CLEVELAND -- The single largest expense for any Memorial Day weekend feast is the meat that hits the grill. Whether you prefer ribs, steak, hamburgers or chicken, it's easy to rack up a hefty grocery bill on meaty holiday barbecue staples.
Traditionally, meat prices fluctuate with the summer season and beef prices tend to rise during prime grilling months. There are money-saving shopping tips that will help families stretch their dollar and shell out less cash at the register without the fear of eliminating favorite grill items from the menu.
"Families are always looking for ways to get more and spend less," said Mike LaPorte, Corporate Meat Merchandiser for Marc's. "Shoppers can get more servable food out of their final purchases if they pay closer attention to the quality and quantity of their meat products. You can reduce costs without sacrificing taste."
Follow these shopping trends and meat prep advice for a deliciously affordable grilling celebration:
* Pork ribs are typically more affordable than beef ribs.
* Buy full slabs versus small packages. "You'll usually get a better price," LaPorte advises.
* Look for meat coverage over the ribs.
* Allow one pound of ribs per person. "You'll lose about 40 percent from bones and shrinkage during cooking," says LaPorte.
* Country-style or Western-cut ribs are a good value and are overall a quality rib.
* Rather than buying pre-made frozen burgers, buy ground beef and make your own patties.
* Add breadcrumbs to ground meat for added bulk. LaPorte adds, "One pound instantly becomes two pounds of meat to work with."
* Mix ground chuck with lean ground beef to create a gourmet taste for less. By doing this, you won't get the shrinkage you get from cheaper cuts.
* Use a spatula and tongs when flipping burgers, not a fork, in order to keep from piercing the meat and losing juices.
* Beef tips are a great alternative to consider for your cookout. Beef kabobs are an affordable and delicious main dish.
* Buy fresh chicken versus frozen. "It's usually a better value," LaPorte says.
* Make kabobs using leftovers.
* Slice chicken breasts in half to create two servable portions from one piece of chicken. Plus, thin-sliced chicken cuts grilling time and takes the guesswork out of cooking chicken thoroughly.
* Buy chicken thighs. This cut costs a bit less and is just as meaty as the chicken breast.
* Cook bone-in chicken slowly, over a medium flame to seal in the juices. Keep monitoring the grill and turn the pieces often, using tongs.
According to LaPorte, the selection of meat, as well as the prep process are just as important as the secret sauce or the method of grilling. "When shopping for meat, pay special attention to the quality and the cut. When handling and preparing meats around the grill, maintain a clean workspace and cook everything thoroughly. Don't guess if the meat is done."
* Purchase cold food such as meat and poultry last, right before checkout.
* Transport meat and poultry items in the trunk - typically the coldest part of a vehicle.
* Buy in bulk. Leftover meat should be cut to portion sizes before freezing.
* Select meat that has little fat - it's healthier plus, you get more overall meat for your money.
* Completely defrost meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly.
* Using the refrigerator is best for slow, safe thawing.
* Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
* To prevent charring, remove visible fat before placing meat on the grill.
* Wash hands frequently with soapy water.
At the Grill
* Cool meat to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.
* Invest in a food thermometer to avoid serving undercooked meat.
* Use plastic rather than glass dishware around the grill to avoid accidents.
* Don't use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat.
GENERAL EVENT INFORMATION
Friday, May 27 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday, May 28 Noon to 11 p.m.
Sunday, May 29 Noon to 11 p.m.
Monday, May 30 Noon to 8 p.m.
The 20th Annual Marc's Great American Rib Cook Off & Music Festival has moved to the newly named Jacobs Pavilion and the adjacent Nautica Entertainment Complex on the West Bank of the Flats in downtown Cleveland. For more details, new venue information or driving directions, visit the festival's new and official website www.wkyc.com/rib or call the Jacobs Pavilion Box Office at 216.622.6557.
General admission is FREE UNTIL 3PM EVERYDAY compliments of Ohio Natural Gas, the official gas provider for Live Nation and House of Blues Cleveland. Adult general admission is ONLY $5 with coupon from Marc's or with online coupon from WKYC.com. Kids 12 and under are FREE everyday, all hours. Entertainment continues to be FREE with paid general admission.
20th Anniversary Rock & Ribs Dining Deal and Music Package! Rib lovers can purchase this special offer while supplies last and receive $50 worth of food & beverage tickets and 2 FREE general admission tickets to the Rib Cook Off, which includes headline entertainment, for ONLY $28! That's a $66 value for only $28, plus applicable service fees. This limited time offer is available exclusively online beginning April 29 at www.wkyc.com/rib.
Advance general admission tickets and a limited number of Front-of-Stage General Admission "BBQ PIT" tickets for Seether and prime reserved seats for Collective Soul and Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, which include admission to the Rib Cook Off, are on sale now at www.livenation.com and all Ticketmaster locations. There are no discounts on advance general admission tickets or prime reserved seat tickets.
This Memorial Day weekend, play downtown and stay downtown at the Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland Downtown - the official hotel of Jacobs Pavilion and the Marc's Great American Rib Cook Off & Music Festival. Contact the reservations desk at 216.658.6400 for details!
THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS!
The 20th anniversary of the Marc's Great American Rib Cook Off & Music Festival is produced by Live Nation and co-presented by Time Warner Cable, The Plain Dealer, WKYC-TV3 and MinuteMenJobs.com.
Associate sponsors include Anheuser-Busch Inc., Akron-Canton Airport, Bluegreen Vacations, Bud Light, Clear Choice Custom LASIK Center, Constellation Wines, Hilton Garden Inn Downtown, House of LaRose, Kraft, Ohio Department of Tourism, Ohio Natural Gas, Nabisco, Renewal by Andersen, Scene Magazine, Snyder of Berlin Salty Snacks, Travelwise Vacations, Windows on the River, 96.5 KISS FM, 102.1 WDOK, 99.5 WGAR, WKNR 850, Majic 105.7, 100.7 WMMS, 106.5 The Lake, 98.5 WNCX, Q104, V107.3, WTAM 1100, Radio 92.3, 93.1 WZAK.
Our 2011 charitable partner is Easter Seals.