outdoor grilling

Outdoor Grilling on a Budget

Getting our outdoor grill cleaned, polished, and ready for summer got me thinking about how much fun it would be to celebrate. After all, the last day of school, first day of summer comes but once a year, so why not do things up right with an amazing menu and a few good friends to kick off the season even if that means grilling on a budget.

What happened next I can only attribute to a momentary lapse of good judgment.

I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “The best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.”

Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! Five (minimum order) 20-oz Porterhouse steaks: $769.95—plus overnight shipping.

 

A close up of a slice of pizza sitting on top of a table

Photo: Lobel’s New York

Just the thought of forking out that kind of money on the best beef money can buy jerked me back to reality with enough force to cause whiplash.

Surely, there has to be frugal ground somewhere between Lobel’s and what’s left of the buy-one-get-one-free hotdogs sitting in the freezer.

Professional butcher, John Smith, and author of Confessions of a Butcher: Eat Steak on a Hamburger Budget and Save $$$ says that the cheap cuts of beef are often the most flavorful. And also the toughest. But don’t let that discourage you from buying those meat-counter bargains. If you know the tricks you can buy the flavorful cheap cuts of meat without ending up with meat that is bland and tough.

Select first

Don’t get set on what you’ll be grilling before you get to the store. That particular cut may not be on sale. Instead, go with an open mind. Zero-in on the cuts of meat that are in season, plentiful and well-priced. And if it’s really cheap? Buy extra for the freezer.

Marinade

A marinade is the secret to making a tough cut of meat as succulent and tender as a prime cut. Just make sure your marinade of choice contains acids like vinegar, lemon, and wine. Acid breaks down the meat to make it tender. Enzymatic action from beer, cider, and soy sauce also help.

Below you’ll find a printable for my favorite marinade, excellent for any cut of beef, even kabobs. This is so flavorful and loaded with tenderizing acids you’re going to understand why I call this a miracle in a jar.

Temperature

The only way to guarantee that your meat will be moist, tender, and cooked to a safe temperature is with a food thermometer. Forget the “poke test” where you’re supposed to be able to discern a piece of meat’s level of doneness by poking at it with your finger. You need a decent thermometer that can get deep into whatever you’re grilling.

Not sure what is the exact right temperature for the items you’re grilling. Check out the extensive grilling and temperature charts BroBBQ.

The easiest and most reliable way to serve perfectly grilled fare is with a probe alarm. You simply insert the probe and then sit back and wait for it to reach the temperature you have designated.

ThermoWorks ChefAlarm is my pick for the best probe thermometer out there. It’s a few dollars more than the cheapest thing you could find, but this is the probe thermometer you will use and rely on for years—decades—to come. It is super accurate, reliable and durable, too.

 on a table

A less expensive, easy-to-use, and reliable option is the ThermoWorks ThermoPop digital display food thermometer. This pocket thermometer rotates the display in 90-degree increments. Hold the ThermoPop in either hand or read it when it’s upside down—any angle that’s convenient. To check the temperature, simply insert then wait for 3 to 4 seconds for a digital display. Comes in a choice of  9 cool colors.

A plate of food on a table, with Steak

All-Purpose Beef Marinade

A marinade is the secret to making a tough cut of meat as succulent and tender as a prime cut. This is my favorite marinade for any cut of beef, even kabobs. This is so flavorful and loaded with tenderizing acids you’re going to understand why I call it miracle in a jar.
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Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Time to marinate: 8 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Calories: 43kcal
Author: Mary Hunt
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups vegetable oil
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup white wine OR balsamic vinegar
  • cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp ground dry mustard
  • 2 ¼ tspn salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a jar or other container that has a lid. Shake well until fully mixed.
  • To Use: Pour over meat and cover. Allow marinating for 8 hours or overnight, turning often.

Notes

Nutrition is for 1 tbsn marinade per 4 oz. portion of beef.

Nutrition

Calories: 43kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1008mg | Potassium: 155mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 75IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Revised & Updated 5-26-21


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179 replies
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  1. Marla says:

    It seems I can never cook right on the grill. I try to go by the touch of the meat but it’s always a guessing game as to whether or not it’s going to be the medium rare that we like.

    Reply
  2. Martha Hoover says:

    Bad cooks need all the help they can get. That is why I ALWAYS use my recipes even though I have been cooking the same things for a very long time. Some of my sisters look at me when I cook and ask “Do you always use your recipes?” Two of them found out the hard way that I should always do that. I made them a chili recipe that I think is marvelous but I did not use the recipe (it was a simple 4 ingredient one and mistakenly thought I could pull if off) and put in too much cumin. It wasn’t too bad to me so I ended up eating the leftovers. They tried to be nice and eat it but sure did leave a lot for me to “enjoy” later.

    Reply
  3. Mark Motyka says:

    Deep frying a 20 pounder on Thanksgiving. Could not find my remote thermometer and did not have one to check the temp, so… I guessed by time and by size of the bird. Wrong guess. Spent the hour we were supposed to be feasting, microwaving half-cooked turkey. I guess I was the turkey. (Ask my wife)

    Reply
  4. Debra Kaiser says:

    I put together a grill On. My. First. Mother’s. Day! 3 hours later we were done after a few choice words and hoping it wouldn’t blow up on us. It was not a day to relax and enjoy. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Marion Guccione says:

    Hilarious stories, but everyone should have a Thermopen, whether they win it or buy it! Best regards to you Mary.

    Reply
  6. Lois Herman says:

    I just cannot seem to grill chicken. I either get burn them or they are not done well enough There is nothing worse than an under cooked piece of chicken. We love grilled chicken and I sure could use some help in getting it done so it is perfect. There have been times when even I would not eat it. Now that is bad!

    Reply
  7. Brenda says:

    I would say im pretty good at the grill. My mom taught me how to marinade meats overnight and most of the time i do a good enough job. Now my toughest competition is bone in cut up chicken pieces on the grill. I dont know why but its either done and i char the skin or there have been times that a bit of pink has been found. Gross! I want fully cooked chicken with a tender juicy meat and if its not too much to ask crispy skin!

    Reply
  8. Pam Buttz says:

    For Thanksgiving my husband bought a 28 lb turkey!!! We cooked it for 9 hours because my old meat thermometer never registered “done”! Let me inform you now…it doesn’t take 9 hours to get a 28 lb turkey “done”! If I would have had a Thermapen maybe it would have been “done” a few hours sooner.

    Reply
  9. Bjorn Olson says:

    I enjoy grilling, but I do NOT trust myself with the meat being done. I have had several ‘undercooked’ moments with chicken and burgers, which did not go over well. Now I am on the more cautious – “make sure it’s done” method and tend to OVERCOOK the meats. DRIED out meat. Not good! I would love a tool like this! Thanks for your great articles Mary!

    Reply
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