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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
__ 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
__ Snacks (chips, salsa, trail mix, etc)
__ Basting brush/mop
__ Meat claws
__ Meat thermometers
__ Tongs (one set for cooking, one set for serving)
__ Cooking oil/butter
__ Cutting board
__ Mixing bowls
__ Fire extinguisher
__ Heavy-duty aluminum foil
__ Aluminum pans
__ Pots/pans/grill baskets
__ Hand sanitizer
__ Coolers (label each cooler)
__ Paper towels
__ Bottle and can openers
__ Cups and plates
__ Plastic silverware
__ Serving spoons
__ Wet towelettes
__ Sharpie marker
__ Bar utensils for mixed drinks
__ Pop-up tent or tarp
__ Portable tables (for food serving and eating)
__ Portable chairs
__ Wireless speaker or boom box
__ 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
__ Duct tape
__ Tailgate games (football, cornhole, etc)
__ 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.)
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!