Newsletter Up In Smoke

Get Raichlen's Burgers! plus weekly recipes and tips straight from Steven Raichlen!


Hot Stuff

How to Host a Safe Tailgate Party at Home

The pandemic playbook is still being written, but traditional tailgate parties in the parking lots of sports stadiums and raceways across the land are—at least for now—verboten.

Benefits of Tailgating at Home

Perhaps they will resume at some point in the future. We just don’t know. In the meantime, there are many advantages to throwing a tailgate party at home, as those of us who aren’t season ticket holders know. Among the benefits are:

  • You control the number of people you come in contact with and can establish your own rules, from mask-wearing to social distancing;
  • You can create your own party atmosphere free from some of the restrictions imposed by public venues, and probably at less cost;
  • No special parking permits are required;
  • Less schlepping of food and equipment is needed;
  • No long waits for restroom facilities (or issues with cleanliness);
  • More opportunities to decorate in team colors;
  • Easy access to electricity for music, big screen TVs, margarita blenders, etc.;
  • No long drives to and from the stadium, including exasperating traffic jams;
  • Fewer concerns about weather;
  • The opportunity to provide more comfortably for guests;
  • If you forget something, no worries!
  • Childcare arrangements are easier to make.


How to Host A Social Distancing Tailgate at Home

Covid-19 has admittedly been a game-changer for even the most experienced party hosts. How do you entertain, and still keep you and your family and guests safe?

Host your tailgate outdoors.

Fortunately, a barbecue is a great excuse to hold the party outdoors, the safest place to gather, doctors tell us. You can set up a number of seating areas so people can maintain a comfortable distance from each other. You can even ask guests to bring their own seating; foldable stadium chairs like this one are great. Be sure to provide flat spaces for folks to rest drinks or plates.

Wear a mask.

Encourage mask usage, if desired, by providing masks featuring team colors or logos. If some of your guests are unknown to others, provide name tags for everyone when they arrive. (In this mask-wearing era, it can be difficult to recognize people!)

Set up portable handwashing or hand sanitizer stations.

Add hand soap and disinfectant to your list of party supplies. You may want to set up a portable handwashing station outdoors. In any case, make sure bathrooms are well-stocked.

Now, onto the fun stuff.


Social Distancing Tips for Serving Food and Beverages

As always, set up a number of food and beverage stations to encourage mingling and movement. Ice down bottled beer, water, and soda pop or set up a mini bar so guests can mix their own cocktails. (Check out the blog we just published on grilled cocktails written by Steven’s friend, Dave Stolte. If using disposable cups, ask guests to write their names on their cups with a permanent marker (which you provide at the drinks table, of course) so there aren’t any “Whoops, that one’s mine” mix-ups.

If the weather’s chilly, guests might appreciate hot beverages like coffee or hot chocolate. Hold in a large thermos like this one from Yeti. Offer Kahlua, Bailey’s, amaretto, or another java- or cocoa-friendly liqueur and a can of whipped cream topping.

Covid has made communal bowls of chips and dip and even nachos unfashionable, but individual servings can take their place. You’ll likely want to serve appetizers hot off the grill anyway, this being a barbecue and all.


Best Tailgate Recipes on the Grill

Here are some of our top picks for tailgating appetizers:

Stick to the individual portion theme when planning your main course, too. Grilled burgers or sliders, plated by the grill master, are one option. Scoop smoked baked beans—such as Steven’s sensational Brisket Baked Beans or potato salad into individual deli-style containers for guests to pick up as they please.

Brisket Baked Beans

Or ladle your favorite smoked chili into bowls or Mason jars directly from your Dutch oven and accompany with bagged corn chips and an array of self-serve condiments.

Barbecued turkey or chicken legs, pulled pork sandwiches (for something different, try this Korean version), kebabs, and other hand-held foods are also good game day foods. Beef, mushroom, and red pepper skewers are da bomb! 

And don’t forget dessert! Salt Slab Chocolate Brownie S’Mores are always a hit, as are Steven’s singular Brisket Chocolate Chip Cookies, which can be individually packaged in small paper or cellophane bags.

Brisket Chocolate Chip Cookies


What are your best tips for tailgating at home? Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram!