Are You Ready to Tailgate?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If it is football season, it must also be time for tailgating. There are several stories related to the origin of the tailgate party. Some believe it first started back in 1869 with the first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton. Travelers arrived at the game via horse drawn carriages and cooked food prior to the game at the "tail end" of the horse. My in-laws would likely believe another version, which states tailgating started in Green Bay, Wisc., in 1919 with the start of the Packers, when farmers backed their trucks around the edge of an open field before a game. It is believed that fans dropped their truck "tailgates" to sit and watch the play while enjoying their baskets full of food they brought to eat. While it is not that important how it got started, it is important to recognize that in today's society, tailgating IS a part of the football experience for many people. Here are some important things to keep in mind for your next tailgate event.

Of course it is best to plan ahead for your tailgate event and make sure you are selecting the best cookout foods. It is equally important to think about basic food safety recommendations so no one in your party ends up with an unexpected food borne illness that sends them to the sidelines. If you are a child of the '80's like myself (back when we still used Styrofoam containers), you will likely remember the McDonald's McDLT that kept the hot side hot and the cool side cool. Well, they had the right idea when it comes to food safety.

If you are taking hot foods such as soups, stews or chili to your tailgate, use an insulated container that will hold the food at the correct heated temperature of 140 degrees or above for several hours. It is equally important to make sure all raw meats such as beef patties, chicken and sausage are transported and stored in an insulated cooler until cooked. It doesn't matter if you use a cooler with several inches of ice, an old milk jug filled with frozen water or frozen gel packs as long as the cooler temperature is able to maintain a 40 degree temperature or below. It is also important to properly chill all salads such as potato or pasta salad during transport and tailgate set up as well. You may want to purchase a refrigerator thermometer to keep in your cooler so you can properly monitor temperature especially on warmer days or at sunny tailgate locations. Use separate insulated coolers, one for uncooked meats, and another for ready-to-eat foods, to reduce your risks of cross contamination from uncooked meat juices that may spill during transport.

It is also vital to remember that once food has been removed from the grill or cooler, it should not sit out for more than 2 hours. If the outside temperature is greater than 90 degrees, the time is reduced to no more than one hour. Foods left out for longer than this period of time should be thrown away and NOT put back in an insulated cooler for storage during the game and later use. It will take a long period of time for these items to reach a temperature below 40 degrees which increases the risk of bacterial growth during that time which can still result in food borne illness if you serve it again. To reduce waste, be sure to cook only the amount needed and try to accurately estimate how much food is necessary before packing for the tailgate. It is better for food safety and storage as well as your waistline if you have slightly less food than needed instead of slightly more.

I hope that planning and being food safe will help you have an enjoyable tailgate experience next time your favorite team is ready to kick-off.

Do you enjoy tailgating before sporting events? Have you previously paid close attention to food safety issues while tailgating?

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I've never attended a tailgating party in my entire life - not even in school, when I rarely attended a football game for my school. Watching football at home on TV, yea, we sit around and eat food... but no, not the outdoors thing... Report
ummm no :/ Report
Interesting article, I think with planning it would be fun to have a healthy tailgating area. It is always fun to watch the drunk people around the stadium. Most are harmless and provide great entertainment. I have a feeling there are a lot of people out there who would tailgate if they had healthy options. Report
lol, tailgating is a blast, but you can tailgate indoors as well! for opening day, I set up the farberwear electric grill on the coffee table, open the sliding glass door (screen closed), and cooked up the dogs!! my boyfriend - now hubby -- loved it! It's kind of our thing now, seeing how live away from our boys (teams).

We always have the good stuff on hand, but mixed in with the healthier stuff. Or I just use a free-day. Depends on how long the day's going to be. ;) Report
Tailgaiting can be fun but I agree planning ahead is a good idea! Go Skins! Report
Tailgating is loads of fun! Columbia, MO, is a huge college ballgame town, and tailgating allows for a fun buildup of excitement prior to the game. And now that I'm learning more healthy habits, it's really not so difficult to have sensible food & drink items and still have fun. Report
We love tailgating. We go to my daughter's college football games (she's in the marching band!) and have a wonderful time! We just try to eat a good healthy meal before we leave and that way we are not tempted to eat too much of the yummy but oh so fattening foods. Report
We had a wonderful and safe tailgate party at the NASCAR races in Richmond, VA just last weekend. We had marinated shrimp on skewers and they were delicious. Easy to keep cold and ready to put on the BBQ. Report
We don't tailgate. We'd rather watch games from the best seats - in front of our TV. Seriously, though, we don't go to games enough to tailgate. But we know it's tons of fun for those who do. GO PATS! Report
We love to tailgate, whether it is at a football game (GO RUTGERS- which btw WAS the first college football game played against princeton) or a concert or a hockey game (GO DEVILS). We bring a small portable propane grill, canopy and lawn chairs and grill healthy foods like marinated shrimp to chicken. We leave the potato salads and coleslaw home and opt for healthier salads like green or cous cous salads. Regardless, its a blast. And you Do not have to drink yourself into oblivion. Report
I've never done it, but it does sound like fun. Report
I love to tailgate! As a matter of fact, sometimes (like last weekend) I attend the tailgate parties and come home to watch the game on TV! Report
I had never heard of tailgaiting so I checked it out on the internet and I must admit it looks great fun!!! (I would probably end up being one of the ones that chosses to watch the game on a portable in the parking lot.)

