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What is a summer meat?

Summer is the season for grilling and enjoying delicious meats outdoors. But not all meats are created equal when it comes to grilling in the warm summer months. Choosing the right summer meats can make all the difference in creating amazing summertime recipes. So what exactly makes a good summer meat? Let’s explore some of the best options for meats to enjoy during the summer grilling season.

Lean Meat Options for Summer

When the temperature rises, it’s best to choose leaner cuts of meat for the grill. Fattier meats can result in flare ups from excess drippings, and leave you with a heavy feeling after eating. Going for leaner options allows you to enjoy the flavor of the meat without the extra grease. Here are some great lean meat choices for summer:

  • Chicken breast – Skinless, boneless chicken breasts are a grill staple. Pound them to a uniform thickness before grilling.
  • Pork tenderloin – Extremely lean with a mild flavor. Be careful not to overcook.
  • Flank steak – This lean cut benefits from brief marinating before grilling to medium rare.
  • Shrimp – A classic summertime favorite. Toss in a simple marinade before grilling.
  • Turkey burgers – Swap out beef for healthier ground turkey patties.
  • Bison – Very lean with a rich beef-like flavor. Grill burgers or steaks.
  • Venison – Farm-raised venison is also quite lean. Use venison steaks or ground meat.

Choosing lean proteins ensures you aren’t weighing down your summer grilling menus. Just take care not to overcook lean meats, as they can dry out quickly on the grill. Marinating helps keep them juicy and flavorful.

Quick-Grilling Meat Cuts

Another great quality to look for in summer grilling meats is quick cooking times. When it’s hot outside, you don’t want to be stuck at the grill for long periods of time. Seek out cuts of meat that can cook up fast over high heat:

  • Boneless chicken breasts
  • Chicken kebabs
  • Pork chops – Go for 1/2 inch or thinner
  • Sirloin steak
  • Strip steak
  • Flank steak
  • Skirt steak
  • Beef kebabs
  • Bratwursts
  • Hot dogs
  • Hamburgers
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Kabobs – Skewer meats and vegetables
  • Sausages – Such as Cajun andouille sausage

Cutting meat into smaller, uniform pieces also reduces grilling time. Prepare kebabs, medallions, or strips for fast cooking. For even quicker cooking, partially cook meats in the oven or stove before finishing them on the grill.

Marinated Meats

Marinating is practically a must for many types of summer grilling. A marinade helps tenderize meats while infusing them with lots of flavor. The acid in marinades – from ingredients like vinegar, citrus juice, yogurt, or wine – break down tough meat fibers. Oil-based marinades add moisture and prevent sticking. Dry rubs are another great option for seasoning meats without adding excess moisture.

Marinating is especially beneficial for leaner cuts like chicken breast, flank steak, London broil, and pork tenderloin. The savory marinade makes up for the lack of fat and collagen. Allow meat to marinate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours for maximum effect. Meat can marinate in the fridge or out on the counter. Discard used marinade or boil before using as a sauce.

Here are some easy summer marinades to consider:

  • Greek yogurt marinade – Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs.
  • Wine or vinegar marinade – Your favorite wine or vinegar with oil, spices, and herbs.
  • Teriyaki marinade – Soy sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger.
  • Jerk marinade – Spicy blend of chiles, allspice, thyme, and more.
  • Chimichurri – Herb and vinegar sauce, no oil needed.

Seafood for the Grill

Don’t forget about seafood when stocking up on summer grilling favorites. The quick cook times and light flavors of fish and shellfish are ideal for hot weather. Brush fish fillets with olive oil or melted butter and a squeeze of citrus before grilling. Shrimp can go directly on the grill still in the shell – just be sure to remove the vein first. Try these seafood options:

  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Squid
  • Salmon fillets or steaks
  • Halibut steaks
  • Swordfish steaks
  • Tuna steaks
  • Mahi mahi fillets
  • Catfish nuggets

For best results, grill seafood over direct high heat just until opaque throughout, about 3-5 minutes per side. Resist the urge to move the seafood too much while grilling. Use a fish basket if needed to carefully flip fragile fish.

