Festivities this summer are likely to look much different this year, but Americans can still find ways to enjoy at home.
Nearly 80% of Americans planned to spend less money on the Fourth of July this year than they did last year, according to a June WalletHub survey. But you can still put together a barbecue on a budget, according to celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito. You can even serve up steak.
For those people who are tired of cooking, the grill may also reinvigorate your culinary pursuits, DiSpirito says. "Grilling is the summer game changer; it's where cooking becomes a spectator sport and a boat show all at one time."
The James Beard award-winning chef and New York Times bestselling cookbook author shared with Grow his best money-saving grilling tips, along with a recipe for a steak fajita platter that costs just $3.68 per serving.
When planning your cookout, selecting the right meat at the grocery store can save you a ton of money, DiSpirito says.
Here are his three favorite low-cost cuts of meat:
- Chicken and turkey drumsticks or thighs. "Pound for pound they are some of the most delicious and inexpensive proteins out there."
Cost comparison: One pound of chicken drumsticks or thighs costs less than $2 on average. More expensive poultry cuts like chicken breast can cost $5 or more per pound.
- Skirt steak. Besides being a cheaper beef alternative, skirt steak also is an easy protein to cook with if you're a novice griller, DiSpirito says. "It's easy to prep and cook, and it does well with a quick marinade on the grill."
Cost comparison: Skirt steak costs an average of $7.99 a pound, compared to more expensive cuts of beef like a strip or shell steak, which cost $13.99 a pound.
- Pork shoulder. "A supercheap cut that can feed a family."
Cost comparison: Pork shoulders cost less than $3 a pound. Similar sized cuts, like a leg of lamb, can run upwards of $14 per pound.
The cost of a grill can range dramatically, but generally the price of a charcoal grill is less than a gas grill. A basic charcoal grill costs just $25, while a moderately priced charcoal grill can be found for around $150, according to Taste of Home magazine. Gas grills usually cost between $130 and $300, the publication found.
In addition, charcoal grills also give food a smokey and delicious flavor that gas grills can't, DiSpirito says.
DiSpirito's secret grilling weapon is a Japanese white oak charcoal called Binchotan. Besides providing a flavor enhancement, this type of charcoal is economical, he says. "Find some on Amazon and try it. It lasts five times longer than conventional charcoal, it's smokeless, and the flavor is incomparable!"
Grow found a 2-pound supply of Binchotan for $55 on Etsy. Japanese chefs use Binchotan to cook delicacies like Yakitori, which is skewered barbecued meat that's seasoned with a Japanese soy or Teriyaki-like sauce called tare.
While Binchotan can be more expensive outright, when compared to other charcoals, it burns for longer; generally 3 to 5 hours, DiSpirito says.
All in all, grilling is a great culinary equalizer, he says. And it can make the restrictions that the summer of 2020 has imposed a little easier to tolerate. "Everyone can grill and everyone loves gear, so grilling is the perfect summer activity and useful hobby for anyone who dares."
Here is DiSpirito's recipe for steak fajitas with peppers and an avocado mash, which costs just $3.68 per serving. This is from his newest cookbook, "Rocco's Keto Comfort Food Diet."
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