Football season has officially arrived. And with that, tailgating season has begun, too. We know what it takes to host a successful tailgate, but it’s important to keep yourself, your cars and your guests safe, too. Here’s what you need to know before the big tailgate…we mean game.
From what to eat, to how to pack, to what the weather is going to be like, it’s important to start with a plan. When you decide on what food you’ll be serving, make sure it’s stored properly (meaning the temperature and proximity to other foods--we’ll get into that below). The next is to find out what the weather is going to be like. Depending where you live and how far into the season you are, you could come across all conditions (sun, heat, rain, cold or even snow), it’s important to dress the part and pack items to keep you cool or warm during the tailgate and big game.
Food Prep and Storage
Whether you plan to grill or have pre-made food to keep cool, it’s important to make sure the food stays at a safe temperature for eating. If you have food that you’re planning to grill, common foods such as burgers or hotdogs need to be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the website grillingcompanion.com. Grilling Companion also has an app that you can download for added convenience during the tailgate. Prepared foods like subs or deli trays should be in a separate cooler. On a cold or comfortable day, food can be left out for roughly two hours, before it should be consumed or tossed. On a hot day, limit that time to one hour.
Safety and Sanitation
If you’re planning to grill, it’s a good idea to come prepared with the essentials (yes, including the prized “Grill Master” apron). It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher handy in case something goes wrong. Bring a plastic container to store dirty cooking utensils after you’re done cooking and serving guests. For more grilling safety tips, check out this detailed list from the National Fire Protection Association.
It’s also a good idea to have plenty of paper towels, hand sanitizer and garbage bags on hand. Paper towels carry fewer germs than cloth towels, especially after handling raw and undercooked food. It’s always a good idea to have hand sanitizer available and ready before cooking or making your way through the food line. And finally, garbage bags keep the tailgate clean and your neighbors happy.
Don’t forget the D.D.
We know there’s an elephant in the room…what about beverages? Pre-game rituals often mean a pre-game beverage (or two). It’s important to identify a designated driver. In doing so, you eliminate the possibility of an impaired driver getting behind the wheel. Additionally, encourage tailgate party goers to have plenty of water to stay hydrated and food in between drinks. In some instances, tailgating can turn into an all-day or evening event. It’s important to make transportation arrangements before you arrive.
After the fun and festivities, make sure your tailgate area is cleaned up and garbage is disposed in the designated area. Also, take a survey around your car. Make sure there aren’t any cans or bottles, or other items that you could run over and that could cause damage to your vehicle. There’s likely to be traffic when you’re heading out of the tailgate, so it’s important to drive with caution when you’re exiting the parking lot. Check out these tips about safe driving in parking lots. Most importantly, enjoy the game and tailgating for the day.