Tailgating for NFL football games has to be my favorite activity. Not only is there tremendous anticipation for the upcoming game, but you also get to drink beer and grill with your friends. In fact, tailgating is so important to me and my friends that we tried to tailgate for my bachelor party in a hotel parking lot in Baltimore city before going out on the town. Sadly, hotel employees informed us that a live fire in the parking lot with 10 or so guys drinking beer is not the smartest idea. They were probably right. Anyway, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite recipes that work really well for tailgating.
For the most part I prefer the majority of food preparation to be done at home. So either the morning of, or the night before, most of my prep work takes place. The logistics of my parking space at M+T bank stadium in Baltimore are that we all arrive around 9:00 AM for a 1:00 PM game, or four hours prior to game time. This means that we can't smoke ribs or anything too involved at the parking spot. However, with good planning a lot can be accomplished in just a couple of hours.
If you have at least 1.5 hours of cooking time you should try the bacon wrapped onion ring recipe. This recipe has taken the internet by storm and simply involves wrapping some sweet onions with bacon and smoking them.
My most fun tailgate recipe is the copycat recipe for the BigMac. My good buddy and I worked at McDonalds about 20 years ago so we get a real kick out of preparing a bunch of these sandwiches just like we used to in our youth. The recipe for homemade bigmac sauce and assembly instruction is here. The only modification for the tailgate are that all preparation occurs at home. That means the sauce is made ahead of time along with chopping all of the onion and lettuce. You don't want to mess with stuff like that at the tailgate. A few cellphone pictures of the most recent BigMac tailgate are shown below.
The above picture shows the burger patties staying warm in an aluminum pan while we toast the rolls. A good sandwich will always have a toasted roll! Below is the assembly station. We set up with a nice sized card table. You can see the Mac sauce over to the left. Due to size limitations we could only make 6 Big Macs at a time. We made about 30 Bigmacs this game! Crazy! One quick BigMac tip is to make the 6 big macs, then sit them in an aluminum pan and put them back on the grill and close the dome. Keep the heat low. This will melt the cheese and get the sandwiches real warm. Be careful not to burn the bottoms.
Beer brats are also a very easy tailgate recipe. The morning of the game I will simmer the brats in beer, along with onions and garlic. I pour out most of the beer but keep a little bit in the pot for transport. I keep the stock pot very tightly sealed and in a sturdy position in my truck for the drive. You don't want that to spill. The minute the grill is set up the brats go on. This is a really simple beer brat tailgate recipe.
Another one of my favorites is bacon, cheddar, jalapeno stuffed cheeseburgers. I can't speak highly enough of this gourmet stuffed cheeseburger recipe. For a Sunday game I will make these burgers the night before and stop right after I sprinkle the Montreal Steak seasoning on top of the raw stuffed burgers. The morning of the game I soak the burgers in Worcestershire sauce and head to the game. The minute the grill is set up the burgers can go on. I've fed well over 20 people with these burgers and served about 40 of them one Sunday! Fantastic!
My favorite way to make the stuffed burgers is to stuff them with peppered bacon, cheese and diced jalapeno peppers. It really has some kick if you are heavy handed with the jalapenos.
Last but certainly not least is our copy cat Philly Cheese Steak Recipe. This easy tailgate recipe attempts to recreate the cheese steak sub you find at Jim's Steaks in Philly. If you can find a good deal on a ribeye roast and you have a meat slicer you will make jaws drop at your tailgate with this recipe. Our normal plan is to buy the roast on a Saturday, then spend Saturday night slicing the meat into very fine pieces. Usually the meat slicer is set to the finest setting. The next day we head to the stadium with boxes of authentic Philadelphia Amoroso Rolls, jars of cheese whiz, sauteed onions (sauteed the morning of), and the bags of raw sliced ribeye. We use a Weber Q propane grill for tailgates like this because we basically want to fry the steak on the flat iron griddle attachment. One trick to this tailgate is to wrap the rolls in aluminum foil and toss them on the grill while the meat is cooking. This softens the rolls and slightly gives a crispy texture to them. The assembly is easy: slather the cheese whiz, dump some sauteed onions on the roll and load it with finely sliced ribeye! Our only requirement is to not make these subs when we are playing the Philadelphia Eagles!!!
One often overlooked tailgate idea is grilled grilled cheese. This recipe involves grilling buttered sliced artisan bread that has been layered with spicy habanero cheddar cheese. I could only imagine taking some homemade tomato soup to the tailgate and having it along side of this sandwich.
I'll post some more tailgate recipes as the NFL season progresses. These few recipes should be good enough to jump start any tailgater who has lost a little pizazz. Give one a try!
Recently, I've been using my "little black egg" as a tailgate grill. It is a modified Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker which works really well for tailgating.