Is BBQing An Expensive Hobby?


Howard V

TVWBB Member
My wife likes to tease me that BBQing is an expensive hobby for me (equipment, fuel, meats, spices). I tell her it has saved us a lot of money -- I used to often get BBQ from a local much that they knew my name and order! After I got my WSM, I rarely go back to the BBQ joint.....maybe only in the winter when I don't feel like smoking any meats in the cold.

I feel like my ribs taste just as good, if not better than what I got from the BBQ joint since I can season it exactly to my taste. Additionally, it cost a lot less. When I buy full rack of baby back ribs at the restaurant, it cost me $27. When I make my own, I get 3 rib racks from Costco for about $35 and cook them at the same time to maximize fuel usage. The profit margin for the restaurant must be pretty big!

1) Do you think BBQing is an expensive hobby? '

2) Did you save more money by making your own BBQ instead of buying from restaurant?

2) Have you gone back to eating at your local BBQ restaurant?
The profit margins for BBQ restaurants is pretty small actually but I'll try to answer your questions.

1. It can be but it doesn't have to be. You can do a lot with just a weber kettle. You could use cheaper cuts. Butts are generally cheap. You can smoke bologna, etc.

2. I do save some money but if you really factored in labor costs, charcoal costs, food costs, (especially for brisket) probably not.

3. Even though I live in Texas, I live basically on the border of Oklahoma. Our local restaurants are by and large pretty terrible. I am cooking BBQ for myself not to save money but for the enjoyment I get out of it. If we had a good place to go I would visit occasionally, but I'd still like to cook for myself so it's a moot point.
1) Yes. I do save money by eating at home... I think the initial investment of gear can be substantial, but after you get the bulk of your gear, you start to catch up.

2) Yes, and since I am a type 1 diabetic (very managed and controlled), I can also make sure it is not loaded with sugar. The only way to eat BBQ regularly, without spiking my sugar levels, is making it myself. Money and health!

3) I will still go to Little Miss BBQ, because it is amazing. But I go way less than I used to!
1) It depends. It can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. Cheap used smokers and grills are available almost all the time on CL, offerup, et al. The cost of gadgets is an individual one, again as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. Cookers and gadgets are close to a one-time outlay. Fuel (lump, briquettes, wood chunks, pellets & LP) is probably my biggest ongoing expense. As for the meat and veggies that I cook outside, I'd still be eating that meat and veggies even if I didn't cook outside, so I don't count that as a cost of the hobby.

2) Have not run the numbers, because I'm not into BBQ/Grilling to save money.

3) I rarely eat BBQ out. There's very few good BBQ restaurants within a 2 hour drive for me. When I visit my sister in Texas, I eat at BBQ restaurants whenever I can. Took a trip through LA, MS & AL ten years ago and I still think about that bbq.
I figure we have to eat anyway, so why not from a grill we have had for some years. It gives us another choice of what to eat. Sad to say, we do not have a decent BBQ restaurant close by.
In the Year 2008: 1 WSM 18" "Classic" bought new off at a cost of around $500 to get-it-here to Costa Rica and a few months later a Weber One-Touch-Grill bought here in Costa Rica for around $200. So, the cost to enter the BBQ/Grilling World started-out around $700 plus a bag of charcoal.

Somewhat off-the-subject; but I remember sitting in my favorite bar in San Francisco, CA in which a small sign hanging on the wall stated the following: "IF YOUR BABY NEEDS SHOES DON'T DRINK HERE!". Luckily I have always been in a stable economic status which enabled me to add to my now ample BBQ/Grilling Arsenal over these past many years and more important to HAVE-met-the-essential-needs of my wife, two(2) kiddies and a couple of pooches.
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1. Cheaper than a lot of other hobbies such as golf, video gaming and you get to eat what you make good or bad.
2. Yes, since I do my own ribs, burgers, etc. Something like brisket is still bought at a bbq joint. Also here in the desert SW, it cuts down on A/C costs cooking outdoors.
3. Never stopped. see #2
1) I've found it's like many other hobbies in that you spend a lot up front (if you want to) to get your gear and then it's just minor "maintenance" costs - rubs, sauces, different cuts of meat (but you have to eat anyway). I only buy charcoal when it's on sale. A hobby should be fun, and as long as you get the right amount of enjoyment for the money then all should be good.

2) I've never compared the end cost, but we enjoy our BBQ from home much better than the local restaurants. I think it's the difference between BBQing small batch vs trying to feed 100+ people.

3) No. I go to my freezer and pull out a package.
1) The charcoal, set up, extra gadgets and more certainly add up. But for my little family of 3, I often use a food saver and can have many meals off of one cook.

2) I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t go out much anymore. I’ve been on a debt free journey for almost 2 years and we budget very carefully. The end is in sight!

3) Very rarely.
1> It can be but you can make pretty good BBQ on an old mattress spring or better a basic Weber Kettle.
2> Sure, why not as long as your BBQ'q same grade meat.
3> I don't have a local BBQ joint anymore besides Famous Dave's. Had a few that were good but they folded.

