Tailgating is a tradition for sports fans across the country. What started out as grilling a couple of hot dogs in the parking lot to cut down on the cost of eating at a concession stand has now evolved into a modern-day extravaganza of outdoor cooking. Of course, to really do it right, you need to have a portable grill that’s up for the task at hand.
Choosing The Right Fuel Source
While charcoal grills are traditional, and there are some purists who insist on using charcoal just like dear old Dad, they come with some fire safety concerns. This has driven some parks and stadiums to ban charcoal grills outright, while others simply put some basic safety rules in place. So, before you start shopping, take a moment to search the internet for any tailgating regulations that your favorite stadium might mandate.
The Pros And Cons Of Charcoal Grills For Tailgating
Charcoal grills are a tradition for some. The smoky fire-kissed flavor is worth hauling a bag of charcoal, along with other necessary tools to and from the stadium parking lot.
Just make sure you are taking fire safety into account. When time is running short, the charcoal might not be completely burned out by the time you are ready to head into the stadium. In a situation like this, you might be able to shut all the dampers to simply starve the fire of oxygen. It should then be completely out by the time the game is over.
Water might seem like a good solution for dealing with a hot charcoal grill. Just keep in mind you don’t want to pour water into the grill’s firebox. The resulting ashen mud is highly corrosive and can potentially shorten the grill’s overall lifespan.
One way around this is to bring a small metal bucket with you. Then you can fill it with water, and add any lingering hot coals with a pair of tongs. If you happen to own a pair of heavy-duty welding gloves you could carefully pour the charcoal pan into the wet bucket.
Best Charcoal Grills For Tailgating
The Pros And Cons Of A Gas Grill For Tailgating
In recent years propane gas grills have been growing in popularity. Especially with tailgaters who don’t what to deal with the ash and fire concerns of charcoal. Not to mention the over conveniences they offer.
Some smaller units require you to light the fire yourself with a stick lighter or matches. Though there is an increasing number of portable gas grills that come with a built-in igniter.
With a gas grill when you turn off the gas supply the grill goes out and the heat in the firebox and lid dissipates within a few minutes. This greatly reduces fire risk concerns and spares you have to try some tricky maneuvers in the stadium parking lot.
However, wind can be a frustrating problem with smaller gas grills and gas camp stoves. Even a robust breeze can potentially blow the fire out in a gas grill with a shallow firebox. So, if you can’t reliably park somewhere that can shield you from the wind, you might want to prioritize a deep gas grill, to spare you the frustration of constant relighting.
BTU production is also something to keep an eye on with smaller gas grills for tailgating. Sometimes you hear the complaint about a gas grill imparting a chemical flavor to the meat. What’s usually happening here is incomplete oxidation from too-low of a flame. What happens is that there simply isn’t enough thermal energy to burn up all the hydrocarbon chains. They eventually land up on the food altering the flavor.
One sign of a problem like this is a gas flame that looks more yellow than blue. You often see this in gas grills that are producing less than 10,000 BTUs.
Flame tamers or heat tents are essentially small heat shields that sit over the top of the burner element in a gas grill. Not only do they protect the flame ports from getting clogged by grease and other drippings, but they also help to vaporize them. This mimics the smoky fire-kissed flavors so prized by charcoal enthusiasts. Heat tents also help to redistribute the heat to eliminate the hot and cold spots that you often see with smaller gas grills.
Drippings Cups And Grease Management Systems
Cleanup features are also important when it comes to a portable tailgating gas grill. You might be able to get away with not scraping down the grill grates in the stadium parking lot, but a lot of grease in the firebox can lead to a very serious stain in your trunk.
A gas grill with a grease management system, drippings pan, or drippings cup will collect any runoff that occurs while you are cooking. You can then conveniently pour them away in a dumpster before packing everything away for the drive home.
Best Gas Grills For Tailgating
Can I Use An Electric Grill For Tailgating?
If you asked this question a decade ago, parking lot managers and tailgaters would give you a strange look or perhaps even have a laugh at your expense. At that time the only way to get reliable electricity in a stadium parking lot was to bring your own RV or generator.
Today an increasing number of stadiums are providing specific tailgating areas. Fans who want to cook outdoors and bond with their fellows can reserve a spot in the tailgating area for a small fee. Many of these include reliable electrical spots with power posts.
With a little bit of advanced research you might be able to reserve one of these spots. This would allow you to use an outdoor electric grill or other electric appliances like a crockpot to keep side dishes warm.