Don’t Let Your Grilling Budget Go Up in Flames!

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

While some folks are fortunate enough to enjoy their grill year-round, the rest of us are – finally – officially declaring it grilling season! Everyone seems to have a favorite food to barbecue: To a meat-eater, there’s nothing more enticing than a Porterhouse steak or a slab of ribs hot off the grill – but is it affordable to indulge in such pricey cuts of meat every time you fire up the coals?

Affordable grilling doesn’t mean restricting your choices to hamburgers and hotdogs. There are plenty of ways to grill a variety of tasty and affordable foods. Sometimes it’s the meat or poultry choice – and sometimes it’s the preparation, cooking and handling – that makes for inexpensive yet delicious fare from the grill.

Meat or poultry choice

These are less tender cuts but with some alternate preparation, they’re tasty and satisfying:

  • Sirloin tip steak (aka Tri-tip) – Cook to medium-rare, with or without marinating. Rest for five minutes post-grill, then slice thick against the grain.
  • Top round steak – Cube, marinate and skewer for beef kabobs.
  • Skirt steak – Marinate and cook these long steaks quickly over high heat to medium doneness. Cut into smaller serving pieces or slice thinly across the grain for fajitas.

Boneless, skinless breasts are a necessity for countless dishes in the kitchen but don’t take to grilling as well as skin-on chicken. Because it’s so lean, breast meat easily dries out when grilled. Even it you don’t eat it, chicken skin helps the meat retain moisture while grilling. The bonus is, leg quarters (thigh and drumstick together) or each piece separately are the cheapest chicken parts. Even bone-in breasts are cheaper than boneless and fare much better when grilled.

Pork, like skinless chicken, can easily become dry when grilled. Unlike beef that can be eaten rare if desired, chicken and pork must be thoroughly cooked. This can easily lead to a dry result, especially in the case of pork chops, where the surface area exposed to heat is so great. These two options, which are best cooked “low and slow” are also considerably cheaper per pound than chops.

  • Pork shoulder roast – This is a large pork roast which benefits from being cooked covered at a low temperature for several hours. It lends itself nicely to smoking, due to the long cooking time. A well-cooked pork shoulder roast shreds apart for spectacular pulled pork sandwiches.
  • Country style ribs – These very economical and super-meaty ribs combine everything you love about ribs with a higher meat-to-bone ratio. They’re best started covered over low heat but can be finished off on a hotter grill to develop an inviting barbecued crust.


The major difference between these meats and pricier cuts is oftentimes natural tenderness. A marinade can enhance both tenderness and flavor of meat. An acidic element, such as vinegar, wine or citrus juice will help break down the proteins in the meat, enhancing tenderness. Marinate beef or pork up to 24 hours but marinate chicken no longer than two hours or the acid will begin to chemically “cook” the meat, making it tough.

Piercing meat when grilling allows juices to escape; turn grilled meats with tongs or a spatula to keep juices inside.

Meats require a period after grilling to allow their juices to settle within the muscle. Rest meats 5 – 10 minutes before slicing to ensure juices have redistributed.

Especially with beef, slicing against the grain (opposite to the direction of the visible muscle fibers) will increase tenderness.

These tips will help you expand your grilling repertoire and stretch your budget!

How do you grill and stick to a budget?

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