Any experienced tailgater knows it’s never too early to prep for a tailgate party! After all, early birds get the first choice when it comes to the perfect spot, the closest parking spaces, and great access to electrical cords and even portable toilet trailers. Basically, the essentials for an overall good time (yes, toilets are very important when you’re outside for hours on end!). Nothing really beats enjoying cold drinks, grilled food and watching our favorite teams duke it out on the field quite like a tailgate. With football season quickly approaching, we thought we’d gather some tips and tricks to make your tailgate a success. From setup recommendations to tailgate finger food ideas, we hope you find our guide helpful so you can focus on having a great time!
Plan, Plan, Plan
Plan your food menu accordingly with easy-to-make tailgate snacks and main dishes that don’t take hours to prep or cook. Consider whether the game is on before noon or later in the evening and design a menu according to the time of day. We’re not saying grilled hot dogs are out of the question for an 11 a.m. game, but consider going a different route with breakfast burritos, sausage breakfast casseroles, a build-your-own taco station and other favorite brunch items. Your guests will appreciate the creativity, especially paired with a mimosa or Bloody Mary bar! Another great reason to opt for a brunch-style menu is that most of the items can be prepared beforehand. There’s no waiting around for the grill to heat up. All that’s left is to prep, and your guests are ready to eat!
If the game is later in the day and you want a menu full of yummy lunch options, opt for hearty classics. Keep up with a prep-the-day-before mantra and make kebabs! You can skewer and marinate kebabs the night before. Once you set up the grill, these will cook fairly quickly. Other times, you just have to give the people what they want! If you want grilled burgers on the menu, prep the burger patties the night before and keep them in between wax paper sheets to prevent sticking. Slice lettuce, tomatoes and onions the night before to save even more time!
Remember Food Safety
It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of the game and good times, so much so that you could be undercooking meat. Remember to have a food thermometer with you so you can check your meats as they come off the grill. Burgers are good to go when at least 160 degrees and chicken should reach 165 degrees. Discourage double dipping amongst your guests and keep a hand washing station ready with plenty of sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. Pack your meats and other food products separately by using separate coolers to differentiate between meat products, cheeses and fruits and veggies. Keep your coolers clearly labeled to prevent your guests from opening and closing food coolers as they hunt for cold drinks.
Speaking of cold drinks, it can get hot out there for the first half of football season. Be sure to have plenty of water and ice on hand. Stay cool with comfortable, breathable clothing, especially if you’re on grill duty. Wear caps, hats and slather on the sunscreen!
Nowadays, everything is a photo opportunity! Spruce up your tailgate with banners of your team colors, a themed tablecloth, temporary tattoos and more. You don’t have to spend much (or anything really); check out this handy list of easy DIY tailgating decorations.
Pack the Essentials
We’ve covered food, food safety and décor. Here’s a list of kitchen and non-edible items any tailgater needs to pack!
Plates, napkins, utensils
Containers for leftovers
Fail to prepare, and you’ll prepare to fail! Our final recommendations are to have fun, clean up and be respectful of opposing team tailgaters. What are some of your tips? Let us know in the comments below!