Getting out for a great tailgating party before the big game is a diehard tradition for some. For others, it’s a great chance to connect with other fans for the first time. Not to mention an amazing opportunity to fill up on some great grilled food at prices that beat anything you’ll find inside the gates.
Sure, burgers, brats, and a handful of chips are popular fare. Though they certainly aren’t the only things deserving of a great tailgating menu. At the same time, you’re not just going to stand around a pop-up portable grill bun in hand and call it good. There are a lot of essential items and accessories that go into a great tailgating party.
Making a Tailgating Game Plan
Ask any head coach and they’ll tell you that having a good game plan in advance sets the foundation for victory. The same holds true when planning a great tailgating party. The scale, scope, and possible theme of your tailgate will influence what you need to bring and what is better left behind.
Know Thy Venue
The first step in a great tailgate party game plan starts with knowing the rules for the venue. These days different parking structures and stadium lots have their own rules about where and what you can bring to a tailgate party.
Most post them online. A few even tack on permit costs. A lot of them have very strict rules about open fires and the use of charcoal grills. So, make sure to know before you go.
If you want to do something like bring a crock pot to keep side dishes like baked beans or mac & cheese warm, you’ll also need to check in on available electrical service.
Some venues will have power posts available that you can plug into just like you would with a 30 Amp RV. These are for buses and performers who live in their RV when they visit venues. If they do have RV power pedestals in the designated tailgating area, you’ll want to add an electrical adapter to your list. You can’t directly plug a standard 110 Volt appliance like a crock pot or a radio into a 30 Amp RV outlet.
Get a Head Count
Knowing the size of your herd helps you plan other essential elements of your tailgate party. The more people you have, the bigger the grill you’ll need, the more food, more plates, more seats, and more sides you’ll need.
Once you have an idea of what you can and can’t bring to the venue, and the number of people you’ll need to feed, then you can accurately determine things like the size of the grill, the size or number of coolers, as well as any other gadgets you want to include. Not to mention figuring out how to transport it all there in style.
Plan Your Grill Wisely
A good grill is the beating heart of a great tailgating party. Make sure you know the venue rules, as well as the resources available. Your intended menu and the number of people you’re hoping to feed will factor heavily into the size of the grill you want to bring.
If you’re just making hot dogs for four friends, with pasta salad or potato chips for the sides, then you can get away with a tiny portable gas grill like the Weber 9010001 Traveler the NomadiQ Tabletop, or the Razor GGC2030M 25″ Portable Gas Griddle.
If you’re making flagstone porterhouse steaks with grilled onions, mushrooms, and peppers, then you’ll need something that offers up a lot more cooking real estate like the Blackstone Grills Tailgater 1555 the Pit Boss Grills PB100P1 Pit Stop or the Camp Chef Tahoe TB90LW.
Let’s say you want to go all out, and you’ve got the time to dive headlong into making authentic barbecue at your awesome tailgate extravaganza. Then you’re going to need a smoker that is large enough, yet reasonably portable like the Pit Boss Grills 77425 Gas Smoker the ASMOKE AS350 Portable Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, or the Camp Chef Pursuit PPG20.
Stay Cool with the Right Cooler
Having the right cooler is absolutely essential for an amazing tailgate party. This means finding one that is large enough to hold all the meat and cold sides you need. It also needs to be able to keep those sides safely cool. Especially if you’re going to be hosting your tailgate party during warm weather in the summer or fall.
A small cooler with an uninsulated lid might be cheap, but it will ultimately let you down when it comes to keeping everything cool. Especially when most tailgating coolers are called upon to pull double duty for summer days at the beach and camping adventures.
Ideally, you want a cooler with an insulated lid. A single molded body with built-in insulation is also handy. Especially if you want to use dry ice in a cardboard box, which saves a ton of space and makes less mess than a sloppy bag of ice.
You have to also consider how you’re getting this awesome cooler from your car to the tailgate. Some venues don’t let you drive right up to the spot, and you have to bring your grilling equipment in with you. This can be a real challenge if you’re hoping to feed a herd. So, if you need to haul a lot of meat and drinks in your cooler, you should prioritize one with wheels.
The Best Coolers for Tailgating & More
A good cooler is an essential item for keeping food cold and safe at your next awesome tailgating party. The following are some of the best coolers that are truly worth the money for tailgating as well as keeping things cool for trips to the beach, camping trips and more.
Tables & Chairs for Comfort & Convenience
On the face of it, tables and chairs are functional items. If you’ve ever forgotten them, you probably lamented your morning spent standing around a parking lot eating brats or trying to hold a hot paper plate in your hand while making an awful mess on the ground and trying not to slop up your shoes.
Most of the time you can put people in charge of bringing their own chairs. Especially if everyone is coming in separate vehicles and meeting up in one spot.
Though a table is about more than just providing people with a place to eat. It’s also where you lay out grilled meats and side dishes for everyone to grab family style. It’s especially handy if you’re going with a potluck theme for the sides.
A good table is also a display space where you can lay your banquet out for all the world to behold. This is great for inspiring envy in the next group over. It’s also handy if your tailgating crew is offering something up for strangers to take a taste of.
So, you need a table or tables that are strong enough to hold all the food and fixings. It might also come in handy if the table also has some sort of seating or benches included in the package.
The Best Portable Tables for Tailgating
The following are some of the best portable tables for just about any tailgating party. They’re also deserving of a place in your camping gear for times when you need to feed the family in the great outdoors.
A Dutiful Disposable Tablecloth
Let’s face it, spills and drips are a natural part of every tailgating party. The problem is when things like baked beans or barbecue sauce get spilled on an unprotected portable table, you are left with either having to waste a lot of time cleaning it, or worrying about what sort of mess it’s making in the back of your SUV.
A disposable tablecloth does away with these needless worries. You simply slap it down, wrap it in place and let your tailgating buddies spill away with reckless abandon. When it’s time to pack up and head into the stadium, you clear the tabletop, roll the tablecloth up, and toss it with all its inconvenient mess away in the nearest trash can!
Thoughtful Plates and Utensils
Some type of plate is absolutely essential for any amazing tailgate party. You can’t expect your guests to constantly have a hot steak or a rack of ribs in their hands. Utensils for stabbing cocktail wieners, and scooping up baked beans are also wise additions. Especially if you’re having potluck sides for your tailgating feast.
Disposable is always wise, as it spares you from having to pack all that mess back home to wash with the rest of your everyday dishes. Of course, for a lot of people, there is the concern that all these disposable items clog up landfills or send unnecessary plastics into the ocean. Thankfully, there are some new biodegradable plates and utensils on the market that are just as affordable as they are convenient.
The Best Disposable & Biodegradable Plates & Utensils
The following are some of the best disposable, biodegradable, and sustainably sourced plates and utensils for tailgating parties, days and the beach, camping trips, and more.
Once you have the essential items in place for an amazing tailgating party, you can decide if you want to expand your arsenal for future endeavors. Maybe this calls for crockpots and power stations to keep the sides warm. Perhaps it’s a portable pavilion tent to keep you dry from the rain. Perhaps it’s an outdoor stereo system to let you play music or listen to the pregame show.
Though it’s still essential tailgating items like these that give you the firm foundation you need to truly spread your wings for the occasion.