Keep Your Next Tailgate Smokin’
Expert Advice

Expert advice from Kell Phelps, Publisher, National Barbecue News. Make sure your next tailgate event is smokin’ for everyone!

What is the single biggest thing that makes your tailgating event successful? Is it the free food and drinks that everyone seems to love? Or is it the cool games and gadgets that sets your spot apart from all the rest? Just know that as long as you are giving free food away then most everyone will be bragging how you are the next Guy Fieri…regardless of the truth.

Rule number one in the barbecue world is to have fun. Tailgating has to have that same focus. You can bet if the main cook or organizer is having a blast then the food that is coming from his grill or pit is going to be much better. Ever seen the poor fellow that is a “grill hog” and gets behind on feeding folks? You can pretty much bet his food is going to be much different then he planned due to changes he is making on the fly. Below I would like to share a few ideas that can help make sure your next tailgate event is smokin’ for everyone.

A good boy scout is always prepared: A great party starts well before the first guests arrive. Start at least a week out with a list of needs, number of guests, and most importantly a “buddy do list” so you can focus on the main job as a host…having fun! Most folks love to help and by dividing up the workload you will ensure everyone has a great time.

Never try to cook new things on the spot: Just about every professional chef will try new things but they always test them with friends and family at home before introducing them to a crowd. You will always want to test new recipes for trusted friends and family (those who will be honest with you and not just looking for a free handout) before trying it for your game day party.  Try to make or change up recipes to be non-offensive without being bland.

Pre-cooking can be a really good thing: Large cuts of meat love to rest for before being served up. Briskets, pork butts, or even whole chickens actually taste better and have more flavor if they are allowed to rest before serving. My common practice is to keep a whole pork butt in a hot box for 12 full hours before serving and I am not afraid to hold it 24 hours if needed. Always make sure your meat is wrapped in foil or in plastic wrap and always make sure the internal temperature of meat never falls below 140 degrees in the resting process. A good hot box can also be an oven set at that 140-degree temperature.

Safety is a must at all times: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in every six Americans will get sick each year from eating or drinking contaminated food and beverages. Keep hot foods above 140 degrees and keep cold foods below 40 degrees. Always keep hands and utensils clean and sanitized (one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water can help with this process). Never use the same utensil for a different item unless it has been washed and sanitized. This sounds like a lot of extra work but if you have ever had food poisoning from not following these steps then you know it is all worth the extra effort to keep everyone safe.

Embrace technology when cooking: Today you can find some really useful tools that will turn any grill or smoker into a super-cooking machine. A few of my favorite high tech items are automatic temperature control by fans and the temperature gauges with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology that can adapt to any smart phone made. Either of these items on an old trust worthy cooker can give you more playtime at your next event.

A little smoke makes everything better: It is really simple to add a little smoke to anything you are cooking regardless of the grill or pit you have. Wood chips soaked in water and wrapped in aluminum foil with a tiny hole can help any gas grill have a new smoking experience. The key here is to practice this technique a few times before making it part of your routine. Also know that a little smoke can go a long way in some grills.

Learn a little more: Learn more and stay in the know about all things barbecue now by taking advantage of a free one-year subscription of National Barbecue News at the following web address Until next time…Keep It Smokin’!