Tailgates are part of the football experience, and with the upcoming games this weekend, here’s some tips on how to have a great (and safe) tailgate.
1. Avoid Food Poisoning
Nothing will ruin a day at the stadium like food poisoning, and it incredibly easy to cross-contamination, especially if the grill master is drinking. Be diligent in washing utensils, cutting boards, and your hands after coming in contact with raw meat. For both convenience and food safety, use paper plates that are easily disposable.
When packing raw meat, use individual containers and place them in an ice packed cooler until they are ready for the grill. Be sure your guests know which cooler is for meat and which one is for their beverages so an unfortunate mix up doesn’t happen.
2. Cooked to Perfection
Follow the rules of the meat. Ground meats should reach an internal temperature of at least 160°F, steaks at least 145°F, pork chops at least 160°F, and chicken should reach at least 180°F. Ensuring the temperature of your meat doesn’t have to be tough! Equip yourself with an instant-read food thermometer, you’ll never have to worry about undercooking meat again.
3. When it Doubt, Throw it Out
Make “when in doubt, throw it out” your tailgating mantra. We all hate throwing away food, but as you wrap up your tailgating extravaganza, it’s time to throw away perishable foods that have been left out for more than an hour in hot temperatures or more than two hours in moderates conditions.
4. Respect the Fire, Have an Extinguisher On-Hand
When you’re grilling, make sure you have a fire extinguisher in close proximity (not packed in your truck). If you don’t need it, another tailgater might. If you’re grilling with coals, be sure to douse them with water and let them cool before placing them in a container to discard or pack in your vehicle.
5. Keep Band-Aids for the Booboos
You can’t go wrong having a first-aid kit on-hand. After all, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it an not have it. With everybody excited for the game, competitive spirits run high and a friendly game of throwing the football around may turn into tackle; be sure to have band-aids and ice packs ready to go for when Uncle Jim gets a little carried away.
6. Count on a Designated Driver
If your tailgating party includes alcohol, be sure to have one or more DDs. Offer to buy the DD non alcoholic drinks during the game and maybe pitch in for a few snacks to say thanks for their duty. Always offer your tailgating companions non alcoholic choices, including bottled water. (This is a great time to be nice to your 20-year-old niece or nephew.)
7. Party in Numbers
Tailgating and socializing are nearly synonymous, but avoid gallivanting through crowds of rowdy tailgaters alone. Because alcohol impairs decision making, it’s especially important to sick with a buddy if you have been consuming alcohol. If you do head off on your own, make sure your friends know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
And not with more alcohol! Most tailgates are happenin’ a few hours before the game starts, and that’s plenty of time to get more than a little inebriated. A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage. If you’re actually going to go inside the stadium to watch the game, standing in the sun for hours on end without any proper hydration can really sneak up on ya. Be safe. Don’t be silly.