Tailgate Safety Tips

It doesn’t even seem possible that another summer is over, and that my favorite season of the year has finally arrived.  I could convince you that my favorite season is Fall, when the temperatures start to drop and the leaves begin to change colors.  And that would be mostly true, because I do love Fall.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my most favorite season of the year is football season!

I love watching games on TV or at my favorite local sports bar, but nothing can compare to seeing a game in person.  And a big part of the fun of going to a college or pro football game is tailgating before going into the stadium. “Tailgating” literally means serving food and drink from the tailgate of a car or truck.  But in many places, tailgating is so much more than that, and is probably better defined as a pre-game party in the parking lot.

People arrive early to claim the best spots for their canopies and chairs, and to get the grills fired up.  People of all ages are dressed in their favorite Team Colors (click the link to get your team colors jewelry) and favorite player’s jerseys.  Music, laughter and footballs being tossed back and forth all contribute to a festive atmosphere as fans prepare for kickoff.

Can’t you just smell those burgers cooking, and taste that ice cold beer?


Before we get too carried away, here are a few things to remember before you head off to the big game.  A few safety precautions, beyond the all-important food and drink decisions, will help to ensure that everyone has a good time:

Pre-Tailgate Prep

  • Wait to pack your coolers until just before you leave.
  • Start with well-insulated coolers, and use plenty of ice to keep cold foods cold. It’s important to keep meat cold before cooking to prevent food poisoning.
  • Carefully package raw meat, and put it at the bottom of the cooler to avoid drips and cross-contamination.
  • Place other cold foods, like pre-cut fruits and veggies or pasta salads, in containers towards the top of the cooler. Or better yet, use a separate cooler.
  • A full cooler will maintain its low temperature longer than one that’s partially full, so pack empty spaces with ice or reusable cold packs.
  • It’s best to use a separate cooler for drinks, as the temperatures in a cooler rise quickly when it is opened frequently. Keeping the food cooler closed most of the time will help it retain a colder temperature.
  • Upon arrival, place the coolers in a shady spot and leave all cold foods in the cooler until ready to be eaten.


Grill Time

  • When it’s time to start grilling, keep raw meat away from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Be sure to use hand sanitizer before and after grilling!
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure all meat is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • Serve grilled foods immediately, or hold them on the grill until serving time, to keep their temperature at a minimum of 140°F.
  • Use clean plates for foods coming off the grill, not the plates that held the raw meat.

Serving Time

  • Keep cold foods in coolers until you’re ready to serve them.
  • Place spoons in dips and tongs on meat platters.
  • Use plastic utensils and paper plates. Be sure to provide paper towels!
  • Place hand sanitizer in an easily accessible spot.
  • Protect foods from insects and other contaminants by using lids or covers.

The Party’s Over

  • After your tailgate is finished, throw away any food that could spoil. Leftovers may be tempting after the game, but they may also be dangerous.
  • If you used a charcoal grill, cool the coals properly before putting them in a garbage container or back in your car.
  • When you are ready to drive home, make sure you can see properly and that there are no items in your way, such as bottles or cans.
  • If your guests have been drinking alcohol, make sure they don’t get behind the wheel. They may think they’re sober after the excitement of the game, but it’s more important to be safe.

Do you have any tips to add to the list?  Please comment below!

Now I’m off to plan my game day snacks for the NFL’s opening weekend!  Until next week,


21 Easy Tips for Safe and Successful Tailgating