Now You’re Cooking with Gas (or Charcoal)
Break out that gas grill because it may cost more than a charcoal grill but it costs less to use. A 20 pound propane bottle will allow you 25 nights of outdoor cooking but 20 pounds of charcoal only allows you to cook 3 times. So while the propane is more money initially every time you fire up your grill, if it’s charcoal it will cost you about $3.50 to use and if it’s gas it will closet you only about 60 cents. Of course propane prices can vary but the averages are always in favour of the gas grill.
Your fuel expense can also be reduced to save money. Most gas grills heat up quickly and are ready for use within 5 to 10 minutes. Charcoal is ready in about 15 minutes. Be ready to cook when your grill is. Have everything prepared ahead so all you have to do is grill the meat or vegetables or whatever imaginative thing you put on the grill.Turn off the grill as soon as you are done cooking and you can reduce your fuel consumption greatly. For charcoal cooking, use only as much as your need. 3-5 pounds of charcoal is enough to cook for 4-6 people.
The difference in prices also reflects durability. Less expensive grills are just not built to last. A cheap grill that flares-up, cooks unevenly, and is unreliable will not only let you down cooking experience wise but is also more likely to ruin what’s on the grill and that’s where it can get expensive.
Those expensive cuts of meat have to be cooked just right and flareups cause loss of an entire meal and money out of your pocketbook.
Keep your grill maintained and get as long a life out of it as you can. Proper grill maintenance includes cleaning it thoroughly before and after each grilling session.
Dispose of charcoal ashes once they cool and if its a gas grill, be sure to change the catch-pan liner and rub down the grate with oil or cooking spray before and after each use. Doing this will keep your meat from sticking and a ruined and wasted dinner. A damp paper towel is perfect to wipe up any spills once the grill is cool. This type of maintenance ensures that the grease and salt aren’t present to accelerate corrosion.
Propane prices range depending on where you purchase them. Typically you will pay more for propane tank exchange services than you do to get your tank refilled. Finding a central propane distribution centre might also save you a few dollars because they are the source for propane that most refill stations buy from so they are able to sell propane for a little less.
Price and durability will save you money in the long run. Gas grills have a large range of pricing, anywhere from $100USD to as much as $10,000. And while Charcoal grills can be had for as little as $20 they can go as high as $2,000.
It’s all about the meat
Meat is expensive and it seems to get even more so with every new season. Choosing less expensive cuts of meat doesn’t mean sacrificing quality. Grill masters know that rubs, marinades and sauces used properly enhance and increase the taste of some cuts of meat. Butchers often charge more for certain cuts of meat. If you look at the meat counter at your local grocery store you’ll quickly see which cuts cost more because of the labour involved. Learn how to be your own butcher. Buying larger cuts of meat can be far cheaper and if you can cut it into smaller portions yourself, you save the butcher costs. An easy example of doing this is to buy a whole pork loin and cut it into pork loin chops.
If you plan on firing up the grill, whether its for a party or just a casual weeknight dinner, why not throw on a little extra while the grill is still hot. You can use that grilled meat in a sandwich for lunch the next day, for a leftover dinner when there’s no time to cook or even in a salad. It’s a good way to make the most of your fuel as well as prepping ahead for lunches and dinners that saves you valuable time.
Remember, you can grill literally anything on the BBQ so vegetable kabobs, mushroom burgers, pizzas and more all make for good, economical food fare and will satisfy even the hungriest appetites while not stretching your food budget.