Now that football season is well underway, it’s time to gather your friends and family and enjoy the game (and the pregame) with an expertly packed menu for tailgating. Tailgating is a time-honored tradition that calls for fun games, great food, and tons of team spirit. But in order to ensure that everyone has a great time, you have to plan ahead for the perfect outcome.
Your menu needs to be the perfect combination of delicious and portable. You need to make sure you have all the essential tools on hand. You of course need to plot out the drinks and location. To help make all of those decisions a little easier, we’ve got your outdoor feast planned for you, from exactly what foods to make to how to pack them and what to bring!
What to Make
Picnic food should be simple, easy to pack, and easily transportable. Unless you really want to impress guests with your stellar cooking ability, you don’t need to do anything fancy. Finger foods like sandwiches, spreads and dips with pita chips, cookies, and other items that don’t require utensils are ideal. For ease of serving and preparation, you can also include on the menu some make-ahead dishes that are weather-appropriate, like casseroles, chilis, and baked pastas. If you want a little greenery and decide to make a salad, it should be mixed on the spot instead of pre-made to avoid wilting vegetables due to the dressing. Remember, you don’t have to cook everything: bringing a few staples, like chicken wings from your favorite spot, is completely acceptable. Also, don’t forget the drinks! Always have water on hand, and some tasty hot toddies to keep warm.
Employ Food Safety
Think about how you transport the food from your home to your destination. If driving in a car, keep the food with you in the air-conditioning instead of the trunk, which can be several degrees hotter. If you are bringing raw meats and poultry to cook on-site, keep them in a separate cooler by themselves to avoid cross-contamination. Be wary of high-risk foods like meat, poultry, cheese, hot dogs, and mayonnaise, which should not spend more than two hours at room temperature. If it’s out longer, discard it. As a rule of thumb, keep cold food cold (40 degrees or lower) and hot food hot (140 degrees and above) to avoid food poisoning.
This article was originally published October 28, 2013