Grilling 101 – 9 Tips from Butcher Ben Piggot

It’s grilling season! Time to throw on your favorite apron and fill the backyard with the enticing aroma of charcoal and barbeque. But before you break out the tongs and invite the neighbors over for dinner, you might want to brush up on a little Grilling 101. To make the most of your marinated meat, we went straight to the source – the Butcher of State Street Meats, Ben Piggot. Follow Ben’s expert advice below for grilling everything from brats to filet, and be the King of the Culdesac this spring. 

Ben Piggot, State Street Meats Butcher

Let’s talk hamburgers – What type of burger is best and how long should you cook them?

“In my experience, for the best-tasting burger, you need to look no further than our Tri-Blend. This is an 85% mix of chuck, short rib, and brisket and the perfect choice for hamburgers on the grill. Season the burgers with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and use various cooking times based on your temperature preference. A good rule of thumb is to cook at 350 degrees – five minutes for rare, seven minutes for medium-well, and 13 minutes for well-done.”

What’s the best way to cook a brat?

“Cooking brats on a grill is relatively easy. For the best results, cook over medium heat and rotate and once the juices begin flowing out, you are good to go. Do not cook over direct flame since this will only burn the outside before cooking them through. State Street Meats carries a weekly rotation of three specialty flavors of brats. There are too many delicious varieties to recommend just one, so start with our traditional brat and be on the lookout for coming flavors.” 

How does the cut of meat impact the taste and texture?

“All steaks have different textures based on where they are cut from. Ribeyes are higher in fat content than other cuts which provides excellent flavor and, if prepared right, are nice and tender. New York Strip is popular for its medium fat content, meaning it still provides flavor with a leaner bite but will naturally tend to be a little tougher than a ribeye. One of my personal favorites is the PorterHouse, which is commonly mistaken for a T-Bone since they are similar cuts. With a PorterHouse, you get a NY Strip on one side and a Filet on the other, whereas a T-Bone has a bone-in Strip. Both are excellent steaks with added flavor enhanced by the bone being attached. Sirloins are another great steak and perfect for the person who likes a lean bite. Sirloins are the perfect salad steak and in comparison to texture, I would place it next to the NY Strip. Filet Mignon is the single most tender cut of steak you can eat. With our aging process, you could consider our filets to be like butter. Filets are also the perfect cut to pair with seafood.”

What’s the secret to grilling the perfect steak?

“Always go for quality, which we offer at State Street Meats. No matter the cut, all steaks should be treated the same in regard to prep work. The single most important tip to remember is to always season first then allow the steak to come to room temperature before placing it on the grill. You can use the same temperature and time recommendations as you would for burgers.  When it comes to seasoning, I believe less is more. Let the steak shine, not the seasoning. I typically stick with the basics – just salt & pepper.”

How Important is it to use the “right tools” when grilling?

“Always have a wire brush to clean grates before cooking. I also like to use an onion for wiping down the grates after brushing. This provides a great natural, non-chemical cleaner and it smells great! Other than that, grab some tongs and a spatula and you’re all set.”

Marinades – what, when, and how long?

“We offer plenty of marinated products that are excellent but if you’re looking to marinate your own meats, we have a ton of options available in the store. It’s a common mistake to assume that meat must be marinated for 6-12 hours before grilling. In fact, it only takes an hour at most for the meat to retain the marinade and it will not retain more past that point. Grill marinated meat the same as you would a seasoned product.”

What are the most common grilling mistakes?

“One mistake is grilling at too high of a temperature or not paying attention to the meat while it’s cooking. Also, all prep work should be done and the sides in process before you start grilling – leave it as the last item to cook. If it sounds overwhelming, get some friends together to help make it fun and simple.”

Can you provide a recommendation for grill night? 

“Depends on the consumer, but I would recommend ‘Pork Belly Chops.’ They are fun to cook, excellent to display, and packed full of moisture and flavor. I like to use our Apple Rump Rub, cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, then glaze 2 to 3 times with our HaugWaush.”

One final tip?

“When it comes to chicken, it must be cooked low and slow. This is a must to achieve optimal quality and an internal temperature of 165 degrees.”

Armed with Ben’s expert advice, the spatula is now in your hands. Good luck, Grill Masters. May your charcoal be hot, your beverage cold, and your marinade strong.

This article – and your next steak – are brought to you by State Street Meats, a full-service gourmet butcher shop, specialty market, and deli located downtown St. Joseph, MI. Make the most of grilling season and stop by State Street Meats for premium steaks, burger, brats, and more.

About the Writer: Stacey Martin is a local author and freelance writer with a passion for promoting Southwest Michigan. Take writing off your to-do list and inquire about content creation for your business at She is the author of We Grow Kids Here and New Girl at Church, and the creator and host of “The Folks Back Home” podcast.

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