With the official start of summer approaching and the weather warming up across the country, chances are you are going to be spending a lot more time cooking outside. Hosting frequent BBQ get-togethers (or even outdoor cooking for a large family) can get expensive fast. Especially when it comes to buying enough meat and/or cooking several different types of meat to please everyone.
With the right preparation and enough cooking time, inexpensive cuts of meat can still be a crowd-pleaser. You don’t always have to splurge on the most expensive cuts of meat to turn out some delicious results on your grill or smoker.
So, if you’re wondering what are the cheapest cuts of meat, we’ve got you covered! We’ve put together a list of some great options in meat that will help reduce the cost of feeding a crowd and still keep everyone happy.
A whole chicken is a great, cost-saving meat option that is extremely versatile and easy to cook on your grill or in a smoker. You can slow-cook/smoke a chicken whole, butterfly (aka spatchcock) it, or carve it up yourself and cook it in smaller pieces. By avoiding pre-cut chicken options (especially boneless, skinless chicken breasts) and opting for whole chicken, you can save around $1 per pound in meat.
If you do want to go with a pre-cut chicken option that is still more affordable, bone-in, skin-on thighs and drumsticks are great. Both of these, which are cut from the leg of the chicken, hold their moisture much better than the more expensive chicken breasts.
Usually, you can get chicken thighs and drumsticks for just over $1 per pound. You can do a variety of different flavors in seasoning, rubs, and/or sauces with these and end up with a delicious meal.
Source: Dirty Laundry Kitchen
Another popular BBQ favorite that can easily feed a lot of people is chicken wings. Wings are delicious grilled or even smoked and can be flavored any way you like. The price will usually be around $2 a pound for chicken wings, making this meat option more affordable than many beef cuts. No matter how you cook them, wings are great as an appetizer or even the main course.
It doesn’t just have to be Thanksgiving to enjoy juicy grilled or smoked turkey. Plus, if it’s outside of the holiday season you can get an even better deal. Like whole chicken, you can easily cook it a variety of different ways and feed a big group. Turkey is often available for around $1.50 a pound or less.
As with chicken, you’ll get a better deal buying a whole turkey and cutting it up yourself versus buying pre-cut items like turkey breast, which tends to be pretty expensive relative to other cuts.
Ribs are another item that is always a crowd-pleaser, no matter if you choose beef or pork. When it comes to beef, beef back ribs are delicious and also one of the cheapest cuts of beef you can get. Compared to other items on this list, you may not get as much meat per pound but it’ll still be a great deal for beef.
When selecting your rack of ribs, look for ones that have plenty of meat with a little fat as well. At least half the rack’s weight and price is the bones, so try and maximize the meat and take fewer bones for the price if you can. This will help you get the most for your money. If you cook the ribs low and slow you’ll end up with a flavorful and tender result that everyone will enjoy.
Source: Traeger Grills
If you or your guests prefer pork, pork ribs are a great option as well when it comes to economical cuts of meat. While pork ribs are not the cheapest pork cut available, they are still an inexpensive cut of meat compared to others. Like beef ribs, look for ribs with plenty of meat and plan on cooking them low and slow to achieve the best results.
Ribeye Steak cuts are consistently a higher-priced option compared to most other cuts. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to totally skip it for your outdoor get-together. If you don’t want to splurge on the pricier filet or ribeye, go for a chuck eye steak.
Cut from the upper shoulder of the cow in the fifth rib area, this steak shares a similar flavor and meat-to-fat ratio with the ribeye because it is the next cut over from the rib eye. So, if you’re craving steak, you don’t always have to spend a ton of money to get a delicious cut that still does well on the grill.
If you’re definitely leaning towards beef for your cookout, one of the most economical cuts of meat you can buy is ground chuck. Burgers always make a great option and you can dress them up with creative add-ins or toppings and still keep costs down. Keep in mind that the best and juiciest burgers need to be about 20% or more fat. So, save even more money by skipping the leaner, pricier ground beef.
If you want to kick things up a notch, lamb will definitely do that. But, good lamb can be expensive - depending on the cut. The popular lamb cuts like rack of lamb, leg, and loin are going to be higher priced than many other cuts of meat. But, a great lower-priced option is the breast. Cut from the rib section, not far from the rack of lamb, it is still a very flavorful and tender cut.
Usually, you’ll find lamb breast at your local butcher shop with the ribs and bones attached. But, it is often also available with the ribs sold separately as spareribs or riblets. Another option is to cut the meat away from the bone and make lamb kebabs with vegetables. This will make the meat go even farther when you’re feeding a large group.
Source: US Wellness Meats
The delicious cut of meat that is usually used to make BBQ favorite pulled pork is also one of the least expensive cuts of pig. Pork butt, cut from the pork shoulder, is loaded with flavor and often costs only around $2 per pound or less. At an average of 7 lbs, this cut will easily allow you to feed a crowd.
Prepare it right and plan on slow cooking and smoking the pork butt for a while and you’ll end up with a mouth-watering result.
For budget-friendly grilling, bone-in pork chops are another tasty option when cooked properly. In comparison to other pork cuts, chops are a little higher in price at usually around $4 per pound. But, they are still more economical compared to almost any steak. Ideally, you want to select thick-cut pork chops to minimize the chance of them drying out on the grill. Also, going with pork rib chops versus pork loin chops will give you more meat and less bone per person.
As you can see, there is a good variety of options available when it comes to inexpensive cuts of meat. When shopping at the butcher shop, you don’t have to go all out every time to be able to cook some great-tasting meat. Your butcher can help select the best cuts of any of the meats we covered above, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.
Just make sure you follow proper preparation and give yourself plenty of time to cook. Then, you’ll have some great results and plenty of food to go around.
Do you know of any other delicious economical cuts of meat? Plan on cooking a variety of these soon? Drop a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
Check out the step-by-step backyard barbecue cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy to learn a variety of different recipes straight from the champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters. Some of which use cuts we covered in the article above.
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Sara, another way to use a Boston Pork Butt is the way we do it in St. Louis. We have the butcher cut across the bone ( so it looks like a steak) in 1.5" slices, and then bbq them , saucing toward the end. You do have to watch how long you do them to make sure they are cooked but not shoe leather.