The Best Inexpensive Cuts of Meat

stuffed burgers
Leah Maroney

Expensive cuts of meat tend to be the ones that are tender and can be cooked quickly and easily. This doesn't mean that you can't create a great meal with a cut that costs less though. Barbecue and grilling give you the ability to cook these less costly cuts right and make something better than most any restaurant can turn out. Below we've provided a list of 10 cuts of meat that are ideal for the grill or smoker and are cost effective, but still make for a great cookout.

  • 01 of 10

    Chuck Eye Steak

    Chuck Eye Steak
    Jiri Hubatka / Getty Images

    First on our list are chuck steaks. They are a great alternative to more expensive steaks and the chuck eye steak is the best of this primal cut. Make sure you talk to your butcher so you are sure of what you are getting. Chuck steaks are not as tender as their more expensive cousins and will benefit from a good marinade. This will make the meat more tender so you won't notice that you save yourself some money. Also, avoid overcooking chuck steaks. They are perfect at medium rare, but tough at well done no matter how you prepare before it hits the grill.

  • 02 of 10


    Grilled Chicken with Rosemary
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    Chicken is a great choice for any cookout. Inexpensive, versatile, and easy to prepare, chicken is always a favorite. The secret to saving yourself money when buying chicken is to avoid the pre-cut pieces, like prepared, skinless, boneless chicken. Instead, with a little practice, you can easily cut up a whole chicken and save yourself some money. Take those pieces and throw them on the grill over a medium fire, brush on some barbecue sauce, and you have a great meal.

  • 03 of 10


    Barbecue Ribs
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    Whether beef or pork, ribs are an inexpensive solution to any cookout and something everyone loves. The secret to any rib is to cook it low and slow so you get tender meat and great flavor. When shopping for ribs, look for ones that have plenty of meat and a small amount of fat. The fat will keep the meat moist while it cooks, but don't pay for excessive amounts of fat. At least half the weight of a rack of ribs is bone so take fewer bones for the price if you can find it. Maximize the meat and get the most for your money.

  • 04 of 10


    stuffed burgers
    Leah Maroney

    Hamburgers are the most popular food to hit the grill and for a very good reason, almost everyone enjoys them. Whether you have the standard burger patty, or like to add a cheesy surprise, most guests are amenable to a good, juicy burger. Doesn't hurt that they won't break the bank, either.

    Nowadays, people seem to be coming up with hundreds of ways of making a better burger. Any way that you slice it, though, we recommend starting your burger journey by choosing fresh ground beef, handling it as little as possible, and avoiding making your burger patties too thick. It may sound like a good idea to to create thick burgers, but thick burgers require a longer cooking time, meaning a dryer burger. Also, you can stretch your ground meat farther by making a patty that fits your bun, not your eye.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Hot Dogs

    Hot dogs
    Grilling Cheese Social

    Many cookouts feature food for the adults and something for the kids. Typically the kids get hot dogs. One reason is that kids love hot dogs and the other is that they are cheap. Of course, hot dogs are much more than just treats for the kids. Hot dogs make a great meal for most any cookout and a great way to save money. You can spend a lot on hot dogs these days as so many people have come up with all sorts of specialty dogs and sausages, but you can shop and serve wisely by looking for something in the middle, then setting up a toppings bar to dress the dogs up any way you want. The expensive hot dogs at the deli counter are great, but so are many of the ones in the refrigerator section.

  • 06 of 10

    Flat Steaks

    Flat steak
    Jun Seita / Flickr / CC By 2.0

    These three steaks, the Flank SteakSkirt Steak, and Hanger Steak used to be so cheap that butchers used them for ground beef. Over the years, they have become popular for many dishes and the price has gone up so they are not as economical as they once were. What makes these cuts a good deal is what you can do with them. Since these are tougher cuts of meat your best bet is to marinate, grill, and slice. Serve these meats up on rice or pasta, as fajitas, in tacos or in other dishes. This stretches the meat making a meal for many out of a smaller cut of meat.

  • 07 of 10

    Pork Shoulder

    Grilled shoulder of pork, some slices cut away
    Getty Images/Ian O'Leary

    Pork shoulder, generally divided between the picnic roast and the Boston butt are among the least expensive cuts of pork. Of course, the secret of turning these tough pork roasts into a wonderful meal is to smoke them low and slow and turn it into barbecue pulled pork. This is one of the most popular types of barbecue and has been a mainstay of American cooking for centuries. The reason for this is because this is not only an inexpensive cut of meat but an inexpensive way to prepare it. Once you have your pork smoked and pulled, pile it up on cheap white bread buns and you have the perfect sandwich.

  • 08 of 10


    Beef Brisket
    Getty Images/jjpoole

    Untrimmed Beef Brisket is still one of the least expensive cuts of beef you can buy. Of course, once you cook it (low and slow) you will only get about half the weight in meat, but few things are better than barbecue brisket. For this, you will definitely need a smoker and a lot of time to smoke it right. When selecting a good beef brisket look for one with a good layer of fat, but not too thick. The fat is vital to good smoked brisket, but an excessive amount is just a waste of money. Examine the brisket carefully so you get the one you want. Frequently stores will only put a few briskets out front at a time. Talk to the butcher and ask to see what he has in the back if you can't find a brisket out front that meets your needs.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10


    Roasted turkey
    Victoria Pearson / Getty Images

    Outside of the holidays, turkey is largely overlooked. This is unfortunate. Turkey is an economical way to feed a lot of people and there are so many ways you can prepare it, such as brining the turkey before cooking. As with chicken, you get a better deal buying a whole turkey and cutting it up (if that's how you want it). Turkey breast tends to be pretty expensive relatively, but other cuts like thighs can be much more reasonable. Look for fresh turkey, not those packed with chemicals.

  • 10 of 10

    Lamb Breast

    Marinated lamb chops on barbecue
    Dirk Pieters/Getty Images

    Lamb is a wonderful meat for the grill. Unfortunately, good lamb can be hard to find and expensive. Lamb breast is cut from the rib section of the lamb. While it doesn't contain the much desired rack of lamb it has good meat that is very flavorful. Typically you can get the lamb ribs (sometimes called Denver Ribs) or lamb riblets. These can be tough cuts. Start with a strong marinade, putting in lemon juice as the acid. This will tenderize the meat and cut the sometimes strong flavor of lamb. Let the lamb sit in this marinade for several hours before cooking. If you are working with a relatively thin piece, cook it hot and fast trying not to over cook it. If you have a thicker cut, go slow and grill indirectly.