Burgers may be the the standard for a July Fourth cookout, but they're hardly the only option.
Surveys show that more than three-quarters of grill owners will be cooking outdoors over the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. For many, the meal will be burgers: A biennial state of the industry report by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association reveals that hamburgers are the most popular food to grill. They’re certainly an affordable choice: Ground chuck typically saves more than a dollar per pound over leaner cuts. However, frugal grillers can buy beef in other inexpensive forms and branch out to chicken and pork without spending more than they’d like. Cheapism consulted butchers and grilling aficionados from different regions of the country to find the best dishes you can coax out of cheaper cuts of meat.
- Flank steak and hanger steak (sometimes spelled hangar) respond well to long soaks in tenderizing marinades. Slice them into thin strips against the grain and cook quickly over high heat. A devotee from Massachusetts recommends cooking shoulder steak this way as well.
- Brisket comes at a similarly low cost but can be rendered priceless by the right rub recipe. It can also feed a whole party’s worth of people.
- Make more expensive meats go farther by serving them on skewers, yoking the pieces with vegetables such as bell peppers and onions. This is a good strategy for sirloin. William Rubel, author of “The Magic of Fire,” declares that cheap cuts of lamb, such as shanks, make the most delicious kebabs.
- For the best deal on chicken, buy the entire bird. Prepackaged parts often command $2 more per pound.
- A New Englander puts forward bone-in, skin-on turkey breast as an unsung crowd-pleaser. Stuff it with fresh herbs and butter and baste the meat continually so it stays moist.
- A pork shoulder is one of the cheapest cuts you can buy and ideal for barbecuing. For the initiated, that specifically refers to long, slow cooking with indirect heat, as opposed to rapid grilling directly over a heat source. Higher-priced tenderloin gets too dry, one butcher told Cheapism. He favors less costly ribs, brined or boiled first so they turn out nice and tender.
- Hot dogs certainly don’t cost much, but their ingredients tend to arouse suspicion. Bratwurst, popular among Midwesterners, provides a flavorful, affordable alternative.
One final piece of advice, courtesy of Real Simple: Be friendly with the folks working the meat counter at your local supermarket. They can alert you to upcoming discounts that bring pricier cuts within your budget.