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Sara Hansen

Tailgating Essentials: What You Need For An Awesome Tailgate BBQ Party

It’s the beginning of fall and that means some great things---football is back and racing is in the final stretch of the season. Almost even more importantly, it’s time to tailgate. In some places, the tailgating before and after the event is just as big as the game or race itself. 

Of course, the goal for anyone putting together a tailgate BBQ is to make sure there is plenty of food and that everyone is enjoying themselves. A huge part of that is making sure you’ve prepared properly and that you’ve got everything you or your friends and/or family will need. Whether it’s at the event itself or you’re planning to “tailgate” in the backyard for the big game.

In the moment, when you’re starting to prepare and get everything together, it can be easy to start to feel like you are forgetting something. This is where having a complete checklist of all of the tailgating essentials can be a life-saver. So, we’ve done the work for you! 

In this article, we’ll help you get prepared to show off your BBQ game and make sure you have all of the essentials for tailgating with a handy checklist:


Things To Consider First:

Before you start going through a tailgating essentials checklist, there are some things to consider first. Depending on certain factors, you may not need everything on the list or you may find you need to add a few things. 


Consider Any Stipulations of Your Tailgate Location Beforehand

When tailgating at an event, make sure you check any regulations or stipulations of the location. There may be regulations on certain types of grills or smokers, the size of the area you’ll have, if glass bottles are allowed, etc. All of these things will impact what you will need to bring or leave home.


The Time Will You Be Starting Your Tailgating

The part of the day that you plan on starting your tailgate will determine exactly what types of things you need to bring food and beverage-wise, utensils, etc. If it’s going to be an all-day affair that starts early in the day, plan for breakfast items and breakfast friendly drinks (think mimosas and bloody marys) as well as lunch and possibly even dinner for after the event. 

To really show off, select beers that pair best with the types of meat you’ll be serving. Check out our beer pairing article for more info.


tailgating essentials | tailgate essentials | tailgate BBQ partySource: PeachfullyChic


Where/When The Majority Of The Cooking Will Be Happening

Another thing that will impact your list of tailgate essentials is if you’re going to be cooking mainly at the event or if you’ll be cooking a lot of the food ahead of time. It’s best to stick to “simple” foods if you are cooking there at the event. Plan for food that will allow you to enjoy the time with your friends and/or family too. 

Trying to tackle smoking a brisket or ribs will be impossible unless you’re cooking it at home first. You can easily cook large meats like that ahead of time, time them to finish shortly before it is time to pack up and go, and hold them at temperature wrapped up and stored in a dry cooler. Then all you have to do is serve them at the event.

It also helps to do as much prep as possible beforehand. If you are cooking things at the event that have chopped ingredients, for example, go ahead and take care of that ahead of time and store them in containers. Then everything is ready to go. 


Food Safety

Another important thing to consider for the day is food safety. Keep in mind that you won’t have hot running water or refrigeration away from home. A set of good thermometers is imperative to have when tailgating. Keep cold food below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and hot food above 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are storing cooked meat to hold at the desired temperature in a cooler, label that cooler.

Also, make sure you’ve got jugs of clean water on hand for washing your hands, clean up, etc. You should also have hand sanitizer and a spray bottle of a diluted bleach solution to help sanitize surfaces and utensils throughout the day.


Tailgating Essentials List

Print out this list, broken down by category, and mark it off as you go so you know you won’t be forgetting anything for your tailgate get-together:


__ Portable grill/smoker

__ Charcoal (or propane tank)

__ Charcoal chimney starter

__ Wood chunks/chips

__ Lighter (x2)

__ Grill brush

__ Gloves



__ Meat

__ Breakfast

__ Side dishes (check out our article on some great tailgate sides)

__ Hamburger or hotdog buns

__ BBQ Sauce

__ Condiments: mustard, ketchup, mayo, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles,
                          peppers, hot sauce, sauerkraut

__ Salt/Pepper

__ Snacks (chips, salsa, trail mix, etc)



__ Water

__ Sodas

__ Beer

__ Liquor

__ Champagne/Wine

__ Mixers/Juice



__ Apron

__ Basting brush/mop

__ Meat claws

__ Meat thermometers

__ Spatula

__ Tongs (one set for cooking, one set for serving)

__ Skewers

__ Spices/rub

__ Cooking oil/butter

__ Knives

__ Cutting board

__ Mixing bowls

__ Fire extinguisher

__ Heavy-duty aluminum foil

__ Aluminum pans

__ Pots/pans/grill baskets



__ Hand sanitizer

__ Coolers (label each cooler)

__ Paper towels

__ Napkins

__ Bottle and can openers

__ Corkscrew

__ Ice

__ Cups and plates

__ Koozies

__ Plastic silverware

__ Serving spoons

__ Bowls

__ Wet towelettes

__ Sharpie marker

__ Bar utensils for mixed drinks



__ Pop-up tent or tarp

__ Portable tables (for food serving and eating)

__ Portable chairs

__ Tablecloths

__ Blankets

__ Wireless speaker or boom box

__ TV

__ Lanterns/flashlight

__ Generator

__ Extension cords

__ Extra batteries



__ Jug of water for cleaning

__ Spray bottle with bleach solution

__ Clean plastic bins for washing and rinsing

__ Dish soap

__ Trash bags

__ Large Ziploc bags



__ Cell phone charger/charging block

__ Camera

__ Duct tape

__ Tailgate games (football, cornhole, etc)

__ Sunscreen

__ Mosquito repellant

__ First aid kit

__ Jumper cables

__ Tool kit

__ Event tickets!!

* This list covers everything you may need. After first considering what we covered earlier in the article, just cross off anything you won’t need on game day (if you’re cooking meat ahead of time, serving breakfast or not, etc.)


tailgating essentials | tailgate essentials | tailgate BBQ party


Now You’re Ready To Set Up The Perfect Tailgate BBQ

With the tips above and the tailgating essentials list we’ve provided, you should be ready to go to set up the perfect tailgate BBQ without forgetting anything. The main thing is to be prepared with everything you’ll need (or may need). It’s better to be over-prepared than scrambling for something you missed.

If you really want to impress your friends and family at your next tailgate or backyard BBQ party, dive into our in-depth online barbecue cooking classes taught by champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters. You’ll get all of the insider tips and secrets step-by-step to take your BBQ game to a whole new level. Check out our All Access now!

Did we forget anything on our list? How have you mastered your tailgate BBQ process? Let us know. We want to hear from you!

Sara Hansen

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2 comments on “Tailgating Essentials: What You Need For An Awesome Tailgate BBQ Party”

  1. I love that you talked about the equipment we'd need for a tailgate party. Recently, my brothers and I became obsessed with football, and for this year's season, we want to party hard! That's why we'll be sure to follow your tips to prepare for our barbecue feast. Thanks for the advice on cooking essentials for a tailgate gathering.

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