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Game Day Grilling: Be Great at the Tailgate

With the kick-off to the football season here, fans across the country are preparing their tailgate checklists and equipment for the pre-game festivities, for what is sure to be the best tailgating season yet. And, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), when it comes to tailgating, this season North Americans are more likely to tailgate at professional football games (27%) than any other type of event, such as outdoor concerts (19%) and college football games (15%).

Starting your tailgating season off right sets the right tone for the rest of the season. HPBA has the following game day plan to get you started:

  • Know the Rules: Know the tailgating rules for your stadium before game day. Are grills, smokers and fryers allowed? What time do the parking lot gates open for tailgaters?
  • Morning Practice: Create a tailgate checklist so you won’t forget your gear, including food, drinks, grill, smoker or fryer, grilling accessories, chairs, table, cooler and paper goods.
  • Equipment Check: You can’t play the game without the ball, and you can’t cook without the grill, smoker or fryer. Make sure your ‘equipment’ works properly before getting to the stadium. You’ll also want to bring your favorite outdoor cooking accessories, like tongs, and plenty of paper goods for serving.
  • Be a Team Player: Score big with your friends by bringing a variety of food to throw on the grill, smoker or fryer, and drinks and water, so that there’s something for everyone, including kids, vegetarians and those who may just want a snack.
  • Pre-Game Prep: Prep and marinate meat ahead of time and keep on ice during transportation to ensure freshness (and safety). Arrive early to start up the grill so that it’s fired-up by the time other tailgaters arrive.
  • Go the Extra Yard: You’ve got the grill and the food, but don’t forget about tailgating entertainment, like an iPod, MP3 player or other device for parking lot music, generator to power a TV for pre-game coverage, or even a football, frisbee or cornhole set for activities to play before the game starts.
  • Clean-up Blitz: Before heading into the stadium, make sure the grill is completely extinguished, coals are cooled and disposed, and you’ve cleaned up your tailgating area. Most stadiums provide metal trash cans to place used charcoal. However, if you are tailgating at a stadium that does not, it is always a good idea to bring your own small metal can to place cooled coals.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: After you and your guests deemed the tailgate a success and the game is over, go home and ‘review the tapes’. Did the new marinade you used work? Do you have enough charcoal, propane, etc. for next week’s tailgate? Take what you learn from each tailgate and apply it to the next to be the champion of the tailgating season.

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