On The Grill: 5 Tailgating Tips


Nothing gets a fanatic fan ready for kickoff on game day like a tailgate or home football party.  As the game continues to get faster and more intense, ritualistic fans keep up the tempo by taking parties to a new level.  Comfort and convenience has come a long way from dusty parking lots, warm drinks, and wobbly webbed chairs.  Some fans are even renting vacation homes on game day.  Today’s tail-gaiting amenities like satellite television, outdoor cooling systems, and electronic insect killers have become the norm, all the better for helping weekend warriors focus on rooting their teams to victory.

Just like the team practiced all week, seasoned party planners often also have a play book for scoring big before kickoff. Here are a few things to keep in mind that may help when you are planning your next game day event.

Plan Ahead

Your team has a good game plan going into the big game and so should you.  Like a head coach, you need to take into consideration how many players will be on the party roster.  No host wants to run out of food or beverages, but a bigger blunder is getting stuck with a lot of leftovers, or worse, having food spoil.  Have enough for the game, but don’t go overboard.  It’s a safe play to plan for a few fair-weather fans to join the party and weasel their way into your wet bar.  Chances are, you won’t get many more people than those on your guest list.

With a quick web search, you can find a football party checklist that will work as a good reminder when shopping for your game day goodies.  A game day shopping and party list will keep you focused at the supermarket and should help to keep you from over-spending.

Buy at the Warehouse Club Stores

With a good party game plan in place, it is time to look at your menu and decide where you can save some money on food and beverages.  Warehouse stores like BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club will cost you an annual membership fee, but the savings and convenience often makes it worth your while.   Consumer Reports did a report on warehouse club savings over local grocery stores, Target, and Walmart .  Some of the savings is astounding.  On the average when buying party essentials like Chinet disposable plates, Corona Beer, Planters Roasted Peanuts, Ritz Crackers, and Tyson Chicken Wings, a warehouse store will save you between 37% and 57% at the cash register over what you may pay at Walmart or your local grocery store.

Prep ahead of time

The big game party should be just as fun for the host as it is for the invited guests.  Most dishes can be prepared almost entirely in advance and finished before kickoff, often coming out better than if they were made completely on game day.  The bratwurst is a great example.  Brats are a favorite of the tailgate, but can be challenging to cook safely and properly on game day.  Instead, boil and cook your brats ahead of time and freeze them.  On game day, re-heat in boiling beer and sauerkraut, and then finish on the grill for extra flavor.

Keep things organized with storage containers

The difference between a good party and a great one is the attention to detail.  A good game day host should be able to anticipate the needs of the partygoers before being asked, keeping the party rolling without any hiccups.  Having things like extra paper towels, sunscreen, garbage bags, wet wipes, and antacid on hand will keep everyone happy, but keeping all the extras organized can be a challenge.  Take advantage of medium to large stackable containers or plastic drawers to keep these items organized in one place.  Clear plastic containers offer the added benefit of being portable see-through so you can locate items quickly and without having to use X-ray vision.  Game day containers should be dedicated and stay packed for the entire season with the same items so there is no question if you forgot to bring a corkscrew or not.

Upgrade your party pad to professional grade

Once your supplies are organized and portable, you don’t need to limit parties to a pre-game park, stadium lot, or home. Consider upgrading your cooking surface and seating area to a vacation rental property with modern amenities and conveniences.  Often located in desirable areas, one of the cool things about vacation rentals is that you can search for them by amenities.  I have had no trouble finding properties with a water view, hot tub, swimming pool, fire pit, and of course an outdoor grill or kitchen which suits the needs of me and my guests.  Often renting a vacation property for a few days with friends pencils out to be less expensive and much more fun than staying at a hotel.

Consider planning your menu around your opponent

If you have football parties on a regular basis, keeping the menu fresh and new is a very fun way to keep the party going.  Often, I would plan based on the team, or town we were playing against.  If we played Philadelphia, I would make Philly cheese steaks.  When we play the Bills, I make Buffalo wings, and have been known to make Chicago style deep-dish pizza when we play the Bears.  Playing on the name of your opposition team also becomes fun if you loosely interpret a team or city.  We have made Cuban sandwiches like you can commonly find in Miami, horse meat burgers (substituted with ground beef) against the Denver Broncos, and a perennial favorite – New England clam chowder when our beloved Patriots play at home.  One of the most fun football menus was when we played a game at Wembley stadium and embraced the cuisine of London when the NFL travelled over the pond.  I served roast meat, peas with pearl onions and of course Yorkshire pudding made from scratch.  English beers like Bass, Boddingtons, and Samuel Smith’s wet down our whistles.

An easy dish to serve at your next football party that won’t break the bank has the essence of the world champion Baltimore Ravens.  This dish always becomes an instant favorite and will leave your fans coming back for more.  Best of all, they can be made ahead of time and cooked or re-heated on the grill:

Grilling Montana’s Grilled Crab Cake Recipe

Grilled Crab Cakes

Crab cakes can easily be made on the grill picking up lots of flavor from the charcoal

  • 1 can Jumbo Lump crab or fresh crab if you can get your hands on it
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 12 Ritz crackers, finely crushed
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Sriracha (or less based on your preference)
Crab Cake Ingredients

Ingredients for Grilled Crab Cakes

Combine all ingredients except crab, Panko, and cracker crumbs in a large bowl.  Whisk all ingredients together until you get a smooth, wet mixture.  Be sure to have the mayo and egg well incorporated.  Fold crab meat into wet mixture taking care not to break up the lump crab as best you can.  Sprinkle half the breadcrumbs and cracker crumbs onto mixture and fold again.  Repeat with remaining crumbs.  Form cakes with delicate care and try not to over-handle.  Bake at 350 until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Baking on parchment paper is not a bad idea.  Also cooks fantastic on a grill over indirect heat.

Paul Sidoriak is a food blogger and grilling enthusiast who enjoys cooking non- traditional dishes outside over hardwood lump charcoal like this Best Ever Sweet Onion Rings done On The Grill dish.  He enjoys food blogging on his personal blog, has an On The Grill blog in the Missoula Community here at Make It Missoula.com, and was featured as tailgater monthly magazines “Griller Guy” for May and June 2013 Tailgater Magazine article.



Paul Sidoriak, grill masterPaul moved to Montana in 1996 with about a dozen friends from Lyndon State College in Vermont. He is still reluctantly paying his student loans and has carved out a career working as a supplier representative for various food and beverage products. Paul enjoys grilling after a day on the water or an afternoon in the garden where he has been known to grow heirloom tomatoes and peppers out of spite. Often cooking for extended family and friends, he takes a whimsical approach to cooking simple, seasonal dishes, while not taking it too seriously.


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