Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tailgating Checklist

Tailgating can be a lot of work but it is worth it.

Trevor helped feed the crowd, here he is loading the Pit Barrel Cooker with two racks of fajita wings and ABT's.

Our older son and his roommates were hosting a tailgate for the Tennessee Vols vs Georgia Bulldogs game and asked us if we wanted to cook.  Not gonna pass on that opportunity!  The tailgate friendly menu that we put together was Tex-Mex

Tex-Mex Rice

None of the dishes are really new so I'll post about the experience instead, since it was a lot of fun and I learned a few things in the process.  

What Worked
  • The pulled pork queso.  It is a must on every tailgate from now on, we get too many compliments on it at tailgates. 
  • The steak fajitas.  Easy to prep ahead when using skirt steak, you can cook in minutes on the smallest of grills, and you can hold them whole until slicing as needed.  And people LOVE them. 
  • The portable gas stove.   How in the BLEEP have I lived cooking onsite without this little and inexpensive gem?  
  • The Pit Barrel Cooker. It has quickly become my "go to" cooker for tailgating.  It's relatively portable, takes up a footprint no bigger than a cheapo grill, and gives you smoking, roasting, and grilling options.  
What didn't work
  •  Preplanning - Last time I sketched out our tailgate set up on paper, down to what serving utensils would be used, where.  It was incredibly helpful and let me pull off a tailgate by myself.  This time I skipped it and found myself doing a lot more winging it on the fly.   It just reinforces that 90% of successful tailgating is in the preparation to minimize stress on game day.  
  • Getting there late - never do this.  Fortunately we still got the food out but I like to have everything served at least 2 hours before game time. 
  • Not accepting help from people asking "Can I help?"  One of our son's friends (a talented cook) asked if he could help.  I politely declined, thinking I would be able to get to it.  I never got the guacamole made and he could have had that done in 10 minutes if I had asked.  
 Here are some of the pictures of our fun afternoon

One of the hosts - our older son, Brett.

We had 3 spaces for our area and a good crowd.

There was a large inflatable "bottle" of Fireball along with a few real bottles.

Both my grills were occupied and I had one last piece of skirt steak.  I improvised and used the chimney starter as a grill.

The only picture of food, I never had time to take any plated shots.

Don't worry, not an assault....just a friendly game of "keep away" with Brett's hat.

I cooked the whole menu except the rice on the Pit Barrel Cooker and a Weber Smokey Joe.
Here are two shots of the "raised grid" that I mentioned.  It's a trick that Eggers do for Big Green Eggs to double capacity of an 18.5" grill (provided it has enough vertical space with the lid closed).   I tried it on the Pit Barrel Cooker because I had a lot of ABT's and wings to cook and it worked perfectly.  I thought I would have to switch the food on the top grate with that on the lower grate for even cooking, but that wasn't the case.  It did fine without switching.  You can find our how to make your own over at the Naked Whiz's site. 

Raised grid seen by itself.  The grate came from Lowes and is the charcoal grate from a 22" Weber.  It is just over 18" in diameter.

Raised grid set in the Pit Barrel Cooker. 
We found this butane portable stove burner while out buying supplies for the tailgate.  It is fantastic for tailgates, useful for warming up dishes or cooking them on site.  Here is one like it on Amazon for just $22.50.  That's about what we paid for ours at a restaurant supply store here in Knoxville.

Several times, our guests asked in astonishment if we really got all of our stuff packed into one vehicle but we did.   Here's our usual equipment and supply checklist for when we cook a tailgate.  It doesn't include the coolers of food and drink that also get packed into our vehicle.

  • Prep Box/Bag
    • 1 prep cutting board
    • knives for prep
    • box food gloves
    • antiseptic wipes
    • general purpose cleaner (Simple Green)
    • sanitizing solution 1 gallon
    • Paper towels
    • Pam spray lube
    • foil
    • plastic baggies
    • contractor bags for trash
  • Serving box/bag
    • Serving tongs (1 per half pan)
    • Cutting board for service
    • Slicer knife
    • serving spoons 
    • condiment spoons
    • water pans (4)
    • half steam pans (2 per water pan)
    • steam pan lids
    • steam pan racks (3)
    • warming fuel (2 per water pan for every 2 hours service)
    • water (1 gallon per water pan)
    • bags of ice(2 or more)
    • lighter
    • Team color cups
    • Team color app plate
    • Team color plate
    • Team color napkins
    • paper boats, hotdog boats, nacho trays
    • mints
  • Cooking Equipment
    • Kingsford Original (aka Blue Bag) 2 bags
    • Kingsford Smokehouse Style Briquetes 1 bag each Hickory/Mesquite
    • Pit Barrel Cooker filled with
      • charcoal starter
      • starter rack
      • cooking rack
      • raised cooking rack
    • Smokey Joe 
    • Portable stove burner with at least 2 gas canisters

    • long handled tongs (3)
    • pair welding gloves
    • Splash proof Thermapen (best digital thermometer)
    • cooking timer with extra batteries
  • Other
    • 10 x 10 EZ Up with side panels
    • 5' folding table (3) service
    • 4' folding table (1) prep
    • PVC leg extenders (4 per 5' table)