What Are The Best Cuts Of Meat For American BBQ?

Get ready to fire up the grill, because in this article, you’ll discover the ultimate guide to the best cuts of meat for American BBQ. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a backyard BBQ enthusiast, knowing which cuts to choose will make a world of difference in achieving that tender, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that we all crave. From mouthwatering brisket to succulent ribs, we’ll explore the top cuts that will take your BBQ game to new heights. So, grab your tongs and get ready to tantalize your taste buds with the best cuts of meat for your next BBQ feast.


Pork Shoulder

When it comes to American BBQ, pork shoulder is a must-have. This cut of meat is known for its incredible flavor and tenderness, particularly when it is slow-cooked or smoked. Pork shoulder is a versatile cut that can be used in a wide range of dishes, from pulled pork sandwiches to carnitas. The rich marbling and connective tissue in the shoulder helps to keep the meat moist and adds a delicious depth of flavor.

Pork Ribs

No barbecue is complete without a rack of tender and succulent pork ribs. There are two main types of pork ribs: baby back ribs and spare ribs. Baby back ribs are smaller and leaner, making them perfect for those who prefer a leaner cut of meat. Spare ribs, on the other hand, are larger and more flavorful, with a higher fat content that lends itself to a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Whether you choose baby back ribs or spare ribs, both options are sure to be a hit at your next barbecue.

Pork Belly

Pork belly has gained significant popularity in recent years, thanks to its melt-in-your-mouth texture and rich, indulgent flavor. This cut of meat is incredibly versatile and can be prepared in various ways, from braising to grilling. When cooked low and slow, the fatty layers of pork belly render down, resulting in a crispy exterior and tender, juicy meat. Whether you’re making pork belly burnt ends or crispy pork belly slices, this cut is guaranteed to elevate your barbecue game.



With its robust flavor and tender, juicy meat, brisket is often considered the holy grail of American BBQ. This cut comes from the chest of the cow and is known for its marbling and rich fat content, which helps keep the meat moist during the long cooking process. Brisket is typically smoked low and slow, resulting in a mouthwatering bark and a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. From Texas-style sliced brisket to flavorful burnt ends, this cut is a staple at any barbecue gathering.


While ribeye steaks may be more commonly associated with grilling, they can also be a fantastic addition to your barbecue spread. Known for its marbling and intense beef flavor, ribeye is a beloved cut by steak enthusiasts. When grilled over charcoal or smoked, ribeye steaks develop a beautiful smoky flavor and a delightful crust. The tenderness and juiciness of the meat make it a popular choice for those looking to indulge in a premium steak experience at their barbecue.


Tri-tip is a lean and flavorful cut of beef that is gaining popularity in the world of American BBQ. This triangular-shaped cut comes from the bottom sirloin of the cow and is typically grilled or smoked to perfection. Tri-tip offers a well-rounded beef flavor and a tender texture when cooked properly. It can be sliced thin for sandwiches or served as a main course, making it a versatile and delicious option for barbecue enthusiasts.


Chicken Thighs

For juicy and flavorful chicken that will please every palate, chicken thighs are an excellent choice for your BBQ. The dark meat of the thighs offers a more robust flavor compared to chicken breasts, and their higher fat content helps keep the meat moist during the cooking process. Whether you’re marinating, seasoning, or glazing your chicken thighs, they will remain tender and delicious when grilled or smoked. From bone-in to boneless, chicken thighs are a versatile choice that can be used in a variety of BBQ dishes.

Chicken Wings

No tailgate or barbecue gathering is complete without a plate of mouthwatering chicken wings. Whether you prefer them grilled or smoked, chicken wings are sure to be a hit with the crowd. The key to achieving flavorful and crispy wings is in the seasoning and cooking method. Whether you choose to marinate them overnight or coat them in a dry rub, the wings are best cooked over indirect heat to ensure that the skin becomes crispy while the meat remains tender and juicy.

Chicken Drumsticks

Similar to chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks offer a succulent and flavorful option for your BBQ. Their high fat content and dark meat make them perfect for cooking low and slow over charcoal or in a smoker. From sticky glazed drumsticks to spicy BBQ chicken drumettes, the possibilities are endless when it comes to drumsticks. They are not only delicious but also an affordable and crowd-pleasing choice that will satisfy everyone’s barbecue cravings.


Turkey Breast

Turkey breast is a lean and healthy option for those who want to enjoy barbecue flavors without the heavier cuts of meat. When cooked properly, turkey breast can be incredibly tender and flavorful. Whether you choose bone-in or boneless, turkey breast is best when marinated or brined to enhance its natural flavors. Whether smoked, grilled, or roasted, turkey breast is a fantastic alternative for those looking for a lighter, yet equally delicious, option at their barbecue.

