The Best Meat to Grill if You're on a Budget but Love Flavor

If the cost of meat has got you rethinking your grill usage, try out these cheaper cuts of meat instead.

Don't get us wrong: There are few things greater than grilled filet mignon, a rack of ribs, or seared boneless chicken breasts slathered in barbecue sauce. But for those who love to perfect the art of barbecuing in the summer months (or better yet, all year long), using the same cuts of meat can be tiresome. Plus, the cost can be prohibitive.

We're all in for finding alternative, more affordable cuts of meat, and we also love tossing new ingredients on the grill. So we tapped Sophie Mellett-Grinnell, the Market Specialist for Baldor Specialty Foods, to give us the lowdown on the best meat to grill if you are on a budget or looking for a new option.

Thin Cuts of Beef

Thin cuts—like skirt steak, flank steak, brisket, sirloin flap (bavette​​​​​​), hangar, boneless short rib (think Korean BBQ), Denver steak, and tri-tip—cook quickly and are much more versatile for backyard chefs to use. They lend themselves to be used in a wide range of dishes, like Mexican fajitas, salads, and hot sandwiches, and are generally more affordable than traditional middle meat cuts like rib eyes, strip loins, and filets. Best of all, they take well to rubs and marinades, absorbing the spices more quickly than other cuts—which are better left marinating overnight or longer.

Slow-Cooked Pork

Pork will always remain a popular BBQ favorite, with St. Louis and Baby Back ribs being traditional selections. Slow cooking will influence pork barbecue with options like slow-smoked pork butts and other cuts (like pork shanks) cooked low and slow. They cook until they're super tender, and as with slow cooking, this style of prep requires very little hands-on action.

Bone-In Chicken Pieces

When it comes to chicken, look for easier-to-manage pieces like wings, drumsticks, and thighs over boneless breasts or thighs. According to the USDA, a package of pre-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts costs on average $3.69 per pound, while a whole bird is only $1.70. This means that pound-for-pound, they're more than twice as expensive. Once you factor in the weight of the bones, breaking down a whole chicken will typically still cost slightly less, plus it includes thighs, wings, drumsticks, and a back in addition to the breasts.

Veal and Lamb Cuts

Veal is lighter than beef, and many chefs have been embracing ways to incorporate cuts (like the end rib chop, the hangar, and the cut short ribs) on the grill. Veal also lends itself to rubs and marinades at an inexpensive price point. The same goes for lamb: It's next-level juicy and delicious off the grill.

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