10 Money-Saving Tips for the Summertime Grill Master
Carnivores and vegetarians aren't much different when it comes to their love of a good summer cookout. The frugal grillmaster of the first persuasion surely lays claim to grilling tips that involve cheap but tasty meats and DIY barbecue sauce and rubs. Those of the second persuasion invariably tout the glory of grilled vegetables, seasoned with a dab of olive oil, salt and pepper, and maybe a squirt of lemon. And who doesn't love a low-cost grilled dessert? But for those who shy away from outdoor cooking because of the perceived fuss and expense, Cheapism.com shares a few simple barbecue tips that should get the fires burning.
Ground beef prices depend on the fat content, and less fat equals more money. However, buying fat-loaded ground beef because it's cheap might not make sense for grilling. When preparing hamburgers on a grill most of the fat is cooked out, so the cheaper, fattier beef leaves you with less edible meat per pound than the pricier lean blend.
One inexpensive cut of meat that qualifies as grilling fodder is chuck eye steak. Slightly tougher and less flavorful than a rib eye but still delicious, chuck eye sometimes is referred to as the poor man's rib eye. Seasoning or marinating before grilling enhances the result, as does cooking the steak to medium, at most. Other inexpensive cuts that do well on a grill include flat iron steak and London broil, although the latter is fairly tough and definitely requires a marinade, preferably overnight.
Pork is another relatively low-cost meat, and pork butt or shoulder cuts are particularly good grilling options. A pork steak also rises to frugal grilling standards and takes less time to prepare.
Remember this tip when meat is on the menu: Many supermarkets offer discounted prepackaged meat that's about to hit its expiration date. If bought and grilled on the same day, the sale-priced meat is an excellent way to conserve cash.
Store-bought rubs can quickly become favorites, but many grill masters have their own concoction. Remember, fresh means flavor and when it comes to spices, a trip to a market that sells bulk goods can save you a bundle. Most rubs are made up of sugar, salt, pepper, and a mixture of spices to taste. Ratios often depend on the type of meat: Pork takes more sugars, beef more salts and some heat, and chicken likes the spice.
Although barbecue sauces by the dozen line the grocery shelves, it's also easy and cheap to make your own; avoiding the preservatives and high fructose corn syrup are added benefits. Homemade barbecue sauces generally begin with a combination of ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices. There are hundreds of recipes online that can be tweaked until they suit your palate.
Ears of corn go for 50 cents or so, and make a delicious main dish for vegetarians or side for carnivores. They're also super easy to prepare on a grill: Leave on the husk and throw the entire ear into coals or set it on top of the grill; rotate occasionally (with tongs) and then peel off the blackened husk (with an oven mitt). Slather on a little butter and a sprinkle of salt.
Other vegetables that take well to grilling include Vidalia and red onions, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, green beans (wrapped in foil), asparagus, and bell pepper. A pound of vegetables often costs less than a pound of meat, and they're an important part of a healthy meal. One tasty and relatively cheap BBQ tip calls for coating a whole portobello mushroom with a little olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and placing it on the grill. This edible fungus is packed with flavor that stands on its own or as an add-on to a regular burger.
As the outdoor cookout winds down, it's time to sweeten things up with a quick and easy dessert. Keep the grill running and throw on pineapple slices or peach halves, fruits that often are sweet enough to satisfy dessert-aholics. (A dab of vanilla ice cream as a finishing touch wouldn't hurt.) If skewers are available, fresh fruit kabobs with bananas, strawberries, apples, and any other ingredient that tickles your sweet tooth is a fun alternative.