Barbecue & Grilling Cost Cutting

With a few simple tricks you can cut your barbecue bill

Grilling marinated turkey breast on a gas barbecue
Victor Cardoner / Getty Images

Learn how to save a little money when you take your dinner out to the grill. A few simple tips can help you save money now and in the long run by being informed about your purchases and your cooking while helping to improve your outdoor cooking experience. To save money you need to be a smart consumer and a smart griller.

  • 01 of 10

    Maintain Your Investment

    You've spent a lot of money on that grill, but if you don't take care of it, it isn't going to last. From the cheapest burger burner to the ultimate outdoor kitchen you need to keep your grill clean and maintained to get the most out of it. This may mean doing some occasional grill maintenance. Clean your grill regularly by pulling out the cooking grates and getting inside to remove all the food and grease that has accumulated in the bottom. Avoid using harsh chemicals like oven cleaner that can damage the burners, igniters, and other components. While you are in there inspect your it for wear and tear. Make sure that you keep your grill dry inside and out, by turning it on to dry it out and by putting a cover on it when not in use.

  • 02 of 10

    Charcoal Versus Gas

    Gas grills typically cost more than charcoal grills, but they cost less to use. Assuming that it costs $15 USD to fill a 20-pound propane bottle that gives you 25 cookouts and that 20 pounds of charcoal runs around $10 USD and gives you three cookouts you will spend about $.60 USD per every time you fire up the gas grill and around $3.50 on the charcoal grill. If you grilled every week you would spend $31.20 USD in propane or $182 USD on charcoal. Of course, there is more to the gas versus charcoal debate than cost, but if you grill a lot of​ gas is far more economical.

  • 03 of 10

    Be Your Own Butcher

    Meat is expensive. That's simply a fact, and since most of what we cook on the grill is going to be meat we need to be smart about it. What we want to do is choose less expensive cuts of meat while trying not to sacrifice quality. Try avoiding are specialty cuts. Frequently butchers charge more for some cuts of the same piece of meat. If you look through the meat counter at the grocery store you can see what we are talking about. For this reason, it is a good idea to learn how to carve your own cuts. Buying large "primal" cuts of meat is usually cheaper. All you have to do is cut these into small pieces. For instance, buy a whole pork loin and cut it into pork loin chops. Also, try shopping at large meat markets where you can find better deals.

  • 04 of 10

    Durability Versus Price

    You can get a gas grill for under $100 USD or you can spend $10,000. Charcoal grills can be had for as little as $20 or over $2,000. There are many reasons for the difference in prices, but one of the most important is durability. The least expensive grills are simply not built to last. There is a common argument that if you paid $200 for a gas grill that lasted two years it would be just as cheap as spending $1,000 on a grill that lasted 10 years. But there is more to this argument than that. If you buy a cheap grill that flares-up, cooks uneven, and is unreliable you won't get as much enjoyment out of it. This will cause you to use it less, so you get less use than on a more expensive grill, meaning less value.

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  • 05 of 10

    Use Your Warranty

    Most grills come with a warranty and most good grills come with a great warranty. Use it. From many grill makers, you can get replacement parts for your grill for many years and often without costing you a dime. This is particularly true of name brand grills (not store brand grills). It is important, but not always necessary that you keep the receipt and paperwork for your grill so please hang on to it. A good idea is to put the important papers in a Zip-Top bag and tape it inside your grill for future reference. If the grill maker gives you trouble on your warranty claim, ask to talk to a supervisor. And remember, many warranties do not cover wear and tear, or even rust and corrosion so keep your grill clean.

  • 06 of 10

    Buy the Right Charcoal Grill

    A good charcoal grill can be shut down, putting out the fire, and saving your remaining charcoal for next time. This means you add as much charcoal as you need for the next cookout, typically only two or three pounds. This can save you two or three pounds of charcoal every time you light your charcoal grill, saving you considerable money. We include this information in my charcoal grill reviews, but what you want to look for is a grill where the lid fits tightly to the body and the vents close nice and tight. This will cut the flow of oxygen and put out the fire when you are done grilling.

  • 07 of 10

    Fuel Efficiency

    You can greatly reduce your fuel expense for your grill by avoiding excessive preheating. Most gas grills are ready to cook in 5 to 10 minutes, and most charcoal is ready in about 15 minutes. If you are ready to cook the second your grill is, and you turn your grill off as soon as you are done you can reduce your fuel consumption greatly. When using charcoal, only use as much as you absolutely need. Most grills will cook great on about 5 pounds of charcoal. It also helps if you have a charcoal grill that can be shut down (see the next item). Conserve fuel and grill more.

  • 08 of 10

    Shop for Propane

    Propane prices can vary from station to station. Also, you typically pay more for propane tank exchange services than you do to get your tank refilled. We strongly suggest that you shop around for your propane to save yourself a few dollars. Look for a central propane distribution center. Since they are the source for propane that most refill stations buy from, they can sell their propane for less money. Currently, propane costs about $2.50 USD per gallon, yet many refill stations charge as much as a dollar more.

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  • 09 of 10

    Light Charcoal the Right Way

    Petroleum-based charcoal lighter fluids are not only a noxious combination of chemicals but completely unnecessary. Try using a charcoal chimney to light your charcoal. The upfront cost is higher, but you will never need to buy lighter fluid again. An electric charcoal starter is another option, though it uses electricity and needs a handy plug available, it is energy efficient, and can last for years without replacement.

  • 10 of 10

    Go Natural Gas

    If you have natural gas at your house you are probably getting it for a fraction of the price of propane. Consider converting to natural gas. Not only will this eliminate the need to get your propane tank refilled, but it can save you money over time. If you are buying a new gas grill, look for a natural gas model. If you already have a propane gas grill check to see if there is a conversion kit available.