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Become a Tailgating Guru

By
Carrie Anton
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Hosts boasting tents in team-colors, cleverly named cocktails, elite grills and smokers, and even flat-screen TVs may think they are ready; however, when game day throws a curveball, it’s the batter not the bat who has to step up to the plate. Before you begin your next big bash, master these must-have skills to become top dog of the parking lot party!

PACK LIKE A PRO

Beer, soda, meat, cheese…more beer: There’s a lot to keep cold inside that cooler. Unless you’re a Tetris World-Champion, you might feel like you need to neglect some items in the name of space. Not so! Instead try the following steps for keeping your cool when packing a lot.

1. CHILL Use a cooler that’s been at room temperature or colder for at least 24 hours. And make sure that every item going into the cooler is already cold. Warm items will melt your ice faster and more quickly chase away your inner chill. If packing water bottles to drink, freeze them first so that they double as ice packs.

2. SEAL Use resealable zipper storage bags and compact water-tight containers to hold meats, cheeses, fruits, and veggies. Squeeze out extra air from bags before packing to save on space.

3. LAYER Just like packing a grocery bag, your heavy, solid items–cans, bottles, and jars–should go on the bottom with your more fragile items on top. Because heat rises, pack items on the bottom that you want to stay cold longer. Once you have everything ready to pack, cover your bottom layer with ice before stacking the next layer of bags and containers.

4. FILL Before closing up the cooler, make sure there are no empty pockets holding warm air. Fill crevices with ice, and for bigger areas, uses ice packs or even frozen water-filled balloons. Keep in mind that your cooler items will stay colder longer if you fill the entire space of your cooler. So keep packing!

GRILL TIPS FOR GREAT TAILGATING

Your grill is your most important tailgating tool, but the wind and weather might not always work in your favor. Before your barbecuing goes bust, put these tricks in play to start cooking with fire!

1. POSITION Place gas grills perpendicular to the wind to help maintain better temperature control on breezy days. Grilling with charcoal? Face the vents away from the wind.

2. MORE FUEL Colder temps mean that preheating and cooking times will take longer than normal. Be sure to pack extra propane, gas, and briquettes so that you can thoroughly heat your meat. Need a fire starter? Doritos or corn chips can get the job done.

3. OPEN CAREFULLY While it’s best to keep a lid on your grill to avoid losing heat, charcoal grills should be opened slowly to prevent ash from blowing up and onto food.

4. KEEP IT CLEAN If your grill is gunky, not only will the flavor of your food be affected but fire can start regardless of where the outside mercury lies. If you’re without a brush, ball up aluminum foil and use your tongs to scrape the ball against the grate. No foil? Use a half sliced yellow onion instead.