Last-Minute Tailgating Tips From Chef Cat Cora
Organizing a tailgating party is fun, but it can be stressful, as we don’t all have the luxury of time to prepare everything in advance. Tailgating is a time to let loose and enjoy spending quality time with friends and family, but instead, for many it can turn into a hectic frenzy, crammed full of 11th-hour shopping, worrying about the weather, and finding the perfect parking spot. All this frantic activity can lead to stress, fights, and "tailgate burnout," which is anything but enjoyable — and that’s when time needs to be on your side!
So, what should you do if you are tasked with prepping for a tailgate event at the last minute? Don’t panic! Celebrated chef Cat Cora has come up with some last-minute tailgating tips for when time is of the essence. Cora is sort of an expert for this. She recently launched Cat Cora’s Kitchen, a new iPad app that simplifies meal preparation for at-home cooks of any skill level. Cat Cora’s Kitchen is the first app of its kind to use a patented "smart recipe" format, which shows users how to organize their time in the kitchen in order to create delicious, perfect meals. A little planning ahead will make all the difference, and you should be able to get yourself and your party organized in time.
Chef Cora’s tips won’t take long to implement, but it will certainly appear (and taste) as if you have spent months planning and preparing. Just be sure to follow her great tips and you’ll be ready to cheer on your team in style in no time!
For more information about chef Cora, please visit and follow her on Twitter (@catcora) and Facebook.
The Daily Meal: What should you always have on hand to tailgate at the last second?
Cat Cora: Spice rubs! Great spice rubs make all the difference. It’s a quick and easy way of adding fantastic flavor and texture to your food. Always try to have a stash of grilling and cooking utensils to "throw and go" like can openers, ladles, spoons, basting brushes, cutting boards, and tongs. Also, it’s very important that you have a tailgating kit: paper plates, utensils and napkins, trash bags, aluminum foil, re-sealable plastic bags are particularly useful, and other sundries, and obviously, a good portable grill.
TDM: How do you handle a large group last minute?
CC: These are your friends — use them! Call or send a mass text to all and say "double down (or up!)" and just make sure that everyone gets extras and help out. One solution would be to assign people to bring specific foods and drinks. If you ask everyone to bring alcohol, you’ll be sure to have a merry time, if all else fails!
TDM: How much food should you make in advance?
CC: Try to do all the prep you can do ahead of time. Foods that can be made at home — potato salad, wings, smoking ribs, marinated meats — and transported is good. You can also slice/cut/chop things in advance so you have more time to set things up at the event. Try to do all that you can ahead that you will be able to get a jump on the day and actually have some time to enjoy the event!
TDM: What are some quick and easy snacks that can be prepared at short notice? No-fuss foods?
CC: Definitely wings of all sorts, guacamole and chips, and mini burgers aka "sliders" are quick and easy to make. You can make a variety of different sliders such as beef, ham, turkey, or black bean. Food on a stick like satays and kabobs are perfect for a crowd. You also can’t go wrong with dips — warm artichoke dip and pita chips, hummus and vegetables, salsa, etc. Basically, anything rocks as long as it’s easy. In terms of beverages, anything goes — beer is a must, wine, a special cocktail for the day, diet sodas, and drinks for kids that are low-sugar, and make sure to bring plenty of water!
TDM: How best to keep costs down if on a budget?
CC: If you’re trying to keep costs down, I would try to shop at one of the discount stores such as Costco or Sam’s Club. Choose chicken thighs and wings (which actually have more flavor) instead of breast meat, flank and skirt steak, sausages, and seasonal and local fruits and vegetables are always cheaper too. Look for deals at your supermarket that weekend.