Expert advice from Kell Phelps, Publisher, National Barbecue News.
Have you ever stopped and realized exactly how much you have invested into your tailgating and barbecue rituals? I can personally testify that my wife would go nuts if she ever found out the total cost of my barbecue habits. Funny thing is, I actually try my best to save and repurpose as much as possible, because I know if I don’t attempt to keep my costs down, somehow she would know, and I’d be spending my Saturday in the doghouse versus on a grill getting ready for game time. I would like to share a few tips that will hopefully help you add a few pennies to the bank account, and may help you afford another tailgate or two this year.
- Charcoal Should Never Be Wasted: Serious tailgaters know that you cannot duplicate the flavor that charcoal puts into food. Once your items are done, and the grill or pit is no longer needed, then you can simply close all the air vents. This will cause the fi re to cool down due to the lack of oxygen. After the grill has cooled down, all you need to do is remove the ash from the unburned coal on the grill, and next time it will be ready to use just like you poured it out of the bag. There is never a need to throw away any charcoal pieces, as they can be re-fi red on the next cook!
- Leftovers, Sometimes, Can Actually Be Better: Always prepare ahead of time to bring any leftovers home with you. Most coolers today can hold items at safe temperatures for over 48 hours, so that makes throwing extra food away a no-no! When warming up leftovers, simply put them in the microwave and cover with a damp paper towel to keep the food from losing its moisture. This works well on anything from meat proteins to veggies or desserts.
- Free Fertilizer: Charcoal ash will make great fertilizer for certain types of shrubs and plants in your yard. If you’re smoking over a big pit, then the grease from these units can make a great weed killer if mixed with epsom salt. Used coffee grounds or tea bags can also be used as fertilizers as well. Do a little research, and you’ll be amazed at the different things that can be repurposed from a single tailgate outing.
- Free Rib Tips: Whenever you’re cooking spare ribs, make sure to buy untrimmed spare ribs (versus already-trimmed St. Louis cut ribs). The advantage will equal a generous amount of rib tips that are free, as the untrimmed ribs cost, on average, over $1 per pound less than the cut ribs. Also, trimming a standard slab into a St. Louis cut is easy to do. Simply mark the top of the longest bone with your knife and cut a straight line across the length of the slab. Cook the weird brisket-part of the ribs exactly like your regular ribs, and cut into pieces before serving.
- Different Pork Chops: Traditionally sliced pork chops can be one of the most expensive and hardest items to cook while tailgating. A few substitutions for these cuts are found in the pork steak or the whole pork loin. The pork steak is simply a Boston Butt that has been sliced, but can be cooked hot and fast because of its fat content. The entire pork loin, which is where most pork chops are cut from, can cost almost $2 per pound less if purchased whole. There is also a tremendous advantage to keeping and cooking the loin whole (or in half) versus slicing yourself. Because the pork loin is lean, it can tend to dry out really quickly, but the bigger size of the complete (or half) loin will help it retain more of its moisture content. The trick is to stop cooking both of these cuts of pork before they reach 175 degrees’ internal temperature – and the whole loin really needs to stop cooking at the 160-degree mark.
- Gadgets Are Nice, And Most Will Pay For Themselves: I mentioned last time about taking advantage of different gadgets that can help you cook better, but I will also testify that most gadgets will pay for themselves over time. A perfect example of this would be the digital probe thermometer that allows you to keep a steady check on the internal cooking temperature without having to open up your grill or pit to check that temperature. These gadgets ensure you never have to waste meat due to under- or overcooking, therefore, saving the expense (and frustration) of replacing messed-up meat.