Like football, tailgating has developed into a uniquely American tradition. For some, enjoying the pregame camaraderie with other fans out in the parking lot is nearly as important as the game itself. Read on for some tips to help ensure a successful outdoor eating experience before the big game.

Make It Ahead

Do as much of the preparation as possible in advance. For example, assemble Mason jar salads or toss together a vinegar-based coleslaw that tastes better after sitting in the fridge a day or two. Mix up calico baked beans or your favorite fondue and bring it right in the pan you plan to reheat it in.   

Major in Finger Foods

When tailgating, you already know it makes sense to serve foods you can eat with your hands. If you’re looking for alternatives to the traditional burgers and brats, try fajitas, quesadillas, fish tacos or grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Or consider bringing fully cooked calzones, burritos or egg rolls, which can reheat nicely on the grill.

Warm Up with Soup

When it’s especially cold, don’t forget that hearty, chase-the-chills-away soups such as creamy wild rice, cheeseburger chowder or chili are a welcome option. Don’t make them too thick – so people can sip them from big mugs without even taking their gloves off. Keep soup warm in a thermos or reheat it in a cooking pot on a grill or camping stove. If you’d rather put your chili on top of a hot dog, you can save time and space by heating the hot dogs right in the chili.

Grill Your Veggies

Hot vegetables are just the thing on a chilly game day. Skewers work, but tin foil can also do the trick for cooking your vegetables. At home, assemble foil packets with veggies of your choice, seasoned and ready to pop on the grill. Try a combination of sliced cabbage and onions salted and drizzled with olive oil,  summer squash and bell pepper chunks with a taco seasoning mix, or for something a little sweet, sliced carrots with pats of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar.  

Recreate That Just-Out-of-the-Oven Taste

Once you’re done with the main course, place a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil on the grill and use it as a cookie sheet. Set fully baked cookies on top and heat them just until warm. Don’t limit this to chocolate chip cookies. You can reheat just about any type of bar or drop cookies – including brownies, blondies, gingersnaps, peanut butter or oatmeal raisin cookies – to good effect. Just watch them carefully because the high fat and sugar content could lead to burnt cookies before you know it.


By Anita Dualeh