When it comes to tailgating, it’s common for the party to grow from the time the initial invite is sent until the day of the big game—everyone loves to tailgate! And what’s one more, right, since it’s an outdoor party? With sports especially, extra guests are always welcome because they add to the day’s fun—pickup football games become more intense and the excitement for the big game is heightened with every voice that is added to the chorus of cheers.
Preparing for a large tailgate party, however, is not the same as cooking for your extended family at the holidays—these are hungry football fans! You’ll want to make sure you’ve begun preparations well in advance to prevent a case of game day nerves and to ensure your party is memorable—for all the right reasons.
With these tips, you’ll be a pro at hosting tailgate parties that your friends and family will be talking about well into the off season.
Preparing large amounts of food in advance—like a professional caterer—will help you feel less frazzled when game day arrives. Dips can be pre-whipped or mixed and appetizers can be pre-assembled. Even if you don’t want to cook any of your food in advance, items like meatballs, poppers, or and other hot finger foods can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until party day arrives.
Then, all you have to do is pull them out, thaw if necessary, and stick them in the oven or toss them on the grill to satiate your hungry sports fans. Depending on the popularity of the dish, you may want to prepare more than you think you’ll need so you don’t run out of your appetizer MVP before kickoff. Any extras can often freeze for next weekend’s game.
If a massive amount of people will be at your party, make sure you have a grill large enough to handle the crowd, or make arrangements in advance to have a friend bring a second grill. Otherwise it will take a long time to get everyone fed.
We know you like the feel of the tongs in your hands and you have a snazzy grill apron, but be sure to make room for a co-griller so you can participate fully in the festivities too. Besides, who wants to feel chained to the grill when there’s a pickup football game going on? Yeah, that’s what we thought.
Speaking of a co-griller, don’t be a “do-it-all-myself-er.” If your friends offer to give you a hand, grab it! Hosting a party involves a lot of running around to make sure that the food is plentiful, drinks are flowing, and everyone is happy. It’s an important responsibility.
So, if your friends ask what they can do to help, give them a task. You can’t have too much potato salad, you know. Designating a couple people as Trash Masters—those who will help you keep the party scene garbage-free—will cut down on the cleanup time after the game and allow you more time during the party to kick back with your friends and family.
To show off your culinary prowess, you may want to control the main entrees for the day. But encourage your friends to show off their talents by bringing their favorite side dishes. It will definitely lower your stress levels when it comes to feeding a crowd.
With burgers, hotdogs, and hot wings as the typical stars of the tailgate lineup, it’s easy to have more food than needed. For those friends who shouldn’t be allowed in a kitchen, suggest chips, dip, beer—even paper plates! Whatever they want to contribute is fine. This will help you relax—and be easier on your budget, as well.
Remember, it’s a party, so have fun. If something goes wrong, it will be easier to joke about it later if you don’t get emotionally invested in the error. The most important thing to remember when tailgating is to have fun. It’s a sporting event, so relax. Once the game starts, your friends will be focused on the game and no one will remember the burnt burgers. Really, they won’t. You don’t want your only memories of the game to revolve around cooking, serving, and cleaning up.
At the end of the day, it won’t matter so much whether your team won or lost (but let’s hope for the win!) Ultimately, you and your guests will remember the fun you had at the tailgate party for much longer than the outcome of the actual game. And that’s OK—after all, there’s always next season, right Cubs fans?