The time we've been waiting for has finally come.
College football is back! We’ve waited 2/3 of the year for this moment! Say goodbye to your honey-do list. No more struggling to find something to occupy your Saturdays. Your weekends are now full for the next 22 weeks, baby! That's right... Until January 13, 2021, you have a date with college football. Now that football is back, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to sit at home and watch the games from the comfort of your own couch? Maybe. Are you going to enjoy a game at a friend's house and dirty up their home? Possibly. Are you going to get in the thick of it all, dressed to the nines and screaming your team's fight song while tailgating at a football game? Hell yes! Tailgating is one of the most American things you can do. The throw-down before the showdown. The only time teams of opposing sides can come together in fellowship before becoming worst enemies on the field. When the dust settles, you probably won’t remember the score. But you will remember the most epic tailgate party ever! No matter if you're headed to Eugene, Pasadena, Tuscaloosa, or Athens, my tailgating hacks will skyrocket you and your team to the top of the rankings.
Jody's 15 Tips, Tricks, and Tailgating Hacks
1. Make a list and plan to get there early. A great tailgate isn’t just thrown together. Make a list and check it twice. Always include: duct tape, bungie cords, zip ties, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, two bottle openers, and a permanent marker. Almost any situation can be deescalated with the use of these simple items. A great tailgate can turn into a bad tailgate in an instant, so be prepared for any situation, literally! Why bring two bottle openers? In case one breaks or gets stolen. Try to think of every possible situation while making your list, and don’t forget your tickets! I always put our tickets in an envelope and pack them in the glove box first. This way, we always know where they are. The early bird always gets the closest spot to the bathroom and the best pick from the empty parking lot. The earlier you get there, the earlier you can get set up, start cooking, and start enjoying your Saturday. You also want to give yourself enough time to clean up before heading into the game. There is nothing worse than losing a nail-biter and having to come back and clean up the mess you left behind. When you win, it’s that much sweeter coming back to a clean spot. A post-game celebration always follows an epic win and caps off the ultimate tailgate.
2. Dress to impress and for comfort. Make sure you check the weather and dress appropriately. You've got to make it all day in that get-up, so commit to your apparel! It's a proven fact that if you go to your team's game and don’t wear your team colors, they will lose. It may cause them to drop a pass, or worse, fumble at the goal line. Remember, there’s a lot at stake. You can’t go wrong with sporting your team’s colors or a jersey. If you choose to go shirtless, painting yourself is a great shirt alternative. A paint roller helps get those hard-to-reach places that even your best friends won’t help you paint. Wearing your team colors from head to toe is a great way to help them win.
3. Bring a proper set up. Tailgating from your truck or out of the back of your SUV is fun, but not if you're trying to throw the most epic tailgate ever. It's not going to work! Make sure you have a tent (sometimes multiple) with tables and chairs. Count how many butts you have and make sure you bring that many chairs; coolers aren’t the best choice for seating. Music and the game on a big screen is the ultimate sign that you know what the hell you're doing, and that you don’t play no games. A bluetooth speaker is all you need for tunes. A little tailgating tip: Download your Pandora or Spotify playlist the day before so you don't waste your data. Yard games keep kids of all ages occupied and happy. Everyone enjoys a little competition before the competition! Extension cords are obvious, and a quiet Honda generator is all you need to power this party. Fans or heaters, depending on the weather, are always clutch. We love misting fans during a tailgate here in the South. Trash cans keep the area looking clean and can double as carrying containers before and after the tailgate. If you don’t have a trash can, you can use an empty beer or soda box. Consider your wind position when cooking. You don’t want to smoke out your guests or neighbors. You want your space to be comfortable and inviting. You also want to make yourself visible by repping a tall team flag or balloons so your friends and family can find you when they arrive!
4. Know the layout and laws of the land. Know where the bathroom is. Go ahead and knock that out right when you park. Make sure you have an entrance and exit strategy. You definitely want to know exactly where you are set up. The Google Earth or Google Maps apps are amazing tools to check out the area before you get there. There's a lot going on, and you don’t want to get lost. It may cause you to miss the game or leave late and get stuck in traffic. Use landmarks to help familiarize your surroundings. For God’s sake, just download Google Maps if you don’t already have it! Again, you do not want to get lost going to or coming back from a game. You’ll never hear the end of it (believe me, I know). Make sure you are familiar with the local laws concerning parking, music, alcohol consumption, curfew, lights, and fires. Security is usually pretty cool, but you don’t want to have your tailgate shut down because you weren’t obeying the local laws.
5. Do all the food prep the day before. The less time you spend chopping, cutting, pressing, and marinating, the quicker you can get to cooking and enjoying game day. Marinate, skewer, and patty your meat the night before. Stack your patties on wax paper to avoid sticking. Don’t just throw away your marinade; use it as a basting liquid while you cook your meat. Slice your hamburger toppings and fill a large serving platter so you can simply pull it out and assemble your burgers when ready. Pack your coolers wisely and properly label them, especially for raw and cooked meat. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Having separate coolers for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages is a good idea when kids will are present. Frozen water bottles act like ice and then melt for later hydration. Keep drinks in the fridge before adding to your cooler to help keep the ice from melting too quickly.