1) A hobby is, first and foremost, a hobby. It's something you enjoy doing. Catching fish out of a lake is fun and it's free food -- if you don't factor in the $50k bass boat, $60k Suburban to pull it, the $40k outbuilding to store it in and so on. By most measures, BBQ is a cheap hobby.

2) Eating at home is almost always cheaper by a long shot, especially if you drink cocktails, wine, beer, etc.

3) We have a great BBQ joint in town and we eat there every few weeks. They have live music, a good staff, and real good sides and appys, plus a full bar. It's always at least $75 for the two of us with booze and tips. But it's a fun night out.

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.

If you want to be like Stephen Raichlen, it is very expensive!

Kalamazoo K750 Free Standing Gaucho Grill with Side Burner, starting at $30,715 (a $31k grill has options???)


Kalamazoo Freestanding Smoker Cabinet, starting at $15,695 (those must be some expensive casters because the built-in version starts at $12,695)
1. I don't let it get too expensive.
2. I have never tried to compare the cost difference. Since it's my hobby I don't charge for my time so with a little prudence on selecting food and fuel I would guess it's a good bit cheaper. Not a level playing field because BBQ joints are in it to make a profit and must pay their employees.
3. We have some good Q joints around here but my wife says she prefers mine so we mostly eat Q at home. However we have tried all of the joints around us and a new one opened just 2 miles away. When the world settles down we'll try them.
1. At this point in my life I do not consider BBQ'n an expensive hobby. When I was young with kids it would have been.

2. Common sense would say it's cheaper to make your own, depending on if you add in the price of equipment. One could recoup the price of a WSM or 22" kettle and fuel in a reasonable amount of time, maybe not a $1200 pellet pooper. Since we rarely go out to restaurants of any sort when at home, I didn't save anything doing my own bbq.

3. Can't go back to doing something we never did in the first place.
Not too expensive. Unless you make a habit of it.
I couldn't afford to eat at the bbq places around here. At least not the way I eat.
Most of the places don't make much profit but are still too expensive.
Pulled pork can be a party saver. Brisket not so much.
I think barbecue is like most things , you can spend as much as you want to spend on it.

Barbecue and grilling to me, is a cross between something I enjoy and how we prepare our meals. We don't have many evening meals that are non barbecue.

We never visited barbecue joints often, till a few years ago. I wanted to go taste what other people were smoking so we began going to different joints about once a month. But Mrs Dollar has changed jobs and that's much tougher for us now, as we liked to go for lunch.

I've had the bad habit of bass fishing all my life, and it can get very expensive, if ya let it. BTW, I have a bass boat for sale, if anyone interested ;)
Before re-joining this site again last winter, all I had was a free old performer that my father in law gave me. I had no extra fancy gadgets or accessories except a no-name probe thermometer I got for very cheap on some discussion website.

I'd always buy the cuts of meats that were on sale. Pork butts for big get togethers. I'd say back then I was certainly saving money.

Now that the kids are out of the newborn phase I've bought more grills and just enjoy cooking more on the grill. It's a lot easier to get a chimney of charcoal going than it is to get the wife and kids wrangled up and in the car to head to a restaurant.
Yes, at my house it's very expensive. There is always a new grill to buy. And I like quality built USA units.
Next no cheap charcoal here either. I burn Jealous Devil axe breaker & Fogo axe breaker. They cost the same and aren't cheap.
and since we BBQ or smoke something most every night I burn a lot of it. Cause its so fun to do.
Next you gotta get some quality meat if you want to put the best BBQ on the table. You know Snake River Farms, Creekstone Farms, Lone Mtn Wagyu, just to name a few of the places that I buy the best cuts from.
That being said, 9 times out of 10 I can fix better BBQ than the local BBQ joints in the 4 corners area.
As far as the price I really don't care as long as the product tastes like great BBQ its well worth the $$$$.
Besides the BBQ joints aren't cheap. Because it cost some coin to put quality BBQ on the table at home or your local BBQ joint.
And being retired I enjoy making great BBQ several times a week.
It's as said it can be anything you want it to be. At one point I had ten Weber's in my back yard and used them all, we are down to six and have two more to sell. All but my Camp Chef and my twenty two year old Weber Geneses 2000 were bought used or curb side pickups. What I have invested
into my used fleet I paid less for all of them for what a new three burner Weber gas grill would cost.
Here we have to have at least one gasser( I will have two when we get done downsizing) because of fire restrictions in the summer which means charcoal can't be used.
We enjoy grilling and making Q so it's not so much the cost as it is the enjoyment of creating something over live fire.
We buy all of our meat on sale and have two freezers in the garage to store them until needed.
I'm on a very strict salt restriction diet and eating out isn't an option very often.
I enjoy making salt free rubs and low salt marinades, trying new things. From making bacon to smoking brisket it's what you want to do, the options are endless.