is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Meathead’s Top 5 Meat Tips

With all the hoopla over juice cleanses and New Year’s resolutions, you’d never know that January is National Meat Month. Well, it’s true. And Americans are on track to have their biggest meat year ever. Surprise! According to the USDA, the average consumer will eat 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry this year, edging out our last record high of 221.9 pounds per person set almost 15 years ago in 2004. Yup. We’re eating more meat. Chalk it up to protein. Most Americans are looking to get more protein and fewer carbs in their diets, and meat easily fills the bill. To celebrate National Meat Month, here are 5 tips to help you enjoy all that protein, courtesy of our own barbecue whisperer, Meathead.

  1. Use a thermometer. Medium-rare is 130ºF in beef, pork, lamb, venison, duck breasts, and even fish. Don’t bother looking at the color. It’s all about the internal temperature. Use a thermometer and you’ll never overcook food again. A reliable thermometer is more important to good cooking than a set of expensive knives. Check out our reviews of various reliable thermometers by electrical engineer BillMcGrath here.
  1. Master the 2-zone setup. High heat ruins more food than anything else. We grill too hot! To stop burning and dehydrating your food, set up your cooker with 2 heat zones, high and low. High is pretty much Warp 10, “Give it all she’s got Scotty!” It is direct radiant heat right above flame. Hit Warp 10 to sear and brown the surface of meat but not to cook the interior of the meat. Low is 225ºF. That’s the magic number. The low zone does not have flame below it and it gets warm by indirect convection airflow. When you cook outside, these are the two numbers you need to remember. One exception: For skin-on poultry, I like the low zone at 325ºF to help crisp up the skin. To see all the details on setting up your cooker for 2-zone cooking, click here.
  1. Trim surface fat. Want to avoid flare-ups? Trim the fat from the surface of your meat. Fat drips into the fire and flares up. Get rid of it. When it melts, surface fat does not penetrate the meat and moisturize it and make it taste better. That’s a myth. If you don’t trim surface fat, your guests will. And there goes your flavorful spice rub and browned crust. Trim the surface fat, and if you want to know more about why, go here.
  1. Don’t be afraid of salt. Salt is the magic rock. Herbs and spices sit on the surface of food, but salt dissolves and penetrates. It amplifies the taste of whatever you put it on, from meat to vegetables. And it helps meats hold onto moisture. Worried about your salt intake? Keep in mind that most of the sodium in our diets comes from processed and packaged foods and restaurant meals, not home cooking. Salt your meat in advance, so it can migrate to the center and deepen the flavor and hang onto moisture. But don’t be afraid to salt your food. Read more about different salts, brines, and rubs here.
  1. It’s OK to go boneless. It’s a myth that grilled meat tastes better if it’s bone-in. That bone-in ribeye looks great on the plate but won’t taste any better than a boneless ribeye. Bone walls are made of calcium, which does not dissolve during cooking. The bone marrow also does nothing to flavor the meat during grilling. Plus, many bones are full of air pockets. They slow heat from getting to the meat. That’s why bone-in meat tends to cook unevenly with dry, overcooked edges and red rare meat near the bones. For even doneness, try boneless cuts. Read more about bones and the myths that surround them here.

Related articles

Published On: 1/6/2018 Last Modified: 4/24/2021

  • Dave Joachim - Editor of, David Joachim has authored, edited, or collaborated on more than 45 cookbooks, four of them on barbecue and grilling, and his Food Science column has appeared in "Fine Cooking" magazine since 2011. He’s a perfect match for a website dedicated to the “Science of Barbecue and Grilling.”

If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.



Click for comments...


These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys:

Bring The Heat With Broil King Signet’s Dual Tube Burners

3 burner gas grill

The Broil King Signet 320 is a modestly priced, 3-burner gas grill that packs a lot of value and power under the hood. Broil King’s proprietary, dual-tube burners get hot fast and are able to achieve high, searing temps that rival most comparatively priced gas grills. The quality cast aluminum housing carries a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Click here to read our complete review

Finally, A Great Portable Pellet Smoker

Green Mountain’s portable Davy Crockett Pellet Smoker is one mean tailgating and picnic machine. But it’s also gaining popularity with people who want to add a small, set it and forget it pellet smoker to their backyard arsenal. And with their WiFi capabilities you can control and monitor Davy Crocket from your smart phone or laptop.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order

The Pit Barrel Cooker May Be Too Easy

The PBC has a rabid cult following for good reason. It is absolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world. Period. This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers because temperature control is so much easier.

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them

GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone

GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special

Fireboard: The Ultimate Top Of The Line BBQ Thermometer

Fireboard Labs Product Photo Shoot. Kansas City Commercial Portrait and Wedding Photographers ©Kevin Ashley Photography

With the ability to monitor up to six temperatures simultaneously with either Bluetooth or Wifi on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, Fireboard is the best digital thermometer we’ve tested.
Click here to read our detailed review

Grilla Pellet Smoker proves good things come in small packages

We always liked Grilla. The small 31.5″ x 29.5″ footprint makes it ideal for use where BBQ space is limited, as on a condo patio.
Click here for our review on this unique smoker

Blackstone Rangetop Combo: Griddle And Deep Fryer In One

The flat top does the burgers and the fryer does the fries. Use the griddle for bacon, eggs, grilled cheese, and so much more. And why deep fry indoors when you can avoid the smell and mess by doing it outside!

Click here to read our detailed review and to order