How to Direct-Grill Any Meat for Your Juiciest BBQ Fare
Cook up burgers, a porterhouse, or pork chops (really all kinds of meat!) using direct-heat grilling for one of the quickest and most foolproof ways to cook meat. Whether you’re direct gas grilling or direct charcoal grilling, discover how (and how long) to grill all of your favorite meats so they stay juicy (and safe).
There's no need to be intimidated by direct-heat grilling with these tips to help you master it. This direct gas grilling and direct charcoal grilling guide is here to walk 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. Come inclement conditions, you can use the same cooking times below for expert results indoors on a grill pan so there's no stopping your grilling endeavors—no matter the season or weather.
Direct-Heat Grilling Guide
Before we go any further, be sure you know how to control grill temperature for direct heat grilling.
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 top open or closed?” For direct-heat grilling, leave that lid closed, except for when you’re 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!).
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
For a charcoal grill, place meat on a grill rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, for the time given below or to desired doneness, turning once halfway through grilling. (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.
Direct-Heat Grilling 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
Direct-Heat Grilling 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 more about exactly how to tell when your burger is done.)
- ½-inch thickness: 10 to 13 minutes
- ¾-inch thickness: 14 to 18 minutes
Direct-Heat Grilling 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
Direct-Heat Grilling 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