How to Grill (Almost) Any Type of Protein

When it comes to grilling protein, the most reliable way to tell if your burger or steak is done is to check the internal temperature. Of course, not everyone grills with a spatula in one hand and a thermometer in the other. If you know what to look for, a combination of your senses and a timer should be more than enough to execute a perfectly grilled dinner. Consider this chart the answer to all of your quick grilling questions, covering everything from steak grilling times to how to grill shrimp. 

grilling temperature chart

How to grill steak

The chart above is an excellent guideline, but steak grilling times will vary based on the cut and thickness of the meat, the heat of the grill, and the taste preferences of the grillmaster. If you want to check your steak for doneness without a thermometer, there’s an old-school trick you can use. Press your thumb against your pointer finger like this: 👌. With your opposite hand, feel the fleshy part of your palm at the base of your thumb. It should feel soft and springy. That’s the texture of a rare steak. Now, press your middle finger against your thumb, and feel again. Does your palm feel slightly firmer? That’s medium rare. Repeat this process with your ring finger and pinky to approximate the texture of a medium-well and well-done steak 

For the best possible result, be sure to season your meat generously with salt at least 40 minutes before hitting the grill. You should see the salt start to dissolve, and the surface of the steak will develop a light sheen. If excess moisture has built up on the outside of the steak, make sure to pat dry before placing on the grill. Wet meat won’t achieve the perfect sear you’re hoping for.

how to grill meat, steak
Grilled steak with potato salad

How to grill chicken

From boneless skinless breasts to whole birds, chicken is a great choice for the grill. Unlike beef, where there is some accounting for taste, it’s essential that chicken be cooked completely through. If you’re not sure if the meat is done, cut into a piece. If the chicken is completely cooked, the center should be opaque and white, and the juices flowing out should be clear. 

Before you introduce the chicken to the grill, season it thoroughly with salt and pepper or a rub of your choice. Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, preheat the grill for at least 15 minutes. Grill your chicken over the hottest part of the grill, flipping halfway through. Follow the guidelines above to find grill times for chicken breasts and thighs. Once you’ve mastered those, perhaps it’s time to move on to something more ambitious, like a spatchcoked whole bird

How to grill pork chops

Grilled pork chops can be elegant, rustic, or somewhere in between. The one thing they should never be is dry. To achieve a caramelized exterior and a juicy interior, don’t be afraid to leave those chops alone. After heating the grill, place the pork chops over high heat and don’t touch them. Flip after 3-4 minutes, and then step away again. After another 3-4 minutes, pull them off the grill, let them rest, and enjoy. If you were to flip the chops multiple times, it would take longer to achieve browning on the exterior of the meat, increasing the likelihood that the center would be overcooked.  

How to grill shrimp 

One of the most beautiful things about grilling shrimp is the sheer speed. Just 2-3 minutes per side, and dinner is ready. Of course, shrimp are small, and you don’t want to risk losing one through the grill grates. Grilling shrimp will be easier if you keep them together either in a grill basket or with skewers. If using wooden skewers, just be sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to reduce the chance of them catching on fire. Watch your shrimp closely. When they’re nicely plump and opaque, pull them off and enjoy. 

how to grill meat, shrimp
Grilled shrimp on skewers

How long to rest meat 

No matter what protein you’re working with, be sure to give it time to rest after you take it off of the grill. Leaving your meat alone for just five minutes before cutting into it will allow the juices to redistribute, guaranteeing you a moist flavorful meal. 

Find even more grilling tips in the Blue Apron guide to grilling