The Best Budget Cuts of Meat to Grill All Summer Long

The Best Budget Cuts of Meat to Grill All Summer LongBy Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor, EatingWell Magazine

This summer, I'm all about sticking to my budget. Unfortunately some of my favorite meats to grill are on the expensive side. Beef tenderloin runs around $15 per pound--even chicken breast is expensive at around $6.50 per pound. I wanted to see if I can set a limit and not spend more than $6 per pound for anything that lands on my grill.

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Will I be left with anything that's still worth eating? Yes! Here are 5 of the best, healthy, budget-friendly cuts of meat to grill all summer long.

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1. Bone-in Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks: Chicken thighs and drumsticks run around $2.50 per pound and they're AWESOME on the grill. Dark meat is not only less expensive than white meat, but it's a little more forgiving when you cook it. White meat tends to dry out if you overcook it, but chicken thighs and drumsticks tend to stay moist even if you overcook them a little. (They have a slightly higher amount of fat and more connective tissue than breast meat, but more iron too.) Plus, bones act as insulators that slow the cooking process. That prevents the meat from drying out, hence the phrase "tender at the bone."

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2. Beef Sirloin: This is what I'll be grilling when I have a hankering for a New York strip steak (which is too expensive at around $9.50 per pound). Sirloin is less expensive at around $6 per pound. It has less fat than a strip steak, and because of that it can be a little dry. But that's easily remedied by watching it closely to prevent overcooking or by turning it into kebabs. Just cut it into 1-1/2-inch cubes and thread it onto a skewer with some veggies. And here's another money-saving tip: by pairing your steak kebabs with vegetables (which tend to be a lot cheaper than meat) means you won't need to buy as much sirloin to make your meal.

3. Ground Beef: Let's not forget about burgers! Ground beef is still pretty cheap at around $4.50 per pound. Opt for 90%-lean or leaner to keep fat and calories in check. And if you don't use up all the ground beef you get in a package, you can easily freeze it for future use in an airtight bag.

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4. Ground Turkey: For those who don't like red meat or simply want to eat something different, don't forget about ground turkey. It's about $4 per pound and it's a good stand-in for ground beef. It's usually made from dark meat (which makes it moist) and it's mild in flavor, so it's good to mix in other flavor elements like fresh herbs, onion or flavorful cheese to jazz it up.

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5. Bone-in Pork Chops: These come in at around $5 per pound and they're downright delicious. For a healthy choice, opt for "pork rib chops," which only have the loin attached to the bone and are an appropriate serving size, and skip "pork loin chops," which also have the tenderloin attached. (You'll be able to tell a pork loin chop by the T-shaped bone that holds the loin and tenderloin in place. The rib chop has only the rib bone.) Choosing these will ensure that you're getting about 3 to 4 ounces of meat per person.

What's your favorite cut of meat to grill?

By Hilary Meyer

Hilary Meyer

EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.


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