s that a hint of autumn in the air? Smells like football season to us, which also heralds the grill-friendly pregame tradition known as tailgating. Three essential elements define a tailgate: a group of friends and family, beverages to suit all tastes, and a hot grill ready to feed gridiron-sized hunger. Usually set amidst the jovial chaos of a stadium parking lot (but also common in driveways and backyards), tailgates are often a meaty affair, featuring sizzling sausages, juicy burgers, chargrilled steaks, and enough chips, dips, and sides to stop a 300-pound linebacker in his tracks. With a menu of that size, it’s important to prepare ahead and get to the game at least three to four hours before kickoff.
Make a List
And check it twice. Creating a checklist of the food and drink you plan to bring will save you from the parking-lot blues. Be sure to include weather-related necessities, ticket information, grilling tools, cooking utensils, serving dishes, napkins, and condiments, in addition to the food and drink.
Get Ahead of the Game
With proper preparation, you can dish up a gourmet meal — even on the blacktop. But it’s important to remember that there is no running water in a parking lot. Items for the pregame prep include seasoning ground beef and forming into patties, slicing all vegetables you plan on grilling, and packaging all other food in travel-safe containers.
Tap Into Tupperware
Creamy dips and marinated meat should be kept on ice in a cooler until service. Dips should be doled out into separate serving bowls, so that the excess can stay cool until you need it.
Before the grilled food is ready, make sure to provide guests with platters of ready-to-eat snacks. Crudites, chips, dips, and cheese and cured meats are all crowd-pleasing options.
Serve Up Some Surprises
Why stop at traditional burgers and hot dogs? Add flair to your menu with an assortment of game meats, like lean buffalo steaks, bone-in lamb chops or even whole suckling pig, and artisanal sausages, such as smoky Spanish chorizo and spicy lamb merguez. Serve these highly seasoned sausages on a roll or slice into rounds and skewer for appetizers. Just make sure to bring a cutting board and sharp knife to slice cooked meats as they come off the grill.
Keep Clean-Up in Mind
Try to pack as much food as you can into disposable containers for easier clean-up duty. And for those items that you plan to bring home with you, bring a few damp kitchen towels in ziplock bags to wipe them down.
Tailgating is a time to rally team spirit and get psyched for the game, so always remember to have fun and wear your team colors!