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One of the great experiences in life is the thrill of a great Fall day joined by friends and family for the excitement of the All-American pastime of tailgating! This is not intended to be the complete guide to tailgating, merely some tips that I have picked up through the years from hosting many a tailgate. Feel free to add yours in the comment section below.

Tools of the Trade

I find that at least half the battle is in preparation. Before you even concern yourself with the menu, make sure you have all the necessary tools to make your get together a success.

If you are going to be a regular tailgater, I have found it really convenient to keep all the supplies in one place, the tailgate bin. For serious tailgating, I would suggest purchasing two of these bins.

Now it’s time to fill the bin with those items that will always come in handy: - Paper towels - Wet Wipes - Quart and Gallon storage bags (Leftovers) - Aluminum Foil - Garbage bags - Serving Utensils - Table Cloths - Clips for the table cloths (Necessary for those windy days) - Salt and Pepper - Napkins - Plastic cutlery Folding Tables – the center folding table fits in your car for easy transport

Pop Up Tent – It provides protection in the colder weather games and is nice shade in those warm early season games

Coleman All-In-One Cooking System. This is perhaps my most prized possession when it comes to cooking at the tailgate. It can be a grill, stove, skillet, or griddle. It’s compact and easy to travel with. I found mine at Walmart.

The only thing better than the All-In-One is adding the stock pot cooker to it. You make your slow cooker items at home and keep them warm throughout the tailgate with this valuable tool. (Extra hint: Use the disposable slow cooker liners for very quick clean up afterward!)

Let’s Talk Food!

Preparation is important, especially to reduce stress before and after the game, but the real reason to tailgate is because of the food! Certainly everyone has their favorite game day specialties that they like to prepare, and I certainly wouldn’t try to dissuade you from them. In fact, I would love to hear about your “must make” tailgate treat in the comments section! That said, I've listed a few helpful hints that I have learned over the years along with a couple of my favorite items.

The Basics

  • Minimize your work with pre-made items. Do you really want to spend all day cutting vegetables when the grocery store has them ready?
  • Know your audience. Are there going to be kids who might be happier with hot dogs on the grill than orzo with spinach and beans? Plan accordingly.
  • Don’t try something new! That Buffalo Chicken Enchilada recipe might seem like the ticket to tailgate stardom but I would suggest testing it at home before presenting it to a huge audience at the big game.

Food Ideas

For dessert, it’s always nice to have items in small increments so that you can sample everything. I find that homemade brownies (even from a box) always get a great response. But why not up the taste a bit with a topping for the brownies. A quick look online will give you some great ideas such as cream cheese or mint. My favorite topping is peanut butter and chocolate, commonly known as a Buckeye Brownie. Unless you are an Ohio State fan, you might want to create your own name for these delectable treats!

Early games can create an opportunity for a breakfast tailgate. This is a chance to get creative. How about Pancake Dippers with Bacon? Pancakes turn into finger food. We get to use the Coleman All-In-One with the griddle. Most importantly, WE GET A NEW WAY TO ENJOY BACON! Simply make your pancake mix and cook your bacon at home. At your tailgate it’s easy enough to use your griddle to make the dippers. (Side note, those small condiment are great for syrup)

Another great idea for those breakfast tailgates is the biscuit sandwich. I use the Pillsbury biscuits (4 pack of 40 biscuits for $2.50) and make them before heading out to the game. A quick grilling along with your favorite breakfast sandwich items will be a huge hit. Sausage and cheese are particularly popular at my tailgates.

The slow cooker can be your friend. As I mentioned earlier, the Coleman All-In-One has a slow cooker option. It works great for tailgating. But you can also pre-cook before you get to your tailgate so you have time to enjoy the party with everyone else. Just make sure to get an insulated carrier that will get your food to the game staying nice and hot as intended.

Always a major hit at our tailgate are barbecued ribs! This is an example of where you can use the slow cooker to your advantage. I like to use the country style ribs (bone in or boneless). They are already cut to individual pieces at the grocery store and go in the slow cooker with your favorite bbq sauce. They come out so tender! Cook them up at home and then at the game they can be thrown on the grill for a short time to earn their grill stripes.

I hope you enjoyed these tailgating tips. Please leave your tip below in the comments section. If you have any questions please let me know. Enjoy the games this weekend!