It’s right up there with baseball games and ice cream cones. We’re talking about another popular summer activity that takes place in parks and backyards as soon as Memorial Day hits: barbecuing!
But between buying a grill, choice meats, rubs, marinades and sundry barbecue gear, this great American pastime can get expensive—quickly.
So we asked a trio of grilling experts to share their best cost-cutting tricks, so you don’t have to empty your wallet each time you fire up the grill.
Cost-Cutting Hack #1: Get the Right Grill
Skip purchasing a pricey gas cooker in favor of more affordable kettle grills that use charcoal. For instance, a Weber Spirit E-210 gas grill will set you back about $400, but a Weber One-Touch Silver 18.5-inch charcoal grill only costs around $80.
It’s a much debated topic in the culinary world, but many foodies argue that charcoal grills cook the best-tasting meat. “You want smoke that comes from charcoal or, if available, real hardwoods,” says Wes Berry, author of The Kentucky Barbecue Book. “If you live in an area with hardwoods, don’t buy wood chips. Prune some green wood from a tree branch and throw it in with your coals. Oak, apple, cherry, maple, sassafras and, of course, hickory are all good woods with different flavoring and meat-coloring profiles.”
Cost-Cutting Hack #2: Buy in Bulk
Befriend the cashier at your local Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s Wholesale Club, which are all great places to buy meat in bulk and save some serious cash, says Doug Keiles, an award-winning pitmaster for Ribs Within, a team of barbecue aficionados who compete in nationwide cooking contests.
To prevent large quantities of meat from going bad quickly, Keiles suggests divvying up the meat into smaller portions and then putting them in the freezer. And instead of using bulky Tupperware or plastic wrap that may not fully seal the meat, invest in a vacuum sealer that will keep it fresher longer and take up less space.