10 Tailgating Tips for Football Season

It’s still 80-degrees around here with nary a hint of briskness in the air. But football has already made its appearance in stadiums and on television.

That means tailgating season isn’t far behind.

Juicy slices of meat with sauce prepare on fire (shish kebab) for tailgating

While I make a great tailgating guest, and I’m happy to contribute food and drink, I admit to being rather uninspired when I’m the one in charge of planning and organization.

Carey Bringle, the owner and pitmaster behind Nashville’s famous Peg Leg Porker, to the rescue with these game day tailgating tips. Carey has been cooking barbecue and entertaining the masses for over 25 years, and has been featured on Southern Living’s “Great American BBQ Bucket List.”

  1. Make your list and check it twice. From food to equipment, make a list of everything you need. For maximum organization, keep an updatable copy so you have it handy throughout the season.
  2. Bring the essentials. There are basics you are always going to need – coals, tongs, grill gloves, and perhaps a chimney starter. Keep them organized so you can save time packing on game day.
  3. Invest in your own comfort. Invest in quality folding chairs (your derriere will thank you) and large coolers. Never underestimate the value of efficiency and comfort. Tailgating should be both fun and easy.
  4. Go big or go home. A fitting sports saying about being bold and you can use that in your menu planning. Plan your menu around a large hunk of meat, such as a pork shoulder or brisket, rather than dabbling with burgers and dogs. It’s impressive and easy. Smoke the meat at home and then gently reheat it when you get to your tailgate party.
  5. Don’t forget the finger foods. Perfect for snacking on before your larger piece of meat is ready or for the neighbor tailgaters with whom your sharing snacks. Chicken wings, jalapeño poppers, sliders, kebabs, and nachos are tasty. Include some cold side dishes and snacks for your non-meat eaters as well.
  6. Early bird gets the worm. Get to your location early so you can find a good spot, set up, and get your playlist going. Drop a pin and let friends find you! This is a lot easier if there’s a designated area for tailgating or few restrictions in the parking lot. If your stadium doesn’t allow tailgating in the official parking lot, looks for somewhere nearby to set up.
  7. Stay hydrated: A cold beer is thirst quenching, and early games seem to cry out for a Bloody Mary. Or, if you’re going a little upscale, consider a Mimosa, Aperol Spritz, or Margarita. Be sure to pack water and other non-alcoholic beverages as well. Check your local liquor laws to determine where alcoholic beverages are permitted.
  8. Make your cleanup simple. We’re all about going green and balance our desire for convenience with our commitment to protecting the planet. Reduce your waste, especially if it cannot be recycled. Reuse cups, glasses, and plates. You can keep them in a contained for easy transporting and wash at home. Recycle! Tailgating is the one time I use paper napkins and paper towels, but there are some affordable plasticware for everything else.
  9. Fire safety is important. Plan so that you have ample time for all fires to go out and grills to cool before you start packing up and heading into the game. Bring along a small fire extinguisher for emergencies. Check and doublecheck before walking away.
  10. Do it again. Make plans for your next tailgate before everyone leaves!

Here are more than 50 tested and beloved recipes from the founder of one of the top ten barbecue restaurants in the United States! Get the expert’s advice on choosing a grill or smoker; secrets of super sauces; tips on turning out mouthwatering meat, seafood, and veggies; and just about everything else any grill chef would want to know. Whether outdoor cooking is your summertime hobby or your year-round passion, this book belongs with your favorite grilling tools.

Mary Jo Manzanares