Barbecue University™

8 Tips for Gold Plate Tailgating

Grilled Ultimate Cheese Steak630

Wherever you host your tailgating party, the food must impress. Gone are the days when burgers and dogs made the cut. To bring your “A” game to this contest, practice what I like to call GPT, “Gold Plate Tailgating.” No, this doesn’t necessarily mean bringing your best table linens or a margarita machine powered by a car battery to the stadium. You can if you want to, but here’s a glimpse of my playbook:

  1. Build your GPT menu around a large hunk of meat that serves lots of people, such as prime rib or The Ultimate Cheesesteak (pictured, above), a whole butterflied beef tenderloin stuffed with poblanos, onions, and provolone cheese, then grilled and served with chipotle sauce.
  2. Bring two grills if possible, one for direct grilling appetizers like pepper Jack or Cheddar cheese quesadillas, and another for foods needing lower, slower cooking times, like barbecued onions or pork shoulder. While I personally prefer charcoal or wood-burning grills, there are a number of good portable gas grills.
  3. Bring extra fuel—more than you think you’ll need. There’s nothing more embarrassing than running out of charcoal or propane. Note: Transport propane tanks in plastic milk crates to keep them upright.
  4. Be a prepared weekend warrior: Develop a master list of tools, fuels, and other essentials—like tickets!—and have it laminated. You can use it over and over again. If tailgating at home, of course, your chances of recovering from a fumble are better.
  5. “Safety” is a word all football fans understand. It’s important in the parking lot, too. Keep cold foods cold, hot foods hot, and always position a fire extinguisher near your improvised outdoor kitchen. Take advantage of coal disposal bins if the stadium offers them. Otherwise, thoroughly douse your fire and transport the remains in an ash can like this one.
  6. If not on familiar home turf, check on stadium/parking lot regulations in advance. You don’t want to arrive at 5 a.m., only to learn parking is not allowed until three hours before game time, which could be as late as 8 p.m. for popular televised contests.
  7. Don’t forget beverages when menu planning. If the game/race starts at noon, offer coffee, Bloody Marys, mimosas, or bloody beers—beer with a splash of tomato juice and lime. Late afternoon tailgate parties call for more sophisticated cocktails. Icy martinis, Manhattans, etc. Provide non-alcoholic options, including bottled still and sparkling waters, soda pop, or energy drinks.
  8. Gold Plate Tailgaters always anticipate their guests’ comfort. Give them a place to sit. A place to rest their drinks. And drinks to rest, of course, like michelada—red beer made by fortified ale with bloody mary mix and pickled jalapeno juice, smoky martinis, a selection of non-alcoholic drinks, etc. What really makes a Gold Plate Tailgater is hospitality and attention to detail.