How to get the most out of a cheap grill

Just in time for spring (is it here yet?) we've updated our buying guide to cheap BBQ grills. With one of our picks you'll be well-equipped to BBQ on a budget. All you need is a good grill cover and the right BBQ accessories to help you get the most for your money.

Cheap barbecue grills aren't much of a bargain if you have to replace them every season. Even if your grill isn't made from the highest quality stainless steel, you can help it last longer simply by covering it up to protect it from the elements. Weber offers a premium grill cover for its One-Touch Gold 22.5, one of our favorite charcoal barbecues, for $23, but you can save a few bucks by going to Home Depot, where the same cover is $19.99. To save even more, opt for the lighter-weight standard grill cover, which costs $8.99 on the site and $7.99 at Home Depot.

If you go with the smaller Weber One-Touch Silver 18.5, the standard cover goes for $5.99 at Home Depot. In a user review, one customer says the material isn't very heavy-duty, so if you want to opt for the premium cover, it's $20.99 from Weber and $17.99 at Home Depot.

Picking up a grill cover at your local Home Depot also saves you Weber's $7 shipping charge. But don't assume a big-box store or Internet retailer will always be cheaper than a manufacturer's website. Char-Griller's cover for the Grillin' Pro 4001, our pick for best gas grill, is $24.99 on the Char-Griller site but $32 on Amazon and $35 on Hayneedl. The cover is too thin and light for one reviewer posting on Amazon, but users' reviews on Hayneedle say it's durable and fits like a glove.

Another big part of caring for your grill is keeping it clean with the right BBQ accessory. Most of the cheap grills we included on our list of picks have porcelain-coated grates, which should be scrubbed gently with a metal-bristle brush rather than cleaned with a metal scraper, which can chip the porcelain. We found a cheap grill brush at Home Depot for just $2.

You might save money up front if you prefer a charcoal barbecue to a cheap gas grill. However, buying bag after bag of charcoal is harder on the wallet than refilling a propane tank every few months. So, what can you do to save on charcoal? Barbecue buffs sing the praises of lump charcoal, but there's no question that buying briquettes is the cheapest option. No matter what kind of charcoal you choose, barbecue bloggers have a tip for reducing your fuel consumption: Rather than waiting for lighter fluid (or the coating on self-starting charcoal) to burn off -- eating up precious charcoal -- use a chimney starter to get your grill going. The Weber Rapidfire starts at $14 on Amazon, where almost all the hundreds of user reviews give this BBQ accessory five stars.

These key BBQ accessories will help you get more meals and more value out of both your grill and your charcoal. Just pick up some cheap grilling utensils and you're ready to toss on some steaks. We found what users describe as sturdy barbecue tool sets for $10 at Home Depot and $13 on Amazon.

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