Grilling Fruits and Vegetables

To round out your summer grilling fare, take advantage of produce at its seasonal peak. Fruits and vegetables lend themselves perfectly to grilling. Try these ideas:

  • Slice stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots. Grill over direct heat until softened and charred.
  • Grill wedges of watermelon for an unexpected treat.
  • Grill sturdy greens like romaine lettuce or radicchio.
  • Grill slices of zucchini, yellow squash, or eggplant.
  • Thread vegetables like peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes onto skewers to grill.
  • Slice corn on the cob in half to grill flat side down.

Vegetables will cook quickly over direct heat, in just 2-5 minutes per side. Grill fruits just until heated through with appealing grill marks. Serve grilled produce on its own, or pair with your favorite grilled meats or seafood.

Meats to Avoid for Summertime Grilling

While many types of meat fare well on the summer grill, there are a few you’re better off avoiding until the temperature cools down again. Very fatty meats can cause excessive flare ups when grilled over high heat. And tougher cuts requiring prolonged cooking are better suited for cooler months. Steer clear of these meats in summer:

  • Fatty ribeye or T-bone steaks
  • Thick-cut pork chops
  • Lamb shoulder or leg
  • Beef brisket or short ribs
  • Whole chickens or turkeys
  • Meatloaf
  • Sausages with a high fat content, like bratwurst

While you can still enjoy these meats in the summer, it’s best to hold off grilling them until temperatures cool down. Opt for quicker-cooking leaner cuts that can spend less time over the hot grill.

Keeping Meats Safe in Summer

Proper food safety is always important, but especially critical when grilling in hot summer weather. Bacteria multiply faster at warmer temperatures, so take extra care with summer grilling. Follow these tips for safe handling of summer meats:

  • Refrigerate all meats at 40°F or below until ready to grill. Thaw frozen meats safely in the fridge.
  • Marinate meats in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
  • Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meats.
  • Wash hands, utensils, and grill surface before and after touching raw meats.
  • Keep meats chilled in a cooler while prepping and transporting.
  • Don’t let meat sit out longer than 2 hours total before grilling (1 hour at temps above 90°F).
  • Cook meats to safe internal temperatures – use a meat thermometer to verify doneness.

Being diligent about temperature control, separation of foods, hygiene, and fully cooking meats will keep your summer grilling safe and healthy.

Choosing the Best Summer Meats

The prime grilling season offers an abundance of delicious meat options. Keep these guidelines in mind when stocking up on summer meats:

  • Select leaner cuts of meat to avoid excess grease and heavy flavor.
  • Look for quick-cooking cuts that can spend less time on the hot grill.
  • Marinate meats to boost flavor and tenderness.
  • Take advantage of the bounty of fresh seafood available.
  • Incorporate seasonal fruits and veggies into your grilling.
  • Avoid prolonged cooking of fatty meats or large roasts.
  • Practice safe food handling and cooking temperatures.

With the right selection of summer meats and smart grilling techniques, you can enjoy utterly delicious grilled meals all season long. Fire up the grill and get ready for a tasty summer!

Quick Answers to FAQs on Summer Meats

What are the best meats to grill in the summer?

The best summer grilling meats include leaner cuts like chicken breast, pork tenderloin, flank steak, kabobs, sausages, shrimp, and fish fillets. Quick-cooking cuts are ideal for hot weather grilling.

Should you marinate meat before grilling in the summer?

Yes, marinating is highly recommended for summer grilling. Marinades help tenderize and flavor meats cooked over quick, high heat.

What meats should you avoid grilling in summer?

Avoid prolonged grilling of fatty cuts like ribeye steak, thick pork chops, brisket, and meatloaf in summer. Opt for quicker cooking lean meats.

How do you keep meat safe when grilling in hot weather?

Use proper temperature control, hand hygiene, separate prep areas for raw and cooked meats, fully cook meats to safe internal temperatures, and avoid leaving meat out too long.

Can you grill fruits and vegetables in summer?

Yes, grilling heightens the flavors of summer produce like stone fruits, watermelon, corn, peppers, zucchini, and more. Grill veggies and fruits over direct heat just until softened with grill marks.


Grilling season offers prime opportunities to enjoy flavorful cuts of meat, seafood, and produce. Selecting optimal summer meats along with smart handling and cooking practices will lead to amazing grilled meals all summer long. Concentrate on quick-cooking lean meats, thorough marinating, and incorporating fresh seasonal produce. With these tips in mind, you can become a true summer grilling master.