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Tailgating Food Prep Tips

Fall is simply a feverish time of year for tailgaters and it's even more fun with a few basic food prep tips

A flurry of excitement revolves around having fun with a host of family and friends. Food is typically at the core of these great events. That's why it's important to plan carefully for the big game day.

Food safety should be at the forefront of your game plan. You'll be at a disadvantage unless you're in an RV with plenty of refrigerator space. Relying on coolers, then packing and preparing food properly will mean less worry about food-borne illness. (Please scroll down for rest of article.)

 

Before You Go - the Grill

Always check with the stadium officials and know the rules and restrictions about on-site grilling.

Some don't allow charcoal grills. If they do and you plan to fire it up, keep these things in mind.

It's dangerous to transport hot coals and ash in a vehicle and there may be no way to dispose of them in the parking lot. If you get stuck, here's an easy fix. Line the bottom of your grill with heavy duty foil. When the grilling is finished and the coals have begun to cool, carefully pull up the corners of the foil to make a pouch. Dip it in water and let it sit. Then, place in a combustion-proof container with a tight-fitting lid.

As an alternative, purchase one of the newer "quick-cool" grills. The tops snuff out the heat in about 10 minutes and you can get it home.

I highly recommend using a propane grill. This full-sized Coleman RoadTrip® Grill is a dream for portability. You can save that true charred taste for home cooking. In addition, it's already set for smaller propane units. (Some stadiums don't allow the larger tanks.)

One word about propane. If you own a SUV or other open-type vehicle, it may be against the law to transport any type of tank. These can be strapped in a car trunk, which may cause unsafe heat buildup. It's best to keep them protected in the back of a pickup truck or in a secure spot on the outside of an RV. Disposable cylinders can typically be discarded if they are completely emptied through normal use.

Pack Your Food Carefully

Group foods by the way they're served and stage your packing accordingly.

Place all condiments in one bag. Salt and pepper, of course, along with unopened squeezable bottles of ketchup, mayo, and mustard. That way you don't have to worry about keeping some items cold until after the meal.

If possible, store raw meats in a separate cooler. At the very least, double wrap them and place at the bottom, so you won't expose other foods to dripping juices. Never partially cook any meat, unless you're planning to finish the process immediately.

Set up beverages in a separate cooler. That protects foods from multiple lid opening/closing and smaller containers won't be jumbled around as guests search for their favorite brand.

Pack water and plenty of paper towels for hand washing. You can also moisten towels ahead of time and place them in baggies. Take along alcohol wipes and rub your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds for a quick alternative cleanup.

Take along extra, clean and empty plastic containers and plastic bags. It's sometimes easier to do a quick wrap-up with fresh containers. Chips can be dumped into plastic baggies, especially if the original bags are torn.

You probably already know the rule of leaving food out no more than two hours at room temperature. That's in a moderate environment. If it's sitting in the sun or the outdoor temperature rises about 90 degrees, then one hour is all it takes for bacteria to develop.

Keep in mind, that if you're staying after the game, some of this food may be coming out of the cooler for a second round. That's another reason to reduce exposure to dangerous temperatures.

Keep it covered, if at all possible, with container lids to keep flies and other flying or crawling critters out.

Whether you're planning an all-out tailgate bash or going the simple and fast route, it helps to take a few steps ahead of time for both fun and food safety.

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