For Renee Goddard, a nurse in Atlanta—and her husband, Bill—it all started in 2010 when they tailgated at an Atlanta Falcons game. Up to then, Renee’s only grilling was to throw an occasional chicken on the patio grill. But that year, they bought season tickets and headed to their first tailgate. Everything changed.
WHAT HAPPENED? We didn’t know what we were doing. We just had a little backyard grill. But as we met more people tailgating, we started getting bigger grills and more grills and getting more food. And people started talking about how good our food was, and that we should be in contests. But the guys didn’t really do anything about it. They’re men. So one day, I just signed us up for a Georgia Barbecue Association contest.
HOW DID YOU DO? We didn’t suck, but we didn’t do really good either. But in our third contest, we got a perfect score and won the pulled pork category. And we thought, “We’re doing pretty good,” and we liked it. We kinda got good fast.
WHAT’S YOUR TEAM NAME? We call ourselves the Rub Shakers Que.
AND YOUR TAILGATE CREW? Dirty, Dirty Tailgate Family. We tailgate at the Vine City Lot, right across from the dome. We can see the dome, which helps sometimes because we can’t always walk too well by the time we head to the gate.
HOW BIG A TAILGATE ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? Generally, when the Falcons are doing good, we might be a hundred deep. But if they’re not doing so good, only the tried-and-true show up. But that’s at least 30-40. We put up 6 to 10 canopies and have a DJ—DJ Mel.
WHAT DO YOU PUT ON YOUR TAILGATE GRILL? We cook something for everybody. Not everybody eats beef. Not everybody eats pork. At our tailgates we do a couple cases of ribs—that’s 18 slabs in each case—and a case of chicken that’s about 40 pounds, and 10 to 15 pounds of kielbasasize sausage. We get that locally made. Then we have trays of mac-and-cheese, collard greens and baked beans. I do buffalo wings.
THAT’S A HECK OF A LOT. We cook too much of everything. I want everyone to be happy and their bellies over-full. So if we’re cooking for 30, I have enough for 50.
AND THE LEFTOVERS GO…We don’t take anything home. Oh no. If there’s something of anything left, we’re in downtown Atlanta, and there’s always someone around looking for help. We just give it away.
HOW DO YOU HAVE TIME FOR ALL THIS? I don’t do it all myself. Gerard makes our mac and cheese, Pamela makes the beans, and Angelo makes the greens. And not everything has to be homemade or made from scratch. I’ve had people offer to pay me to make my artichoke spinach dip for them, and it’s just the recipe off the Knorr vegetable soup mix package.
SO YOU’RE SAYING LET GO? Yes. Build a tailgate team around you—good friends, family—because you’re also going to forget something. You’ll need someone to bring those things. Make sure you have several people to mind the grill too, because one person gets tired if they’re doing it all day. We start cooking at 2:00 to 3:00 in the morning for a 1:00 game.
HOW MANY GRILLS/SMOKERS DO YOU OWN NOW? We have a hog cooker, the grill, and two gravity feed smokers. Everything is an Assassin.
ARE YOU DOING A HOG AT EVERY TAILGATE? No, but we take the hog cooker every time. We can absolutely cook anything on it. We put pans of dips and beans on it to warm things up. You can set it to a temp and it just keeps that temperature.
Renee’s Smoked Salmon
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet (whole fillet or individuals)
2 tablespoons grainy mustard (any kind will work)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
Wood chips (optional)
Soak plank in water for an hour. Heat grill or smoker to 300°. Add your favorite flavor of wood chips/chunks. Pecan, hickory, or peach are more traditional flavors. For a grill, soak the chips in water and add to the charcoal. For a smoker, add chunks to fire box or wood pan.
Lay salmon on soaked plank. Rub with mustard. Mix spices. Sprinkle on top of the mustard (mustard holds the rub to the meat). Coat fillet with brown sugar.
Cook to an internal temperature of 130° or 125° for medium. Don’t overcook or the meat will be dry.
WHAT’S THE BBQ TOOL MOST PEOPLE NEVER USE, BUT SHOULD? The pitmasterIQ. It’s a little fan that blows tufts of air on the fire to keep it at a certain temp. You can put it on any type of smoker or grill.
BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE ON THE GRILL? We don’t call them mistakes, we call them practice. We weren’t always good. We used to cook in the backyard on a gas grill before we got into barbecue. We’d over-salt everything because salt was our only seasoning. Now we know there’s more spices than salt and that every meat has an optimal temperature.
FAVORITE CUT OF MEAT? Oh my God, I love beef brisket. It’s just good. It’s succulent. But ribs are the most fun to grill. You don’t have to wait as long. And you can watch ‘em change, watch the meat retract from the tips of the bones, and you know when that meat’s shrinking up, it’s getting yummy. Man, there’s nothing that I like grilling more than ribs.
WHAT’S THE MOST DIFFICULT THING YOU HAD TO LEARN? Pork loin. You just got to hit the temperature right on a pork loin. There’s not a lot of fat on it, so if you overcook it, it’s really dry. It’s not a forgiving meat.
YOUR TIP FOR TAILGATE PITMASTERS? Remember to have fun. Tailgating’s about your team, your friends, and your family.