11 Tips for Every Tailgater
What makes scoring tickets to your favorite team’s next home game even better? Tailgating outside the stadium with all of your friends! Becoming a master of the tailgate isn’t easy — but with these tips, you can ensure your tailgate will be a win before and after the game.
Pre-game prep. Want more time to talk sports and less time behind the grill? Chop your veggies, marinate your meats and assemble your kabobs before you get to the stadium. If you’re planning on grilling burgers, shape the patties the night before, separate them with plastic wrap and keep them in a separate container for easy access the next day.
When your friends ask you “What food should I bring to your tailgate?” let them know what you’ve got covered and keep track of what they plan on bringing. And make sure to check out the stadium parking lot rules and find out how early you can get there, since the early tailgater always gets the best spot.
Safety first. And last. Have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit on hand, just in case. Check your fire extinguisher’s expiration date and put it in an easy-to-access location. Make sure your first aid kit has bandages, pain relievers, sterile gloves and scissors.
And even if you’re in a hurry to get to the game, make sure your grill’s flame is completely out before you head in to the stadium. Be sure to lock your vehicle and keep all of your valuables out of sight, too.
Floating beacon. With charcoal grills and other tailgaters as far as the eye can see, your get-together can get lost. Tie a big, eye-catching helium balloon to your vehicle and fly it above your festivities. Even better, tie two balloons of your favorite team’s colors so your friends know exactly where to go.
Cooler code. Keep your beverages, cooked food and raw meat in separate coolers and label them so your guests aren’t constantly opening the meat cooler when they’re looking for a drink.
In your cooked and raw food coolers, put the items most sensitive to temperature, such as dairy, meat or fruit in packaging and place them towards the bottom of the cooler where they can stay cold when the cooler is opened, being careful not to crush the food.
Since frozen bottles of water are like giant ice cubes, use them in your beverage cooler to help keep stuff fresh. And when they thaw, you’ve got ice-cold H20 ready to go!
Have a seat. If you don’t want your guests sitting on your coolers and blocking access to food and drinks, bring lawn chairs and ask guests to bring their own. If you don’t mind your coolers doubling as chairs, bring some blankets to cover them for a more comfortable seat.
Avoid the over-flip. Knowing how to flip your burgers is an absolute necessity for a tailgate host. If you flip too much, your burgers get tough. For the tastiest burgers at the ballpark, flip once — and only once.
Even if your buddy Mike likes his burgers medium rare, cook all of your burgers to at least 140° (medium) to avoid the potential of getting any of your partygoers sick.
Games people play. Make your party the place to be by offering up some friendly competition. Whether it’s a game of bags, ladder toss or just a simple game of catch, give your guests something else to do while they enjoy their food and drinks. And be sure to carve out some space for your games as soon as you get to your spot, as other tailgaters will have the same idea.
Buzz be gone. Don’t let pesky mosquitos invade your space. Throw some sage or rosemary on the charcoals to act as a do-it-yourself bug repellent.
Eat smart. Don’t take any chances with spoilage. Put all of your temperature-sensitive tailgate food back in its cooler before you head in to the game. Even if those cheese curds you accidentally left in the sun might look fine when you get back to your spot, they’re not worth the stomach ache and sickness they’ll cause. A good rule of thumb — when in doubt, throw it out.
Cool the coals. Hot coals can start fires. Let them cool before throwing them out. Most stadiums have special bins designed for coals. If not, a metal pail with a lid will work too.
Keeping your fellow tailgaters well-fed, comfortable, and safe is only one part of the equation. But with a little preparation, your tailgate can be a hit before and after the game whether your team wins or loses!