There’s nothing like that feeling of anticipation as you drive to the stadium this time of year. Your pulse quickens; you know that no matter what happens, it will be a memorable experience, one that will stay with you a long time. You look forward to this day all week; thinking about it helps get you through the long dreary days at work. Maybe you’re even one of those people who mark off the game days on your calendar as soon as the schedule is announced. It seems like it takes forever for the season to arrive…
And then…you’re there. You drive into the stadium lot and get ready for the BIG EVENT.
The Tailgate Party! Oh, yes, a football game follows later that day. But the main thing is the great food you’re about to enjoy. The game itself presents the unpleasant prospect that your team might lose. But there are no losers in the tailgate party – unless the food and drinks run out! To make your tailgate party a successful one, consider some of these ideas:
Keep it simple.
Recipes with too many ingredients, or those that require precision cooking techniques, don’t work well at the stadium. You want to be able to socialize while you are cooking, not worry about whether the sauce you are making is up to Culinary Institute standards, or whether your ribs could place high in the national barbecue championships in Memphis!
Don’t be afraid to attempt new dishes.
The beginning tailgater might want to stick to the basics – hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks perhaps. But why not bring some exciting innovations to the stadium, just as your team’s offensive coordinator is hopefully doing. There are many wonderful books on backyard grilling that can give you ideas on how to vary your menu.
Prepare as much ahead as you can.
You can put the spice rubs or marinades on your meat dishes the night before. Then at the stadium just take the meat out of the cooler and get it on the grill. In general, longer marinating time results in more flavorful meat. In the morning before you leave, you can get most of the prep work done—cutting, seasoning, etc. Let’s say you are making your patented pork chili dish. You can have all the ingredients ready and put in their own containers or plastic bags, so all you have to do when you get to the game is get the chili pot warm on the grill, pop open the containers and add the ingredients together.
Don’t leave the grill unattended, even for a moment!
It may be tempting to go check on your friends two aisles down and see what they are cooking, but not at the risk of starting the back of your SUV on fire. The safety rules that apply for the backyard griller are even more important in the stadium parking lot, because of the density of people there.
Speaking of safety, food safety is important, too. Bring paper plates so you can put the uncooked food on one plate, and then put the cooked food on a fresh plate. Wear disposable latex gloves when handling foods such as chicken that can cause contamination. Bring extra utensils, so again, you can handle the uncooked food with one utensil, and then switch to a clean one when taking the food off the grill. Wash your hands frequently using liquid hand sanitizer.
Making enough food for your tailgaters
Make enough food so you can share with neighboring tailgaters. It’s really fun for tailgaters to sample each other’s cuisine. This can be a great way to make new friends, or even learn about some new dishes you may want to try. You might even want to offer food to the fans of the opposing team, in a gesture of good sportsmanship, before you go inside the stadium and watch your team totally annihilate theirs.
Organize each clean up
Organize the tailgate party for easy clean-up. A tailgate party is a little bit like camping, in that it takes practice to learn how to pack and unpack the car so there is room for both the uneaten food and you and your friends to get in the car and go home. Also, being organized will allow you to get to your seats by kickoff, and get out of the stadium lot before the worst of the deadlocked traffic occurs!