It’s tempting to splurge on pricey cuts when grilling season rolls around. But you don’t have to—at least, not all the time. Our guide to summer barbecuing meats walks you through the best value cuts and the ones you should indulge so you can match the right meat to the right occasion. It’s all about balance!
Save Some Money
1. Chicken thighs and legs
Thighs and legs (a.k.a., dark meat) are the most flavour-packed, juiciest parts of a chicken. Cook and shred them for tacos, chop them for curry or brush bone-in thighs and legs with barbecue sauce and grill. During peach season, try Grilled Chicken Thighs with Curried Peach Sauce, or enjoy the deliciously crunchy coating on our Crusted Grilled Chicken Drumsticks.
Tip: For a fast, simple marinade, coat chicken thighs and legs with a squeeze of citrus and a splash of olive oil, plus salt, pepper, paprika and minced garlic to taste.
2. Beef short ribs
Super juicy and deliciously chewy, these ribs are amazing brushed with oil, generously seasoned and then quickly grilled. Try them Korean-style with a spicy barbecue sauce or cooked the same way as our Barbecued Beer-Braised Beef Ribs. Short ribs go well with grilled new potatoes and a salad of peppery greens, red onions and sweet peppers.
Tip: Pair beef ribs with a hearty red wine, such as a Shiraz or a Cabernet Sauvignon.
3. Ground meats
Budget-friendly ground meat is ideal for feeding a crowd. Transform it into tasty Fry Bread Tacos with Creamy Slaw. Shape and skewer ground meat for koftas (try pork instead of lamb for even more savings), or roll it into meatballs and drizzle with Ultimate Summer Savoury Sauce. (That sauce is no-fail, made with a secret flavour booster: our Spirited Mickie Mustard & Hops Gold Rush BBQ Sauce.)
Tip: Burger, meatball and meat loaf recipes are flexible. Switch up the ground meat—chicken, beef, turkey, pork or lamb—for a new twist each time.
4. Beef marinating steaks (such as flank steak, skirt steak and sirloin tip)
A good marinade makes these slightly tougher cuts extra flavourful and softens their natural chewiness. Cook them whole and slice thinly for serving over salads or stuffing into tacos. Or cube them and grill up tasty Chimichurri Beef Skewers.
Tip: Don’t cook marinating steaks beyond medium-rare or they’ll end up on the chewy side.
5. Bone-in pork chops
Leaving the bones in is the secret to making flavourful chops. Eat the meat right off the bone or slice it and serve over a green salad topped with sliced apple, dried cranberries, or fresh or canned pear chunks. Our Honey-Cumin Glazed Pork Chops are delicious with barbecued veggies, and our Jerk Pork Chops with Tropical Salsa turn a summer cookout into a fiesta.
Tip: Pork chops love marinades. Mix up a simple one with soy sauce, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil and mustard.
Worth the Spend
1. Beef grilling steaks (such as T-bone, New York strip and filet mignon)
These cuts are super tender, so they don’t need to spend time marinating. We suggest serving grilling steaks for small gatherings and special occasions. Paired with lemon-dill butter and asparagus, T-bones are amazing. And it’s the blistered grilled tomatoes that make our Ultimate Steak such a summertime hit.
Tip: These fine cuts need very little seasoning. Just brush them with melted butter (or oil) and grainy mustard, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then grill.
2. Whole poultry (chicken and turkey)
You can cook a chicken or turkey whole, or cut it down either side of the backbone (called spatchcocking) to grill flat so it’s ready fast. Roasting your bird over indirect heat works well but takes time—the smoky results are worth it, though. Poultry is tasty with leafy greens drizzled with our tangy Cider Bacon Dressing or served with crunchy Green Power Salad with Avocado Dressing. A big whole Apple Cider–Brined Barbecued Turkey will feed a hungry crowd, while a smaller Grilled Flattened Paprika Chicken is just right for a laid-back meal for four to six. For a fun twist, try a Maple BBQ Beer Can Chicken.
Tip: Save the bones and toss them into a stockpot with herb stems, onion, garlic, celery and carrots, and then cover with water. Simmer to make a hearty broth.
3. Beef tenderloin
The name of this cut says it all. Unbeatable when roasted whole on the grill, tenderloin is so incredibly tender that it doesn’t need marinating. But it is wonderful topped with a rich wine-based finishing sauce. Try our simple Mustard-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Glaze or go all out and make our Roast Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce. Remember, your barbecue makes a great oven; you can easily roast this cut over indirect heat.
Tip: Indirect grilling means your food is cooked near the heat instead of right over it. If you have a two-burner barbecue, heat one burner; if it’s a three-burner barbecue, heat the outer two. Place the meat over the unlit part and roast as directed.
4. Rack of lamb
Barbecuing enhances lamb’s delicate flavour. It’s delicious simply rubbed and grilled or topped with a delicious crust or sauce. A rack carves into gorgeous little chops to make a cozy dinner for two. Try lamb with our Red & White Bean & Radish Salad, which is also great for potlucks and picnics.
Tip: Save leftover chopped lamb and throw together a pizza with a ready-made pizza base, tomato sauce and shredded cheese. Serve it with creamy Donair Pizza Drizzle for a Nova Scotia–style treat.
5. Pork tenderloin
Leaner and pricier than chops, pork tenderloin is very good when marinated and grilled. In the summer, smoky Maple Plank Pork Tenderloin with Honey Dijon is just the thing for a simple backyard barbecue. Tenderloin also makes terrific kabobs, as in our Grilled Balsamic Pork Skewers. They’re an easy dinner with grilled veggies on the side.
Tip: To make a quick rub, season tenderloin with garlic powder, your favourite spices, salt and pepper. Refrigerate it overnight to soak up the flavours.