If you’re not a foam hat-wearing, face-painting, sign-waving sports fan, that’s OK. Thanks to tailgating, you can still love a day at the stadium.
The tailgate party has turned into a pre-game tradition with epic food displays, party games, and bonding time with friends. Food lovers can mingle among neighboring trucks, minivans, and hatchbacks to swap barbecue techniques or sample one-of-a-kind grilled desserts.
Ready to take your tailgating skills to the big leagues? Here are some essential tailgate party tips and recipe ideas that will bring home the win at your next game-day event.
1. Have a game plan. Check your venue’s website for their policies on alcohol, glass containers, types of food carriers, etc. Plastic cups and drink pitchers are usually a safe bet.
Plan out your entire menu—then divide and conquer. Ask your friends to join the team and bring a dish or two to share.
Don’t forget plates, napkins, utensils, ice, water, sunscreen, and trash bags for cleanup.
2. Choose the menu. Prepare as much food ahead of time as possible. Marinate meats the night before. Press burgers and stack them between sheets of wax paper. Many foods like corn or baked potatoes can be cooked in advance and then heated up on a portable grill. Bring a big bag of homemade kettle corn to snack on all day long. Check out these tailgate menu ideas that will score big points with everyone.
- Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Pepper Poppers
- Mini Football Sliders
- Pretzel & Cheese Football
- Spicy Snack Mix
Main Dishes from the Grill
- Grilled Pizza with Tomatoes & Olives
- Grilled Loaded Nachos
- Adobo-Glazed Barbecue Chicken
- Honey-Mustard Glazed Ribs
- Juicy Lucy Stuffed Burgers
- Grilled Kebab Combinations
3. Arrive early to claim tailgate spots. Arrange for at least two cars to arrive together and park next to each other. When you get to the venue’s parking lot, call your fellow tailgaters and let them know where you’re located. Bring a few large, distinctive helium balloons to help friends find you easily in the crowd.
4. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. It’s important to keep food at the right temperature. For transporting salads, cold pasta dishes, or burger and hot dog toppings, Cool & Serve trays are the perfect solution. Their cooling inserts keep foods chilled for 4–6 hours. Plus, you can customize them with several tray configurations.
For foods you want to keep warm, Rockcroks are a great solution. They’re made of a clay material that retains heat. Plus, they can go on the grill to warm up chili or meatballs. Or, cook ahead of time and easily transport your warm dish to the event.
Bring multiple coolers. One cooler should be designated specifically for meats. Clearly label coolers for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks so everyone can find what they want quickly.
5. Bring your A-game grilling tools. If you’ll be grilling, have all your grill tools ready. Bring a small fire extinguisher and metal bucket with a lid to put out and store used coals safely. Here’s a quick checklist of additional game-day gear you’ll need:
- Outdoor serving tray
- Tongs (You’ll need two—one for raw meat and another for everything else.)
- Basting brush
- Basting bottle
- Insulated gloves
- Can opener
6. Have these tailgating essentials on hand. Make your day more comfortable and safer with:
- Hand sanitizer and/or wet wipes
- Paper towels
- Dish soap
- A large plastic tub for dirty dishes
- Small folding tables
- Stadium chairs
- First aid kit
- Plastic tarps
- Hand warmers
- Rain ponchos
- Plastic zip bags
- Permanent markers and masking tape to label food containers and coolers
7. Show good sportsmanship. Have tons of fun. Mix and mingle with your fellow tailgaters. Play some bag toss. Offer samples of your prized dishes, and be proud of your culinary victories. Give yourself enough time to clean up before the game starts. Or, if you want to keep the party going, turn up the radio so the sports fans won’t miss a minute of the action.