(BPT) – The leaves are turning, the temperature is dropping and tailgaters are coming out in droves to support their favorite team — but more importantly, show off their grilling skills with beef as the star of the show. Tailgaters young and old converge in the wee hours of the morning outside stadiums across the country to share in the revelry of game day. Pre-game hours are spent in parking lots playing bean bag toss, connecting with friends, and setting up and eating a spread of food.
For many, tailgating is more than a once-in-a-while leisure activity, it’s a lifestyle. Seasoned tailgaters go all out with decorations like team flags and banners, comfy seating and even themed meals (surf and turf anyone?). Special care is put into every detail to provide an exceptional tailgate experience.
Here are 10 beef-friendly tailgating tips for those ready to take their tailgating from the amateur to the professional level.
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1. Prep as much as possible at home. Do the majority of the meal prep in the comfort of your kitchen: skewer beef kebabs, form burger patties, chop onions, cut buns. This will help you save time and reduce the amount of items you need to pack for the day.
2. Check your cooking equipment. Make sure your grill or camp stove is clean and ready to use. Keep a backup propane tank and stick lighters on hand to ensure cooking goes off without a hitch.
3. Bring a meat thermometer. This is the best way to check for doneness on steaks and burgers as well as checking the proper temperature when reheating food later in the day for those post-game snacks (heat to 165°F).
4. Don’t cross-contaminate raw and cooked foods. Have two sets of tools like cutting boards, tongs and knives if you are working with raw meat since you won’t be able to wash them while tailgating.
5. Embrace the cast iron skillet. Great for cooking burgers, steaks and one-pan meals. Try a beef stir fry. Cut and marinate the meat and veggies at home, toss them in the skillet and enjoy!
6. Cook in advance when you can. Appetizers, main dishes and sides can be cooked ahead of time and re-heated on the grill. Spice things up with an easy three-ingredient nacho beef dip that can be prepared ahead of time, warmed in a skillet on the grill and served with chips.
7. Your grill is just a fancy stovetop. You can cook chili and stew in a stock pot on the grates for a hearty meal to warm up fans on the coldest of game days.
8. Your grill is also an outdoor oven. Surprise your guests with a small roast, beef casserole or even a platter of nachos.
9. Make sure to pack and store everything safely. Raw beef should be at the bottom of the cooler (or in another cooler all together), packed separately from other items. Use ice packs instead of ice to make sure food doesn’t get waterlogged.
10. Serve food in creative and easy-to-hold ways since tailgating usually involves eating while standing and sitting in a camping chair. Skip the bowls and use chip bags as a vessel for chili or beef tacos. Skewer steak chunks, veggies and even meatballs on short bamboo sticks for fun food-on-stick meals.
Incorporate these tips and tricks to beef up your tailgating experience. Find even more tailgating tips and recipes at BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com, funded by farmers and ranchers.