, flaxseed, chia seed
  • Grill Time: 4 to 5 minutes per side

If looking to replicate the richness found in Gourmet Burgers, include a hearty blend of umami flavors with mushrooms and a touch of soy sauce or miso paste. Those following a vegan diet can relish a California Burger Wrap, using a lettuce wrap in place of a bun, and a veggie patty topped with avocado and a vegan spread.

Chicken & Poultry

Chicken is a type of poultry that is widely enjoyed for its versatility and flavor when grilled. It’s essential to choose the right cuts for grilling, such as breasts, thighs, or wings. Grilled chicken gains a smokey essence from the grill, enhancing its natural taste. To achieve this, ensure your grill is preheated and thoroughly cleaned.

When preparing your chicken, marinate or rub with garlic and herbs to infuse flavor. Start with bone-in pieces to ensure juiciness. For boneless grilled chicken salad, cook over medium heat until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Rotate once for even cooking.

In terms of specific dishes, Kentucky grilled chicken is known for its signature spice blend and crispiness. Margarita chicken offers a zestful twist, incorporating lime and tequila flavors. For a lighter fare, chicken strawberry spinach salad is a refreshing option with its mix of sweet and savory.

  1. Brine your poultry before grilling for added moistness.
  2. Opt for grilled Caesar chicken breasts by grilling the seasoned breasts and finishing with a drizzle of Caesar dressing.
  3. Prepare a brined grilled turkey breast by soaking in a saltwater solution, then grilling until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.


  • Chicken: High heat can overcook the exterior before the inside is done; cook chicken on medium heat.
  • Garlic: Can burn easily; add it to marinades or rubs instead of placing it directly on the grill.
  • Recipes: Grill different recipes to enjoy a variety of flavors.

Remember to let your chicken rest for a few minutes after grilling to redistribute the juices. Grilled poultry, when cooked properly, provides a delicious and healthy meal with a satisfying smoky flavor.


When it comes to grilling, pork is a versatile meat offering a rich flavor profile that pairs well with a smoky char. Pork, categorized as red meat, is derived from a domestic pig and is popular worldwide.

Pork Chops

Pork chops are cuts from the loin, running from the pig’s hip to shoulder. To perfectly grill pork chops, first, preheat your grill to a medium-high temperature. A simple yet flavorful approach involves seasoning with salt and pepper, but you can also marinate them in your preferred blend to infuse different flavors. Place the chops on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, aiming for an internal temperature of 145°F. These chops can be accompanied by sides like grilled romaine salad, enhancing your meal with a crisp texture.


Ribs, known for their succulent meat and potential for a delightful char, are a barbecue staple. Begin by removing the membrane on the back of the ribs for an improved eating experience. Season generously with a dry rub to add depth to the smoky flavor common in grill recipes. Preheat your grill to a low heat for slow cooking, around 225°F. Place ribs on the grill, cover, and allow them to cook slowly for up to 4 hours, though times may vary depending on thickness. Grilled pork ribs can be complemented with sides like a tangy sausage sandwich or bratwurst and chicken kabobs for a robust outdoor dining experience.


When you think about outdoor grilling, incorporating game such as venison can elevate your culinary experience with its rich flavors and leaner meat quality.


Venison refers to the meat of a deer, which is known for its lean texture and robust flavor. For grilling, venison steaks or cuts that come from the backstrap or tenderloin are ideal. These cuts grill quickly because of their tenderness, providing you with a succulent meal that’s both high in protein and low in fat. You’ll want to marinate or rub your venison cuts to enhance their natural flavors before grilling.

Preparation Tips:

  1. Marinate: To infuse the venison with deeper flavors, marinate your steaks in a mix of olive oil, garlic, and herbs for at least two hours, or ideally overnight.
  2. Grill: Heat your grill to a high temperature, around 400°F (204°C), ensuring it’s ready for quick searing. Cook the venison over direct heat to develop a smoky char on the outside while keeping the inside juicy.
  3. Rest: After grilling, let the venison rest for a few minutes. Resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, assuring each bite is as flavorful as possible.

Grilling Techniques:

  • Grill your venison to medium-rare for the best texture, which typically means an internal temperature of about 130°F to 135°F (54°C to 57°C).
  • Rotate your venison steaks only once to create well-defined grill marks, adding a visual appeal and enhancing the smoky flavor.
  • Avoid overcooking venison to preserve its tender qualities, as the meat can become tough if cooked too long.


Sausages, a type of meat product, are typically cylindrical, encased in a skin, and prepared through grilling. When you grill sausages, they develop a distinct char and a smoky flavor, making them a favorite at outdoor cookouts.

  • Begin by choosing your sausage variety; popular options for grilling include bratwurst, Italian sausage, and hot dogs.
  • Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat to ensure your sausages cook evenly without burning.
  • To avoid flare-ups, lightly oil the sausages before placing them on the grill.

Grilled Italian Sausage Sandwiches:

  1. Grill Italian sausages until they have a slight char and are cooked through.
  2. Place them in a toasted roll with sautéed peppers and onions.
  3. Serve the sandwiches with a side of mustard or marinara sauce for added flavor.

Hot Dogs can be quickly grilled to a delightful crisp and served in a bun with your choice of condiments—ketchup, mustard, relish, or sauerkraut.

