We all know that the culture of college football – specifically, that down south in the SEC – is not just about what happens on the field. The events surrounding the game are just as important as the game itself.
Tailgating and other gameday activities are a major source of enjoyment for college football fans each and every fall.
If you’re looking to improve your tailgating game, here are ten tailgating tips to take you from good to great.
1. Get organized and create your master tailgating checklist
Proper tailgating requires a lot of, well, stuff. Food items, beverage items, equipment, utensils and paper goods, clean up materials, etc. If you’ve planned and executed a tailgate more than once, odds are you’ve experienced a situation where you forgot something at home.
Prevent this from happening by creating a master checklist. Heck, you should even laminate it just to make it more official and prevent it from getting damaged. An increase in the amount of planning ahead of time will make the season much more enjoyable!
Don’t forget to do some advance planning with regards to how you will pack your vehicle before heading to the tailgate. Pros might even do a dry run the week before!
2. Don’t forget to plan your exit
The vast majority of planning and preparation involves getting to the tailgate itself. Just as important as the front-end planning is the back-end planning.
Be sure to make a plan to break down your tailgate, stash your items and clean up after yourself. Bring clean-up supplies (plenty of trash bags!) and make sure you don’t leave a mess for someone else to clean up.
Bringing home a dirty grill can be tricky, so plan ahead on how you want to clean it and stow it for the ride home.
3. You need more than one cooler
If you’re doing any serious level of tailgating, a minimum of two coolers is necessary – one for food and one for beverages. Depending on your culinary plans, a third cooler for raw food isn’t a bad idea.
The worst thing that can happen at a tailgate is running out of ice, so extra coolers just for ice can be helpful as well.
When packing a cooler with food, go overboard in how you wrap the food. Preventing leaking and cross-contamination is a must!
Tie a bottle opener to the handle of your drinks cooler so that it remains handy all day long (and you don’t lose it).
4. Prepping food ahead of time makes things a lot easier during gameday
If you’re cooking on-site, prepping the food ahead of time makes things much, much easier. Marinating your various items, cutting up the vegetables, creating your skewers ahead of time or forming burger patties the day before will make your tailgating experience much smoother.
Don’t forget the beverages. If you’re serving mixed drinks, consider mixing up larger quantities of the cocktail ahead of time, so that all you need to think about during gameday is the pour and the consumption.
5. Invest in comfortable seating
If you’ve ever spent considerable time at a tailgate with either not enough seating or unnecessarily uncomfortable seating, you know it’s no fun. An improper seating situation can lead to feeling overly fatigued even before the game begins. The right setup will go a long way toward maintaining energy all day long.
Go ahead and bite the bullet and buy some quality seating. Get extra seats so you can be hospitable to friends or random passersby. Spending a little more on quality now will likely save you money in the long run.
Of course, you’ll likely need more than seating. Get a quality, fold-up table or two. Consider a tent as well.
6. Be responsible with fuel
Whether you’re hauling charcoal or propane, double check the quantities ahead of time to make sure you have enough. Running out of fuel with half-cooked meat is a big no-no.
After cooking, make sure you properly dispose of live coals and other hazards. Excessively douse coals with water to prevent any mishaps.
If you’re transporting propane tanks, consider moving them in plastic milk crates as the tanks themselves can tip over quite easily.
7. Extra water, always
For even the most alcohol-centric folks, you can never have enough water.
Cases of bottled water can be had for so cheap at discount retailers such as Walmart that it is almost irresponsible not to have an extra few dozen water bottles. Keep some in the cooler and keep a stash hidden in your car that you can retrieve later in the day. Having fresh, cold water when you arrive back at your tailgate at the conclusion of the game is the sign of a veteran tailgater.
Consider bringing another dispenser of water for washing hands during the day.
8. Bring a strong supply of disposable items
Life is easier when you have plenty of plastic spoons, forks and knives along with a large selection of paper products like napkins and paper towels.
You should also have a supply of aluminum foil that borders on the ridiculous. Foil keeps food warm, can help you scrape a dirty grill and is useful for wrapping up items that are left over for the transport home.
Other important items: Trash bags, plastic tablecloths and plastic cups.
9. Consider visiting a restaurant supply house before the season kicks off
To stock up on supplies, considering visiting a restaurant supply house. These places are great for sourcing disposable foil pans (incredibly useful for transporting and reheating food).
Other disposable items such as garbage bags and take-out containers are great items to pick up at these stores as well.
10. When it comes to food, think hand-held
Hand-held food items often work best when tailgating.
We’re all familiar with the usual suspects of chicken wings, nachos, burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and sliders. But, also consider items such as jalapeno poppers, bruschetta, chicken or turkey legs or even fajitas and burritos.
A large selection of hand-held food items that can be snacked on throughout the day will be a hit for you and your guests.