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Top 10 BBQ tips on a budget

OK, so BBQ can be one of those expensive hobbies if you let it, but for many, where funds are more limited, it can be a great inexpensive pastime. We all enjoy shiny toys when we can, but what do you really need to get started?

 Marcus Bawdon   Spring 2023

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Here's 10 ways in which you can make BBQ a little more affordable.

Really, a circle of rocks with an inexpensive grill over the top campfire style, can be a great way to learn the art of fire and heat control before deciding what style of outdoor cooking you prefer. You need to be on top of your fire control, especially if burning wood to embers, and you are more exposed to the vagaries of wind and rain, which can quickly remove heat from your grill.

I learned to BBQ on an oil drum that I cut in half, pop-riveted hinges and a handles on, lined with firebricks and fitted with an inexpensive grate. It worked a treat, but was certainly a challenge to control temperatures.

The next step up, would be to pick yourself up a kettle BBQ with a lid; 57cm is the most useful size, often they can be picked up second hand, and will last a very long time. Even when you ‘level up’ it will still be a useful part of your BBQ armoury, or you can pass it on to someone just getting started.

With smoking wood chunks, these can prove costly if you use too many, so consider reducing the amount of wood on your smoker. When starting out, a lot of us use too much smoking wood; using less saves money and the flavour of your food will benefit too. Less really is more here.



Sometimes paying a little more for a more durable quality bit of kit can reap rewards; sometimes the cheapest of grills end up on the scrap. heap after a year.

A digital meat thermometer is a solid investment, ensuring you don't waste any of the precious cuts when you are getting started.

A great starter smoker is an Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) basically a smoker made from an old metal oil drum with a few vents and grill grates. Make sure that the drum is food safe and properly cleaned before use with food.

Unfortunately cheap charcoal can often be a false economy, easily ruining your carefully selected cuts, so choose the best charcoal you can afford. And don't waste it, using it carefully and snuffing out the coals at the end of a cook can save a lot of money in the long term.

The origins of BBQ were all about making the most out of the cheapest of cuts, and although many of these cuts are no longer such a bargain (i'm looking at you brisket) there can still be some tasty cuts cooked very slowly. A BBQ pig’s head, for example, can often be picked up for next to nothing, and yields a surprisingly large amount of tasty meat.

Don't be afraid of bulking out a BBQ meal with cheaper items (stand up mac ‘n’ cheese). Pimping up carby staples such as dirty fires and pulled-pork mac ‘n’ cheese, can make the expensive meat go a lot further. Using mince beef, sausagemeat, black pudding and bacon can all be cheaper meats to get creative with, and don't forget the possibilities with inexpensive veg on the BBQ, which brings the best out of them.





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