This time of year, we love inviting friends and family over for a barbecue. But with the rising costs of everything from meat to propane, the price of throwing a backyard get-together can really add up. The good news: An outdoor feast doesn’t have to cost a fortune, according to BBQ pros! Here, their easy ways to get the cheapest cuts of meat in 2023, plus tricks to score deals on drinks and more:
How to save on ribs: Ask for ‘St. Louis’ instead of baby backs.
“Baby backs are among the most expensive meat on a hog — they’re the leanest and highest up near the backbone. But St. Louis ribs, which are a bit below them, have more fat and are more flavorful to grill,” says Roy Slicker, past president of the National Barbecue Association. “And while you’ll pay over $7 per pound for baby backs, St. Louis ribs can be found at most groceries for about $3.50 per pound! Big savings if you’re buying, say, 20 pounds of meat!”
How to save on boneless steak: Try this cut to save $2 a pound.
When choosing boneless steak to grill, many folks opt for New York strip because it’s very tender — making it ideal for fast cooking — but the cut can be expensive. A great alternative, according to Matthew Moore, Nashville-based chef and author of Butcher on the Block: “Flatiron steak.” The intricate fat marbling running through the meat makes it second in tenderness to loin cuts and runs about $2 less a pound. “A rich flavor and buttery texture make it ideal for zesty seasoning blends,” says Moore. “First, pat meat dry, then rub with spices and cook. Slice across the grain to keep them really tender.” Click here for a one-ingredient dry rub that’s bursting with flavor — perfect for any of the cheapest cuts of meat.
Prefer to use a more tender cut? Top sirloin is your best best when choosing from the cheapest cuts of meat, insists Moore. It has loads more flavor than pricier tenderloin and with only 1.9 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz. serving, it’s just as lean at a third of the price. Salt and pepper are all you need to bring out the cut’s robust flavor.
How to save on bone-in steak: Swap rib-eye for chuck-eye.
“Rib-eyes are cut from the 6th and 12th ribs of the cow, while chuck-eye comes from the 5th,” explains Moore. “Since they share the same muscle group, chuck-eyes can handle the same high-heat grilling — at half the price!” His tip: “To help tenderize the tougher chuck-eye steak, marinate it overnight, or up to 4 hours. Also, be sure to include a citrus or vinegar in the marinade, then cook it over direct heat, as hot as possible to an internal temperature of 130°F. Once you remove the meat from heat, let it rest another 5 minutes and it’s sure to be delicious.”
How to save on BBQ sides: Go for this veggie.
Fiber-rich vegetables are a great choice for sides — they’re extra filling and they won’t cost a lot to serve. “I like to buy broccoli, which costs about $1.50 for a whole head or two. Cut it into quarters, drizzle on olive oil and salt and toss on the grill alongside a cut lemon,” says Roger Mooking, host of The Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food. ” After the vegetable has a nice char, I chop it up and toss with raisins, mayo and lemon juice. Grilling the lemons softens the sourness and brings out the sugars, so it tastes amazing drizzled over broccoli. You’ll have a super-filling, delicious side dish for under $5!”
How to save on marinades: Grab a squeeze of this.
“Our family tradition is to make our own rubs and sauces. Not only are they so easy to mix up, but you most likely have everything you need to make them in your pantry,” says BBQ Champ Myron Mixon. “Simply whisk together some olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste — whatever you’re hankering for,” he explains. “You can also add some lemon, orange or apple juice to help break down and tenderize even the cheapest cuts of meat. You’ll end up saving $4 or more on a bottle of fancy marinade. Delicious for less!” Important bonus: Marinating your meat before grilling helps protect you against cancer-promoting compounds in the char.
How to save on drinks for a crowd: Follow this pro formula.
“My go-to drink for entertaining a crowd is punch,” says Anthony Caporale, Director of Beverage Studies at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. “You can make any punch you like using one part spirit (like rum, bourbon or vodka) to one part sweetener (like simple syrup) to four parts juice (like orange or cranberry),” says Caporale. “The combinations are endless and really wallet-friendly. You’re buying one or two bottles of liquor over cases of beer or other drinks, which can add up!” For a delicious option, try this Watermelon Berry Punch from our sister site Woman’s World.
How to save on propane: Tap this cheap source.
“RV sales lots have the cheapest propane,” says Slicker. “By doing a quick Google search, I’ve found local RV stores that sell propane for 30% to 50% less than convenience stores. Like all fuel, the price has to be posted, so it’s easy to compare costs.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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