6. Bring the right tool for the job. When you need a versatile grill that you can take on-the-go, but can also handle the tailgating crowds, there's only one grill for the job. The REC TEC Grills RT-340 has: 340 square inches of cooking space, stainless steel internal components, a ceramic ignition system, a 20 pound hopper, the PID Smart Grill Technology controller with Wi-Pellet WiFi connectivity, foldable legs, a bottom shelf, and it carries a 2 year factory-backed warranty! It's small enough to fit in those tight spots and large enough to fit a whole brisket or two 10 pound pork butts. It can bake, smoke, sear, grill, and even dehydrate. There’s nothing it can’t do! This super convenient cooker retails for $599 at rectecgrills.com, and it is the perfect tailgating companion.
7. Bring plates and silverware in a large plastic tube. The tube can later act as a makeshift dirty dish holder. Cut down on waste and forget the disposable stuff. Bring decorative silverware and plates to eat with. Mother Earth and your trash bags will thank you later.
8. Pack your own first aid kit. It all goes comes down to being prepared… Tums, Pepto Bismol, Aspirin, and Dramamine are common medicines that can save the day. Oh yeah, and bandages! Those can help, too. You never know when someone may fall or have an accident.
9. Set up a do-it-yourself bar. Bloody Mary and "walking taco" bars are very popular, and surprisingly easy! A walking taco is a taco built inside a bag of Fritos, Doritos, or your favorite chips. The process is simple: Open the bag, fill it with meat and toppings, hold it closed, shake, and you have yourself one of the greatest tailgate foods ever invented. If you want some delicious Bloody Mary mix, check out DurtyGurlMixers.com. Bloody Marys and tacos can have similar toppings. This takes one thing off your plate and allows your guests to get creative with their snack/garnish. You could even have a contest for the best Bloody Mary or taco creation!
10. Clean your grill the day before and test it out. If you are counting on your grill for the big game, make sure it's in tip top shape. Clean your grate with a grill brush. If you don’t have a grill brush, a ball of aluminum foil will get the job done. Line your drip tray with a fresh sheet of foil and clean out your fire pot. I personally don’t like to transport my grills with pellets in the hopper; it makes it that much heavier, and pellets can shift around and cause hiccups during your cook. I test my grill and make sure it's good to go before I load it up. Make sure to inspect your grill after setup, as well. Your deflector shield or drip tray may have shifted during the trip. Don't forget extra pellets, just in case!
11. Bring a metal bucket for hot coals. When you're walking on the WyldSide, or cooking on any charcoal grill, you must be prepared to get rid of the coals and ash. It could be the difference between leaving in just a few minutes or leaving in 1-2 hours after the coals cool down. Having a vessel that extinguishes the coals is a must. Make sure you bring high heat gloves and a metal shovel to make this job a breeze.
12. Cook breakfast foods on the newest REC TEC accessory. The Flat Top Griddle is the perfect accessory to take your tailgate from zero to hero. The large, flat surface allows you to cook awesome breakfast foods! Cook pancakes and French toast as breakfast tortilla shells. Add bacon, sausage, and cheese eggs to stuff in the pancakes or French toast, and you’ve got yourself a breakfast burrito. The stainless steel handles make clean up and transport a breeze, and you can store it in your grill when you're finished. Late night stir fry or fajitas are also a great choice when celebrating a victory!
13. Bring extra accessories, tattoos, and trinkets for your guests. You want the morale to be high and everyone to feel included. Pass out tattoos, pom-poms, and koozies to your guests. Everyone loves free stuff, and it adds an extra element to your party that sets you apart from your neighbors. Uniformity is crucial to an amazing tailgate!
14. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Make sure you drink lots of water. It's hot, you're in the sun, and you are likely consuming adult beverages. Be responsible and mix in a water between drinks. I like to consume mass amounts of water a few days prior to the game to be on the safe side. You may have a hike to the stadium, so staying hydrated will make that walk suck just a little less. If you consume alcohol, do not drive! There are so many different ways to catch a ride in 2019 that it is absolutely ridiculous to drink and drive. Remember, your team needs you next week, so stay safe!
15. Get to know your neighbors. You never know when you might meet your next best friend or need to borrow something you forgot to put on your list. You have to put up with them and they have to put up with you, so why not party together in harmony? Walk over, introduce yourself, try to remember at least one name, and you'll be good to go. You may just pick up an awesome tailgate tip or two to improve your overall experience. You could also join forces after the game for a super post-game tailgate party. That could be pretty epic!
Elevate Your Game
Tailgating is part of the game day experience.
It's time to charge those batteries, catch up with old friends, and get in the game day mindset! Taking a little extra time to be prepared will elevate your tailgate and make it a much more enjoyable experience. Don’t forget to add me on Facebook (Jody Flanagan), and follow me on Instagram (@johndillionsr) for a behind the scenes look at all things REC TEC. I'll see you at the REC TEC!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jody Flanagan is our resident REC TEC Grills Expert, where he can be seen on all social media platforms, including the weekly Funday Friday program. Jody has years of experience in the cooking industry and enjoys the art of grilling just as much as he loves the REC TEC Lifestyle.