Tailgating And Camping Checklist

By:

Meathead

Game planning is crucial to avoid a fumble for a good tailgating party.

Start planning early. Check the rules on the place you plan to park. Some lots do not permit tailgating, some do not allow charcoal grills, some do not allow adult beverages, some do not allow glass bottles, and some do not allow trailers. Get organized.

Why not get there early and cook breakfast with Bloody Mary’s or mimosas and throw a ball around? Then lunch before going into the game, and then dinner after the game rather than fighting traffic? And go easy on the drinks. You don’t want to pass out before the game winning drive in the fourth quarter.

Plan simple foods. Don’t get too complicated. Don’t try to show off. KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid). Plan dishes that allow you to spend time with your friends. Think about food that can be eaten with your hands. It’s hard cutting steaks with a plastic knife on a paper plate. Think burritos, wraps, sandwiches, things on buns.

It is especially important that you pay close attention to food safety when you are away from refrigeration and running hot water. Read my page about food safety. Remember to keep food below 40°F or above 150°F. Label your coolers so people won’t keep opening the meat cooler when they are looking for a beer.

meathead tailgating

There are three paths to follow:

1) Do all your cooking at the game. Pick foods that cook quickly like burgers, brats, chicken parts, steaks, fajitas, seafood. Unless you have someone to stand guard over the cooker and the meat, don’t try to smoke ribs while you’re in the game. Some dastard who couldn’t get tickets will surely smell your smoke and have a feast when you go to the bathroom. My go to is flank steak (above). It is great hot or room temp, on a plate, eaten with fingers, in a tortilla wrap, in a lettuce wrap, in a pita pocket, or on a bun with horsey sauce. I cook it on a on a $30 charcoal hibachi that will never be stolen when I am in the game, yet it gets hot enough that it builds a great dark crust and cooks it properly without a lid. I bring a jug of water to put out the coals when I am done.

2) Bring cooked foods that have been chilled. You can cook food early or the day before, chill it, bring it to the game cold, and cook it to a safe temp, usually above 160°F. Big thick cuts, like brisket or turkey breasts, are slow to warm and can take hours. But keep in mind, you are serving the equivalent of leftovers and they will not be as good as fresh cooked. I prepare most of the side dishes at home.

3) Bring hot food. You can bring recently cooked food in a good tight faux cambro, just keep the temp above 150°F. Brisket actually needs a couple of hours in a faux cambro, and pork butt holds fine in one. Bring them whole and cut or pull them on site. Whole cuts retain heat and moisture better. This is not a good strategy for poultry since it overcooks easily and the skin gets rubbery when held.

Do as much prep in advance as possible. For example, if you plan to make omelets for breakfast, break and mix the eggs, add the herbs and whatever else was going in, pour them in a jar, and then all you need to do is pour them into the hot pan with butter. You can chop peppers in advance, but onions get bitter if chopped in advance, and potatoes brown.

Save and clean empty milk jugs, and freeze water in them. The frozen bottles can keep food cold, and can be used for drinking and cleanup.

Buy an empty spray bottle at the drug store and fill it with a dilute solution of household bleach. USDA recommends a solution of one tablespoon of 5% unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Bleach is a powerful sanitizer. That’s why they put it in swimming pools. After washing cutting boards, knives, meat grinders, counters, etc., it’s a good idea to sanitize with bleach. Flood surfaces with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air or pat dry with clean paper towels.

Let’s start with a tailgating grill selected from our database of ratings. And take the advice of reader Mike Davis, get some plastic totes at the hardware store and put all your stuff in there. Label them so you can find things. You can then clean them and store them for the next game.

And don’t forget the tickets!

Tell me below in the comments what is missing from the list. And did you know that there is an entire magazine devoted to tailgating? Tailgater Magazine is full of cool new gear, entertaining ideas, and great food and drink recipes to make your next tailgate or backyard BBQ party the best ever! Click here for a FREE digital subscription to Tailgater Magazine.

Related articles

Published On: 4/24/2013 Last Modified: 4/24/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

Spotlight

These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs


If you have a Weber Kettle, you need the Slow ‘N’ Sear


The Slow ‘N’ Sear turns your grill into a first class smoker and also creates an extremely hot sear zone you can use to create steakhouse steaks.
Click here for our article on this breakthrough tool


Grilla Pellet Smoker proves good things come in small packages

We always liked Grilla. The small 31.5″ x 29.5″ footprint makes it ideal for use where BBQ space is limited, as on a condo patio.
Click here for our review on this unique smoker


Is This Superb Charcoal Grill A Kamado Killer?


The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it’s easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is beautifully designed, completely portable, and much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado.

Click here to read our detailed review of the PK 360

Click here to order directly and get an exclusive AmazingRibs.com deal


The Cool Kettle With The Hinged Hood We Always Wanted


Napoleon’s 22″ Pro Cart Charcoal Kettle Grill puts a few spins on the familiar kettle design. In fact, the hinged lid with a handle on the front, spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. It’s hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds some unique features to make the 22″ Pro Cart a viable alternative.

Click here for more about what makes this grill special


Griddle And Deep Fryer In One


The flat top does the burgers and the fryer does the fries. Use the griddle for bacon, eggs, and home fries. Or pancakes, fajitas, grilled cheese, you name it. Why stink up the house deep frying and spatter all over? Do your fried chicken and calamari outside. Blackstone’s Rangetop Combo With Deep Fryer does it all!

Click here to read our detailed review and to order


Masterbuilt MPS 340/G ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker


This is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. Set ThermoTemp’s dial from 175° to 350°F and the thermostat inside will adjust the burner just like an indoor kitchen oven. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’.

Click here to read our detailed review



Surely you know somebody who loves outdoor cooking who deserves a gift for the holidays, birthday, anniversary, or just for being wonderful. There he is, right in the mirror! Here are our selections of best ideas, all Platinum or Gold Medalists, listed by price.

Click here to see our list of Gold Medal Gifts