My Broke Kitchen

My Broke Barbecue: Grilling on a Budget

June 25, 2014

Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, Gabriella Paiella shows us how to make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Get your grill on. 

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There are few cooking methods as satisfying as grilling. For starters, you're outside -- the weather's warm, you probably have a couple beers in you. More importantly, you're harnessing a whole bunch of fire. It's a great balance of getting primal and enjoying modern-day convenience (see: ketchup). 

Grilling on a budget is slightly more difficult, especially if you're looking to entertain a crowd. You're likely not going to be able to spring for steaks or a rack of ribs, but with a few adjustments, you'll be barbecuing with the best of 'em. 


For the frugal meat eaters out there, I can't stress this enough: Think quality over quantity. Buy good meat that's raised ethically and sustainably. Yes, it's pricier and your barbecue will have less meat overall, but it's better for your health, animal welfare, and the environment.

This doesn't mean you need to go entirely meatless, though -- try vegetable-heavy kebabs to stretch a smaller amount of meat, turn your steak into a saladgrill a whole chicken, or try perfecting a classic burger. Remember that cheaper cuts of meat, like flank steak and chicken thighs, do well on the grill, too.

More: Read Patrick Martin's advice on buying sustainable meat -- and being a responsible carnivore.

Vegetarian Mains

Meatless grilled mains are both affordable and vegetarian-friendly. Beans -- a broke kitchen staple -- make for a cheap burger alternative. If you don't want to go the burger route, try Grilled Halloumi or Grilled Peanut Tofu.

More: Want to go all out? Make your own buns, too.


Bread is cheap, carb-y, delicious, and you probably already have it in your house. Grilled Garlic Toast is a standby; add tomatoes dressed with olive oil and vinegar for easy bruschetta, or top it with pesto. And don't forget about Grilled Pizza

Vegetable Sides 

Grilled Corn with Basil Butter

It's a shame not to introduce your summer produce to the grill. Tuscan Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash, Grilled Brussels Sprouts, and Grilled Corn with Basil Butter are all great places to start, while Grilled Swiss Chard Stems are a great way to ensure you're not wasting anything.

More: Check out our favorite provisions for outdoor entertaining.


Make your own barbecue sauce for something that's both cheaper and better than anything you can get bottled. Go mustard-based or heavy on the red wine vinegar. Salsas are another way to make your barbecue more interesting, on the cheap -- and you can grill those, too. And don't forget to DIY your ketchup and mustard.


Grilled Fruit on Food52

Fruit grills up beautifully, and allows you to make a relatively involved dessert without spending much time or money -- think grilled peaches, apricots, pineapple, and bananas

For even more inspiration, check out what our staff is grilling these days, then tell us: What are your favorite ways to grill on a budget? 

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Any Night Grilling is your guide to becoming a charcoal champion (or getting in your grill-pan groove), any night of the week. With over 60 ways to fire up dinner—no long marinades or low-and-slow cook times in sight—this book is your go-to for freshly grilled meals in a flash.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Marian Bull
    Marian Bull
  • carswell
  • craig
Yes, my name rhymes.


Marian B. June 25, 2014
One time I tried grilling cookie dough. I do not recommend this.
craig June 28, 2014
omg yeah i dont thik i will
carswell June 25, 2014
Whenever I do steak on the grill I always do extra and use it for salads/lunches afterwards. Rare steak, sliced thinly and served at room temperature with a mixture of greens and tomatoes and a light oil/lemon juice dressing is almost as good as the first serving right off the barbecue.