For a more diverse meal, chicken kabobs can be alternated with chunks of sausage on skewers, interspersed with vegetables like onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms.

The art of grilling sausages lies in frequent turning. Rotate the sausages every few minutes until they’re evenly cooked with a rich, golden-brown hue. Your sausages should reach an internal temperature of 160°F for pork and beef or 165°F for chicken and turkey sausages to ensure they’re fully cooked.

By mastering the grill’s heat and practicing these techniques, you’ll enjoy perfectly grilled sausages every time.


Grilling seafood brings a delectable smokiness to various marine delights, offering a fresh and light option for outdoor cooking enthusiasts.

Fish Fillets

Grilling fish fillets requires a firm-fleshed variety such as salmon or halibut to withstand direct heat. To grill salmon, start by preheating your grill on medium-high and lightly oiling the grates. Place the salmon skin-side down and cook for 6-8 minutes per side, flipping once until the flesh flakes easily with a fork. Salmon grilled in foil is a popular method; for lemon-Dijon grilled salmon foil packets, place marinated salmon fillets in foil, add sliced lemons, and grill for 15 to 20 minutes. Grilled mahi mahi makes for a hearty meal or can be turned into succulent fish tacos by adding toppings like cabbage slaw and fresh lime juice to grilled fillets wrapped in corn tortillas.


Shellfish, such as shrimp and lobster, are perfect for quick grilling. To prepare grilled shrimp, skewer peeled shrimp and brush them with a marinade—a mixture of garlic, lemon juice, and herbs works well. Grill shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side; dishes like Cajun grilled shrimp or lime and dill chimichurri shrimp emerge as flavorful appetizers. Grilled lobster tails, split down the middle and basted with butter, cook in about 8-10 minutes, resulting in a sumptuous texture. For a show-stopping dish, try grilled chorizo and shrimp paella, infusing Spanish flavors into each bite. Pair shellfish with grilled peaches for an unexpected but delightful combination.


Grilling vegetables enhances their natural flavors and adds a smoky depth that you can’t achieve with other cooking methods. Choosing the right vegetables and preparing them correctly can elevate your outdoor cooking experience.

Mixed Veggies

When you grill mixed vegetables, the variety of textures and tastes creates a satisfying and colorful dish. Cut veggies into similar-sized pieces to ensure even cooking. Zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes are excellent choices for a grilled veggie medley. Grill them over medium heat until they’re tender and have nice char marks, usually around 5-10 minutes per side, depending on their thickness.

  • Grilled Zucchini: Slice zucchini lengthwise into thick strips, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper before grilling.
  • Grilled Veggie Pizza: Prepare your pizza with a prebaked crust, add grilled vegetables on top, and finish cooking on the grill until the cheese melts and the crust is crispy.
  • Grilled Pattypan Squash: Slice larger pattypan squashes or grill whole small ones after seasoning with herbs and spices.

Corn On The Cob

Grilled Corn on the Cob is a classic that’s both simple to make and delicious. You have the option to grill your corn with the husks on or off.

  1. Mexican Street Corn: After grilling, coat corn with a mixture of mayonnaise, cilantro, lime juice, and sprinkle with cotija cheese.
  2. Grilled Corn in Husks: Soak the corn with husks in water for 30 minutes before grilling. Peel back the husks without removing them, remove the silk, then brush the corn with butter and spices before pulling the husks back into place.

Keep these preparations in mind for your next barbecue, and enjoy the flavor and variety that grilled vegetables can add to your meal.

Kabobs & Skewers

Kabobs are a food dish consisting of small pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables threaded on a skewer and grilled. Select your ingredients, focusing on fresh vegetables like bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini, paired with your choice of protein such as chicken, beef, or shrimp. Cut your ingredients into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.

  1. Marinate your protein for at least 30 minutes to infuse flavors and tenderize the meat.
  2. Soak wooden skewers in water for 20-30 minutes to prevent burning.
  3. Thread the ingredients onto skewers, alternating between protein and vegetables.
  4. Preheat the grill to a medium-high heat to ensure proper sear and cook efficiency.
  5. Place the skewers on the grill, turning occasionally until the ingredients are cooked to your liking.
  6. Check for doneness, ensuring meats reach a safe internal temperature—chicken at 165°F, beef at 145°F, and shrimp until pink and opaque.

Include colorful vegetables like tomatoes and yellow squash for visual appeal and a nutritional boost. To avoid cross-contamination, use separate plates for raw and cooked foods. Serve your kabobs with complementary sauces or sides such as tzatziki or a quinoa salad. With these steps, you’ll enjoy delicious and safely prepared kabobs and skewers at your next outdoor grilling event.

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Rob Orr

Robert David Orr is the pitmaster behind Rob's culinary experience and knowledge is built on a rock-solid foundation of years spent perfecting the craft of grilling, starting with his vast hospitality experience at 15 and continues today. His passion for the craft of open-fire cooking is matched only by his fervor for sharing his experience and knowledge with other foodies. Rob has an infectious enthusiasm for all things culinary that truly defines the heart of this site. Whether you're seeking the secrets to the perfect brisket or the nuances of wood chip selection, Rob is an outstanding resource for those who take outdoor cooking seriously. Rob's philosophy is simple: Many of life's best experiences revolve around food and the most memorable are about simplicity and authenticity: great food, great company, and enjoying it all in the great outdoors.

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