Chefs reveal the best temperatures for grilling perfect chicken, burgers, and brats

This is the the optimum temperature for grilling meat, according to expert chefs and pitmasters

An image demonstrating the best temperatures for grilling meat, chicken, sausages, and other meats cooking on a grill
(Image credit: Getty Images / Viktor Cvetkovic)

We're truly into summer now, and that means firing up the grill for family cookouts.

However, if you're new to grilling it's not always obvious how hot your grill should be for cooking different meats. It's tempting to ramp the heat up as far as you can, but this can lead to overdone, dry dishes. Even the best grills won't salvage bad cooking.

That's why I spoke to barbecue experts and executive chefs to uncover the perfect temperatures for grilling a wide range of different ingredients.

Grilling beef burgers on a charcoal grill

(Image credit: Getty Images / BreakingTheWalls)

What's the best temperature for grilling burgers?

There's a big temperature range for burgers because there are so many ways of cooking them. Barbecue expert Robbie Shoults told me that 'Burgers cook well at any temperature between 400 and 500°F.'

That's because the key thing with burgers is nailing the internal temperature. Rare burgers should be around 125°F, medium-rare between 130–135°F, medium between 140-150°F, and medium well to well done should be between 150-160°F. Lots of grills have thermometers built-in to help you achieve this, but if not you can find a cheap meat thermometer like this on Amazon for around $15.

What's the best temperature for grilling chicken?

Chairs and grills under a pergola

(Image credit: Alamy /  Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright )

With chicken, the temperature depends on whether or not you're cooking the chicken with the skin on or off.

Recipe developer Nicole Johnson told me that 'Chicken with the skin on is best grilled at relatively high temperatures, anywhere from 350-425°F will work.' She told me that this temperature quickly cooks the chicken but won't dry it out, and it's also hot enough to crisp the skin.

Skinless chicken is a little different. Nicole told me that 'Skinless chicken has some more leeway. We often smoke chicken breasts at temperatures around 250-300°F.' However, it also helps to monitor the chicken's internal temperature. Barbecue expert Robbie Shults adds that 'Chicken is very lean, so be sure to remove it once it reaches 165° internal temperature'.

A headshot of recipe writer Nicole Johnson
Nicole Johnson

Nicole is a food blogger and recipe developer with a strong focus on outdoor cooking including gas and pellet grills as well as gas griddles. She is a former restaurant professional with front and back-of-the-house experience.

A headshot of grilling expert Robbie Shoults
Robbie Shoults

Celebrity chef and barbecue expert Robbie Shoults is the third-generation owner of Bear Creek Smokehouse.

What's the best temperature for grilling steak?

Steak expert Kylian Goussot gave me some advice from his time in Michelin-star kitchens. Just as with burgers, the key thing is not the temperature of the grill - the experts recommend anything from 400°F-600°F - but the internal temperature of the meat.

Kylian gave me a similar temperature range to grilling burgers. 'For the beef in general, rare meat should be 120–125°F, Medium rare 130–135°F, medium 140–145°F, medium well: 150–155°F, and well done: 160–165°F.'

Kylian also suggests that you 'let the meat come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes to ensure more even cooking. For seasoning, I recommend adding salt just before cooking the steak to avoid drying out the meat.'

A Headshot of chef Kylian Goussot
Kylian Goussot

Kylian is the Executive Chef at Lafayette Steakhouse in Miami, Florida. He has worked in the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants and Five-Star palace hotels along the French Riviera and Alps under the tutelage of luminaries such as Joël Robuchon.

What's the best temperature for grilling hot dogs?

Hot dogs are great because they're already cooked. Robbie Shoults told me that 'Hot dogs can use lower temperatures between 250° and 325°.

Remember with hotdogs you’re not actually cooking meat, you’re only warming them up.' It totally depends on preference.

Nicole Johnson suggests that 'Some people really like some char, and others prefer none at all. Poll your guests and adjust your cook plan accordingly.'

What's the best temperature for grilling salmon?

Two salmon filets cooking with their skin down on a charcoal grill

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Salmon can be tricky because it's so delicate. Robbie Shoults says to 'Grill salmon at a medium-high heat of about 375°F to 400°F. This will give it a nice char and help seal in all of the moisture.'

However, the key thing with salmon is to keep an eye on it as it cooks. Nicole says 'People overcook salmon and ruin it. If it flakes when you cut a piece off, it is overdone.'

What's the best temperature for grilling corn?

Grilled corn on a plate brushed with rosemary

(Image credit: Getty Images / 10'000 Hours)

Barbecue expert Robbie says that 'Corn should be grilled at a temperature of 450 to 500°F. In our guide to grilling corn, our expert tester Helen suggests wrapping it in foil so that you can grill it with seasoning.

Grilling FAQs

Do I need a meat thermometer to grill?

You don't need a meat thermometer for grilling, but it makes grilling beef products much easier, because you can judge their doneness.

For more help with grills, take a look at my advice about the best wood for smoking.

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.