Unfortunately I can't see it ever catching on over here as our weather is so unpredictable... Report
WAR EAGLE! It's great to be an Auburn Tiger! Love tailgating, best part of football season. Easy to eat right it planned right is the answer. Report
It's so fun to tailgate before games! Go Buckeyes! Report
Never went to a tailgate as it doesn't interest me. Lots of people do it at Mardi Gras as here in Pensacola, Florida we are 40 miles from MOBILE, ALABAMA and it is huge there. Report
I love football time and tailgating it's a blast as long as it's done right. Report
Packer games, Brewers games, have been tailgaiting all my life,never had a problem with keeping the food healthy, always took precautions. Report
Haven't ever tailgated but I have to say that I'm not as careful with the food during fall picnics as I am during the summer ones.... thanks for the reminder! Report
We have always tailgated and some of the best times were totally unplanned in terms of food. Everybody shared whatever they brought. Report
I've never tailgated before. Report
Not fanatic enough to cookout in a parking lot. Report
Haven't tailgated in some time--we only go to a couple of Packer games each year, and usually just wander around an hit the other tailgate parties of people we know--and some we don't!! However, taking a packed cooler when traveling is very handy, especially when you don't want to waste the time/money stopping along the way to eat at a restaurant. Plus that way you can pack healthy foods which may not be readily available otherwise. Also we started taking a cooler with us when we go to the farmer's markets so we can run other errands and not have to head straight home afterward. Report
I have gone tailgating but it is popular where I live... Good suggestions Report
I love to tailgate, my daughter lives like 3 blocks for green bay stadium, so going over there a couple times this season. I haven't watched what I've eaten before but this year i sure will be. Report
We attend Purdue football games and some people have very elaborate tailgate parties. Some grill out, but others are just having fun. My husband and I prefer watching the band perform prior to the game over partying (the fact that we have a daughter in the band has a lot to do with this!), and purchase our refreshments from one of the vendors inside the stadium, instead. Fortunately, several of them do have fairly healthy food choices available, and the high prices contribute to our ability to exercise portion control! Report
First time I hear about tailgating, but it sounds like fun! Report
My sister has a yearly UT vs Florida party (they are vol fans). I will be missing this year and missed last year - this am I got a call asking me if I was going to overnight cookies....apparantly that is all she is missing LOL! Report
My parents are Jets season ticket holders and I am a season ticket holder for MLS but I have only recently started bringing healthy food to games. I went to a game last year with over 25 people that all brought food like scallops wrapped in bacon, salad, teriyaki chicken, shrimp alfredo and sausage and peppers along with their three 5ft industrial grills. These non-traditional tailgate foods made me think "I don't have to have burgers and potato salad" (as good as those are). So now we bring (as an example) steaks, marinated chicken or salmon (for me), baked potatos and veggies. This year we have tailgated for every event from concerts to NHL games so this new tailgating method is no longer an excuse to pig out, it's an excuse to grill good food in all types of weather. Not to mention... I can tailgate more now that we eat better each time. Report
When I was a season ticket holder for the Chiefs games (back when we had a team that was good!) we tailgated 8 times a year, rain or shine. Oy, those were the days. We alternated who would cook, so planning ahead was difficult. We always had fun, and always had food for unannounced guests. Tailgating is so much fun! Report
We are getting ready for our first tailgate of the season. The UF v. Kentucky game in about a week and a half! I cannot wait to tailgate, and I'm thinking I need to get my cooler and supplies ready next week. Thanks for the tip about the buffalo chicken dip, COLLEENKELLEY. I've been thinking about what healthy foods I could bring this year that still fit with tailgaiting tradition. It's a 4 hour drive, so we'll need LOTS of ice. Go Gators!! Report
Not a big football fan, so I've never done any tailgating. We do have season tickets for the local pro soccer team (USL division 1, may - sept... last regular home game is tomorrow), but the stadium is in the city, so the parking is all over the place... no centralized parking lot to do tailgating at all... and, well, the neighborhood is not so great. Heh. Report
First I have to ask - Zorbs13, that's a joke, right?

I actually loathe tailgating but I think it's more because I'm not into the "get as drunk as you can and play beer pong in the parking lot while dodging idiots in SUVs" aspect. I don't even like football - I'm a baseball girl. But when we do get together to watch games at my husband's grandmother's house (during which I usually read a book or struggle not to fall asleep, lol) I always make sure to bring something healthy with me to add to the food table so I'm not chowing down on all the high-fat foods his old-school grandmother still thinks she needs to stuff us with. If you can find it, the buffalo chicken dip recipe on Sparkrecipes is always a huge hit and perfect for sports parties. Report
Never heard of tailgating. Report
We do not railgate, but we do a lot of potlucks and picnicing. We have several coolers. Also, this year in Austin the coolers were very handy for trips to the grocery store Report
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