How to Direct-Heat Grill Any Meat for the Juiciest BBQ Fare

Cook up burgers, a porterhouse, or pork chops (really any kind of meat!) using direct-heat grilling for one of the quickest, most foolproof ways to cook meat.

You can master direct-heat grilling with these tips. This direct gas and charcoal grilling guide walks you through every step of the cooking process, whether you're flipping burgers, searing steaks, or cooking chicken.

Because it's fast, healthy, and easy, grilling is one of our go-to methods for cooking meat when the weather cooperates. When the weather prohibits outdoor cooking, you can use the same cooking times for expert results indoors on a grill pan. There's no stopping your grilling endeavors—no matter the season or weather.

Reverse-Seared Grilled Ribeye Steaks
Carson Downing

Direct-Heat Grilling Guide

Before we go any further, be sure you know how to control grill temperature for direct heat grilling.

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Now that you've studied up on all things heat maintenance, here's how to proceed depending on your grill type.

For Charcoal Grills

Light the grill using this process (choose from a fire starter, electric starter, or chimney starter), then adjust coals to medium heat. At this temperature, you should be able to hold your palm above the heat source close to cooking level for about 4 seconds before you need to pull it away. Place the meat on a grill rack directly over the medium coals.

For Gas Grills

Preheat the grill, then reduce the heat to medium. Place the meat on a grill rack over the heat.

Now comes the answer to one of the most common grilling questions we receive: "Grill with the top open or closed?" When you direct-heat grill, leave that lid closed, except when flipping the meat. The BH&G Test Kitchen recommends always covering for better heat control on both gas and charcoal grills.

Grill your meat for the time given below or to desired doneness. Turn once halfway through grilling, then test for doneness using a meat thermometer (one of our 9 essential grill tools!).

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends the following safe internal temperature for your meats, cooked via direct heat grilling or otherwise.

  • Beef: 145°F
  • Ground meat: 160°F
  • Pork: 145°F
  • Chicken or turkey: 165°F

Place meat on a grill rack directly over medium coals on a charcoal grill. Grill, uncovered, for the time given below or to desired doneness, turning once halfway through grilling. Test for doneness using a meat thermometer.

For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place meat on grill rack over the heat. Cover and grill as above. Test for doneness using a meat thermometer.

How to Direct-Heat Grill Steak

Cook your tenderloin, ribeye, or preferred cut of beef over high heat for the times below to achieve a perfect medium-rare. Add 2 to 4 minutes to reach a medium meat doneness level.

  • ¾-inch thickness: 9 to 11 minutes
  • 1-inch thickness: 10 to 15 minutes
  • 1½-inch thickness: 15 to 20 minutes

How to Direct-Heat Grill Burgers

Shape your ground beef, turkey, or chicken patties under one inch for best results via direct gas grill or direct charcoal grill. Cook over high heat. (P.S. Learn exactly how to tell when your burger is done.)

  • ½-inch thickness: 10 to 13 minutes
  • ¾-inch thickness: 14 to 18 minutes

How to Direct-Heat Grill Pork

Whether you go boneless or bone-in, grill pork over medium heat.

  • 1-inch-thick pork chop loin or rib: 12 to 14 minutes
  • ¾- to 1-inch-thick pork chop sirloin: 14 to 17 minutes
  • ¾- to 1-inch-thick pork tenderloin: 10 to 12 minutes
  • 1¼- to 1½-inch-thick pork tenderloin: 15 to 18 minutes

How to Direct-Heat Grill Chicken or Turkey

For direct-heat grilling poultry, stick with medium heat for juicy results. Use indirect grilling for whole and half chickens or turkeys and most bone-in cuts.

  • 6 to 8 ounces boneless chicken breasts: 15 to 18 minutes
  • 4 to 5 ounces boneless thighs: 12 to 15 minutes
  • 8 to 10 ounces (¾- to 1-inch-thick) tenderloins: 16 to 20 minutes

Slip on that apron, grab your tongs, and choose your potluck sides, summer drinks, and refreshing desserts to round out your cookout menu.

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