Turkey Legs

If you’re craving that classic fairground flavor, turkey legs are the way to go. These large drumsticks offer a succulent and juicy meat that is perfect for indulging in that smoky, BBQ taste. Whether you’re at a barbecue or a family gathering, turkey legs are a fun and flavorful option that will transport you to summer fairs and outdoor festivities. Marinated, seasoned, or glazed, these meaty treats are sure to be a hit at any occasion.

Whole Turkey

For a show-stopping centerpiece that will impress your guests, a whole turkey is an excellent choice for your barbecue. While cooking a whole turkey may require more time and attention, the results are worth it. Whether you choose to smoke, roast, or spatchcock your turkey, the slow cooking process will infuse the meat with incredible flavors and produce a perfectly juicy bird. A delicious turkey rub or marinade will elevate the flavors even further, making your barbecue feast a memorable one.


Lamb Shoulder

Lamb shoulder is a tender and flavorsome cut that is well-suited for American BBQ. Known for its rich and distinct flavor, lamb shoulder is best when cooked low and slow. The connective tissues in the shoulder break down during the long cooking process, resulting in tender and succulent meat that falls apart effortlessly. Whether marinated, rubbed, or glazed, lamb shoulder is a delicious option for those looking to add a touch of elegance to their barbecue spread.

Lamb Ribs

Lamb ribs offer a unique and delicious alternative to traditional pork or beef ribs. With their tender meat and rich flavor, lamb ribs are a true treat for any barbecue enthusiast. Whether grilled or smoked, lamb ribs have a slightly gamey taste that pairs beautifully with various marinades and spices. The smaller size of lamb ribs makes them ideal for individual servings, making it easy to enjoy their mouthwatering flavors at any gathering.

Lamb Chops

Lamb chops are a true delicacy when it comes to American BBQ. These tender and juicy cuts are perfect for grilling or smoking and provide a rich and unique flavor profile to your barbecue spread. Whether frenched and marinated or simply seasoned, lamb chops cook quickly and are a fantastic option for those looking for an elegant alternative to traditional steak. Their flavorful meat and delicate texture make lamb chops a standout choice for any barbecue feast.



Bratwurst sausages are a staple of American BBQ. These German-style sausages are made from a blend of pork and beef, and their distinct flavor and juicy texture make them a crowd favorite. Whether grilled or smoked, bratwursts develop a deliciously crispy exterior while retaining their moisture. Best served on a bun with mustard and sauerkraut, bratwursts are a classic choice that will transport you to a summer cookout in no time.

Italian Sausage

Italian sausages are a versatile and flavorful addition to any BBQ. Made with a combination of pork, spices, and herbs, Italian sausages offer a delightful blend of savory flavors. Whether grilled whole or sliced for sandwiches, Italian sausages develop a beautiful char on the outside while remaining juicy and succulent on the inside. From traditional Italian-style sausage and peppers to creative gourmet toppings, these sausages are sure to satisfy your cravings.

Andouille Sausage

Originating from Louisiana, Andouille sausages are a must-have for those looking to add a touch of smoky and spicy flavors to their BBQ. Made with smoked pork and a blend of spices, Andouille sausages offer a distinct and robust flavor that pairs wonderfully with various dishes. Whether used as a base for jambalaya or enjoyed on its own, Andouille sausages bring a taste of the South to your barbecue, making it a unique and delicious choice.



For seafood lovers, salmon is a fantastic choice for your BBQ. With its rich and buttery flavor, salmon is particularly well-suited for grilling or smoking. The high fat content of salmon keeps the meat moist and prevents it from drying out. Whether marinated, seasoned, or glazed, salmon develops a delightful char and a smoky flavor that pairs beautifully with its natural taste. From grilled salmon fillets to wood plank salmon, this versatile fish is sure to be a hit at your barbecue.


Shrimp is a beloved seafood option that is incredibly versatile and easy to prepare on the grill. Whether skewered, grilled in a basket, or wrapped in foil, shrimp cook quickly and absorb flavors wonderfully. The natural sweetness of shrimp pairs well with various seasonings, marinades, and glazes, making it a great option for experimenting with different flavors. Whether served as an appetizer, part of a surf and turf combo, or in a vibrant shrimp kebab, these succulent crustaceans add a touch of elegance to any barbecue.

Lobster Tails

For an indulgent and impressive addition to your BBQ, lobster tails are a show-stopping choice. Grilling lobster tails imparts a smoky and slightly charred flavor, enhancing the natural sweetness of the meat. With their tender texture and rich taste, lobster tails are a luxurious option that will elevate your barbecue dining experience. Whether served by themselves with melted butter or as part of a larger seafood extravaganza, lobster tails are sure to please even the most discerning seafood enthusiasts.



