How To

Firing Up the Grill Without Burning Through Your Budget

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Whatever your Memorial Day budget, firing up the grill is a sure way to celebrate on the cheap.

It’s possible to prepare every course on the grill, from salad to dessert, for very little cash. That’s true even if you want something more interesting than grilled burgers and hot dogs. We asked bloggers, chefs and other experts to share some of their best cheap, grill-worthy fare. (Add your own recipes in the comments!)

Here are eight that could be a good fit for your holiday weekend repertoire:

Mustard and Pistachio-Crusted Pork Chops

“Spicy mustard and salty pistachios make for an irresistible combo,” says Richard Wachtel of GrillingWithRich.com. The crucial first step: an overnight brine before coating the chops.

Toasted Coconut S’mores

Sure, you could use the heat of the grill to toast marshmallows for standard s’mores, but Robyn Medlin of  GrillGrrrl.com has a version that’s less messy and more gourmet, incorporating ginger snaps and shredded coconut.

Coca-Cola Chicken

Even same-old, same-old chicken gets a gourmet take with this inexpensive marinade, made from cola soda, kosher salt and a few other items you probably already have on hand.

Grilled Hanger Steak with Bacon Chimichurri

Bacon fans will be pleased to know their favorite food can be used to enliven grilled meats, too. Chef E. Michael Reidt of Area 31 in Miami uses it in a version of tangy chimichurri sauce. “All told, the dish costs $5.85 per person,” he says.

To make it: In a large, shallow dish, combine two smashed cloves garlic, one chopped sprig of thyme, half a chopped sprig of rosemary, a quarter-cup dry red wine, half a chopped red onion and a half-tablespoon olive oil. Add two hanger steaks and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours.

In a food processor, pulse one clove garlic, two tablespoons each of parsley and oregano, two tablespoons rice vinegar, the juice of half a lemon and a quarter-cup olive oil until the herbs are pureed. Scrape into a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large skillet, cook a quarter-pound bacon 
over moderate heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels and let cool, and then finely chop. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the skillet. Scrape the marinade off the steaks, season them with salt and pepper to taste and grill until charred all over. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for five minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the bacon fat in the skillet. Add the herb sauce and simmer over high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the bacon to serve.

Grilled Bananas

It doesn’t get much cheaper than this grilled banana recipe from Medlin. All you’ll need is bananas, a sprinkling of brown sugar and cinnamon, and maybe some whipped cream.

Onion Packets

Clara Silverstein, author of “A White House Garden Cookbook,” says this recipe — originally from Tiger Post Community Education Center
in Ipswich, S.D. — “is one of the easiest things to throw on the grill.”

To make, you’ll need an onion, a tablespoon butter and a tablespoon (or cube) of bouillon for each person. Peel the onion and cut off the root end and the top. Use a 
sharp knife to make a small hole in the top of the onion, big enough to fit the bouillon inside, with the piece of butter on top of it.

Place each onion on its own sheet of aluminum foil. Pull up the sides of 
the foil to make a package, scrunching it closed at the top. Place on 
the top rack of a grill for 45 minutes to an hour, until the onion is soft and juicy. Put 
the foil package into a small bowl and let it 
cool for five minutes before unwrapping. Pour any juice from the packet over the 
top of the onion and serve.

Smoky Salmon Kebabs

In January, we pegged this recipe as cheap, healthy fare that might help you stick to a New Year’s resolution. Even if your lose-weight, get-healthy goal has fallen by the wayside, this dish is worth reviving.

Lemon Asparagus

At 50 cents per serving, this veggie dish – cooked in a foil pouch — is both gourmet and cheap. Another take: ditch the foil, coat the asparagus in a mixture of olive oil, sugar and salt, and use the grill to caramelize the spears.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.