The One Beef Cut You Should Keep Far Away From The Grill

Among those who grill, there's a good chance that beef is exactly what's for dinner — according to a 2020 Statista poll, steak was America's No. 1 grilled food with 34% of the vote, while a 2023 analysis of Google trends shared with USA Today found some form of steak to be the most-searched-for food in seven states when combined with the phrase "how to grill." This may seem less statistically significant, but the only other food to take seven states was some form of chicken (which, as we all know, tends to be a lot cheaper, thus affording it the advantage of affordability). Still, when it comes to grilling, not all cuts of beef are created equal. While a ribeye, strip steak, or sirloin may be just what the grillmaster ordered, don't even think about barbecuing a brisket.


What makes brisket not so great on the grill grates? It's because this cut, at least the flat end, can be very muscular and not at all fatty. That's cool if the cow wants to flex in the gym, maybe, but it lacks the necessary fatty marbling that makes for tasty grilled meat. The point end, on the other hand, is very fatty indeed, so much so that the melting fat might cause a grease fire when grilled unless it's trimmed off. Trim too much, though, and you're back to having dry meat. To surmount these potential problems, brisket really needs to be cooked according to that well-known culinary saying: low and slow.

You can smoke brisket, though

If you look up "best ways to cook brisket," you'll notice that a number of these take place indoors. One time-honored way is to simmer the meat in a pot on the stovetop with some type of liquid. Water, broth, wine, or beer will all work, about a cup per pound of meat (or whatever fits in the pot). After a few hours of cooking, that meat should be nice and tender. If you want an even more hands-off way of doing the same thing, you can put the pot, complete with meat and liquid, in the oven and cover it with a lid. (Failing that, a piece of foil will do.) Bake — or rather, oven-braise — the meat at a low-ish temperature (around 325 degrees Fahrenheit) for three or four hours, and it'll be all ready to eat. Of course, you can also use a slow cooker to do this same thing, only, you know, slower


You can, however, barbecue a brisket as long as you're using a smoker. Smoking, unlike grilling, involves cooking the meat over indirect heat, something that provides the desirable low temperature. It also takes quite a bit longer, thus adding the slow component. Smoking is also great for bigger briskets that won't fit in a pot, although you'll need an ample amount of time to babysit them. A 10-pound brisket might require nine hours of smoking, while one twice that size could take up to 16 hours.

Don't grill filet mignon, either

Brisket isn't the only kind of beef that doesn't do so well on the grill. There's one smaller steak that, while it's not terrible when cooked outdoors, really isn't at its best, and that's a damn shame since it's also one of the more expensive cuts: the filet mignon. (Sorry, North Carolina and Pennsylvania! We know you guys were Googling how to grill these back in 2023, but hopefully your search results set you straight.) The filet mignon, like the flat of the brisket, isn't one of your more well-marbled cow parts, which may be why you'll often see these wrapped in bacon. Still, this add-on alone may not be enough to keep your filet from coming out just a touch too dry if you insist on grilling it.


The best way to cook a filet mignon is to pan-sear it, although you can also opt to start with a sear and finish it off in the oven. Once this is done, you can then combine any drippings, such as they are, with plenty of butter and seasonings to make a pan sauce. This condiment will likely complement this steak's more delicate flavor better than a bold barbecue rub.