Top Tailgating Do’s, Don’ts and Must Haves

Hungry Fan
August 31, 2016
Football season is here and that means it's tailgating time!

The Hungry Fan's Do's and Don'ts of Tailgating

I first caught the tailgating bug back in college. Game day had always been a big part of life in the Falk household--my dad was a sports agent, so I grew up around professional athletes and attending a lot of sporting events. But it wasn’t until my time at Duke that I really started enjoying the party even more than the actual game.

Tailgating was the fun thing to do on a Saturday, because Duke football was just so bad at the time. We weren’t going to win the game, so the fun to be had was actually in the parking lot before, during and after the game.

Last week, I teamed up with Parade Magazine to reminisce about the good times that sparked my interest in fan food and sports culture, dish on my new book, The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook, and talk about the do’s, don’ts, and must haves for successful tailgating.

As I shared with Parade, one thing I’ve noticed--and perhaps you have too--is that we fans love our burgers, hot dogs, wings, chili and brats, but we also like to kick it up a notch these days.

We’re looking for one of two things: Some of us want healthier options with quality ingredients; so we pass up the mystery meat and choose grass-fed beef and pasture-raised, organic chicken or pork for the grill.

Others are looking to create something outrageous to outdo the next tent over, making the food itself a competition. You might have seen the burgers stacked high with a donut in place of the bun on Instagram--the crazier the creation, the more likely to catch attention and go viral.

And it’s all in the name of good fun--celebrating food, sports and culture.

No matter what’s on your plate, or whether you win or lose, here are some tailgating tips (or as I like to call it, fangating!) that I shared with Parade to get you ready for football fangating for the 2016-2017 season:

  1. Get a headcount. Find out who’s coming, so you can properly plan and have enough food on hand. Be sure there’s some for everyone, plus a little something extra for drop-in guests, but without leaving too many leftovers.

  2. Assign a point person. Tailgating is usually a team sport, and communication is key when you’re coordinating who’s bringing what. Someone should make sure you have everything covered.

  3. Split the cost. Feeding a crowd can be expensive, so make sure you divvy up expenses. Use apps such as PayPal or Venmo apps to share funds with your friends.

  4. Mix it up/add a little variety to your tailgate by celebrating the food culture of the opposing team too. Celebrate food culture from around the country and world. Playing New Orleans? Add my Andouille Jambalaya to the menu (see page 181 in my cookbook). Playing Green Bay? Try my Wisconsin-Style Fried Cheese Curds (see page 14).

  5. Don’t be late! Location is key if you want to have a blast, and the early bird gets the proverbial worm (the best spot). Fans get there early and wait in line to enter the parking lot. Be sure you're in line with them.

  6. Get the fire going with a portable grill. Whether you prefer charcoal or gas, my favorite is the Blue Rhino CrossFire ($89).

  7. Keep your beer cold in a classic Coleman 54-Quart Steel-Belted Cooler ($81) and the chili warm with Black + Decker’s new 7-Quart Chalkboard Slow Cooker or Hungry Fan Portable Slow Cooker 3-in-1 Fangating Bag (it keeps food both hot and cold)!

  8. Get comfy with the WooHoo Inflatable Lounger (a 7-foot couch) and stay cozy under Woolrich’s Cedar Spring and Hudson’s Bay 100-percent wool blankets.

  9. Serve up the good stuff with La Tienda’s Extra-Large 26-inch Traditional Steel Paella Pan and ditch the waste with eco-friendly Camerons’ Deco Stainless Steel Party Cups.

Happy fangating, Hungry Fans!