Venison, or deer meat, offers a unique and gamey flavor that is perfect for those seeking something different at their barbecue. Venison is lean and low in fat, making it a healthier alternative to traditional meats. Whether grilled or smoked, venison benefits from marinades and rubs that help enhance its distinct flavors. Whether you’re cooking venison steaks or turning it into mouthwatering burgers, this game meat is sure to leave a lasting impression on your BBQ guests.

Wild Boar

Wild boar is a rich and flavorsome meat that adds an adventurous twist to your barbecue. With its hearty and slightly sweet taste, wild boar is perfect for roasting, smoking, or grilling. The meat’s low fat content and unique flavor profile make it an excellent choice for those looking to break away from traditional meats. Whether slow-cooked in a delicious wild boar chili or transformed into succulent wild boar ribs, this game meat will bring a touch of the wild to your barbecue feast.


Elk meat is another game option that offers a lean and tender alternative to traditional meats. With its mild flavor and fine texture, elk is known for being incredibly versatile and accessible to different cooking methods. Whether you choose to grill elk steaks, smoke elk sausages, or slow-cook elk shoulder, this game meat will add a distinct and flavorful element to your BBQ. Elk is a healthier choice, as it is low in fat and high in protein, making it an excellent option for health-conscious barbecue enthusiasts.

Vegetarian Options

Portobello Mushroom

For the non-meat eaters or those looking to incorporate more plant-based options into their barbecue, portobello mushrooms are a delicious and satisfying choice. These large and meaty mushrooms have a rich and earthy flavor that holds up well to grilling or smoking. Portobello mushrooms can be marinated, seasoned, or stuffed, allowing for endless possibilities. Whether served as a burger patty substitute or as a delectable side dish, portobello mushrooms offer a hearty and flavorful option for vegetarian BBQ lovers.


Tofu is a versatile and protein-rich option for those following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. While often associated with stir-fries or Asian dishes, tofu can also be a fantastic addition to your barbecue. Grilled or smoked tofu develops a pleasantly smoky flavor and a slightly crispy exterior. The neutral taste of tofu allows it to absorb marinades and seasonings easily, making it a blank canvas for various flavor profiles. Whether served on its own as a main course or used to create delicious tofu skewers, this plant-based option is both nutritious and satisfying.

Vegetable Skewers

Vegetable skewers are a colorful and delicious way to incorporate a variety of veggies into your BBQ. From bell peppers and zucchini to cherry tomatoes and onions, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating vibrant and flavorful vegetable skewers. Whether marinaded, basted, or simply seasoned, grilling or smoking the skewers imparts a slightly charred and smoky taste that elevates the natural flavors of the vegetables. Whether served as a side or as a main course, vegetable skewers are a fantastic and guilt-free addition to any BBQ spread.

Exotic Meats


For the adventurous barbecue enthusiast, kangaroo meat offers a distinctive and lean alternative to traditional meats. Kangaroo meat is high in protein, low in fat, and has a rich, gamey flavor that is reminiscent of venison. Grilling or smoking kangaroo brings out its unique taste, allowing you to experience a truly exotic barbecue experience. Whether used in burgers, steaks, or sausages, kangaroo meat is a bold choice that will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.


If you’re looking to really spice up your BBQ, alligator meat is an exciting option. Alligator meat has a mild and slightly sweet flavor that is comparable to chicken or pork. Grilling or smoking alligator meat imparts a smoky taste and a tender texture. From alligator tail filets to crispy alligator bites, this exotic meat is sure to add a touch of adventure to your barbecue gathering and impress your guests with its unique flavor.


For a lean and flavorful meat that is gaining popularity, ostrich is an excellent choice for your BBQ. Ostrich meat is incredibly high in protein and extremely low in fat, making it a healthy option for those watching their diet. Grilling or smoking ostrich meat enhances its natural flavors, resulting in tender and flavorful cuts. Whether you’re grilling ostrich steaks or using ground ostrich meat in burgers, this exotic and sustainable meat provides a unique and delicious alternative for your barbecue feast.

In conclusion, when it comes to American BBQ, the best cuts of meat depend on personal preferences and the flavors you wish to showcase. From the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of pork shoulder to the robust flavor of beef brisket, there is a wide range of options to suit every barbecue enthusiast. Whether you prefer poultry, seafood, game meats, or vegetarian options, there is a cut that is perfect for grilling, smoking, or roasting. With endless possibilities and flavors to explore, American BBQ is a culinary adventure that brings people together and celebrates the love of good food. So grab your tongs and fire up the grill, because the best cuts of meat are waiting to be savored at your next barbecue gathering.