The No-Fuss Party Plan
Pack up the cooler and the grill, and set up potluck camp outside the stadium before the big game. We've got a few tips on how to easily organize a successful tailgating party, plus winning recipes that are sure to please a crowd.
Tailgating Tip: Set food out all at once so everyone can dig in when they please. Remember the cardinal rule of food saftey—don't leave prepared foods out more than two hours, and less than that in warmer weather.
Tailgating Cooler Strategy
If you pack efficiently, you might only need to bring one or two coolers to game day. To make sure everything fits, only use containers just big enough to hold each item. Pack the cooler(s) just before leaving home, with the meat items on the bottom in between ice packs. Wrap any breakable bowls and jars in towels, and put condiments and veggies in last.
Tailgating Tip: Keep perishable items, such as burger condiments, in the cooler until you're ready to use them.
Tailgating Game Plan
To save time at the tailgating site, give each person in the party a job for setting and cleaning up. Everything will go smoothly when everyone helps a little. Have one person in charge of the grill, one person in charge of drinks, and one in charge of unpacking the car (and packing it again at the game's end). Delegate duties before arrival so there aren't any mix-ups.
Tailgating Tip: Cut bars, split buns, slice pickles, and do any other preparations ahead of time to avoid extra work at the game.
On-Site Cooking Tips
Make one person in charge of manning the grill. Since there might not be a lot of space for food prep, it's best to leave one person to it.
Tailgating Tip: Make sure raw meat is cooked to the proper internal temperature—165 degrees F. To play it safe, pack a meat thermometer to check when grill items are done.
Grilled Herb Burgers
These flavorful burgers are low-maintenance and perfect for toting to the big game. Make the patties at home and slice the tomatoes ahead of time, then package neatly in the cooler. Once they're off the grill, top with tomato slices on toasted buns for a main-course hit.
Tailgating Tip: Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods such as dips, veggies, and bread.
Chili-Sour Cream Dip
This salsa-and-chili-based dip stirs up in minutes, making pregame prep easy. In place of (or in addition to) chips, include veggie dippers for this versatile dip, which can also be used as a tasty burger topping.
Tailgating Tip: As an alternative to serving raw veggies, steam and chill them before the game, then transport in a cooler with the dip.
Adorable Pumpkin Football Cakes
You'll have to bake these beauties in advance, but the pigskin-theme desserts are a tailgate standout.
Artichoke and Pepper Toasts
Another easy, make-ahead tailgating dish, this garlicky and cheesy spread goes great with toasted baguette slices. Wrap the dip and bread separately in double layers of aluminum foil, then place in an insulated container for toting.
Tailgating Tip: After cooking, refrigerate perishable foods immediately in shallow containers. If needed, place chilled food in smaller containers for bringing to the game.
Classic Tailgating Drinks
Pack lemonade and other drinks that are best served cold in a separate cooler filled with ice. When the drinks are placed out, keep the lid on drink jars to deter bugs.
Tailgating Tip: Lemonade and punch travel best when placed in large jars with tight-fitting lids or clean 1/2-gallon milk cartons.
Potato and Squash Salad
This room temperature salad is a real winner with cubed butternut squash and sweet potato. Serve the Caribbean-spiced veggies over a bed of spinach at the tailgating site for a healthy food option.
Tailgating Tip: For salad recipes with dressing, pour the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, top with salad ingredients, and toss it all when you arrive.
Bonanza Bean Dip
This make-ahead dip boasts Mexican flavors with lime guacamole, refried beans, and cotija cheese. Keep the toppings (tomatoes, olives, and green onions) separate from the dip when toting, and add once it's ready to eat.
Tailgating Tip: Seal perishable dishes (or dishes that need to remain chilled) tightly, then place them in an insulated bag, wooden box, or basket. Surround the chilled dish with clean, crumpled newspaper.
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