Let’s tailgate! I mean, let’s tailgate safely!

The weather is cooling, the leaves are changing, and many people’s interest turns to…FOOTBALL!  We all enjoy getting together and cheering on our team.  But before the game actually kicks off, many begin the festivities with tailgating.

man holding football at tailgate party

Tailgating is the exercise of serving food and drink from the tailgate of your car.  The setups for these gatherings have grown to include gas grills attached to trailer hitches, large screen TVs with satellite dishes, and more food than you could find at your local grocer.

While the tailgate party is great – and many times much more fulfilling than the final result of the game – we must all be sensible and plan ahead.

sports fans cheering

Suggestions for tailgating safety:

  • If traveling with a gas grill, do not store the propane tank at the very back of the vehicle. It would be the first thing hit should your vehicle be rear-ended.
  • If using a charcoal grill, have plenty of water handy to put out the coals when the cooking is complete.
  • Keep all grills away from flammable substances and vehicles – the heat can damage the paint, or even ignite the gas tank!
  • Bring a well-supplied first aid kit. You never know what might happen in your group or to someone else nearby.
  • Food safety: To avoid spoilage, you want to keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold.  When food items get to the mid-range temperatures, that’s when bacteria grows most quickly.

cheering fans

Food safety tips for tailgating

  • Keep raw foods cold: make sure you have plenty of ice, and remember that a cooler stays colder longer when packed.  If you have extra room, put some more freezer packs in.
  • Cook meats until they reach the proper internal temperature (use an instant-read thermometer).  For example, chicken to 180 degrees; steak (medium) to 160 degrees; hamburger to 160 degrees, and pork to 170 degrees.
  • Serve hot foods hot.  You should try to keep hot foods above 140 degrees.
  • Serve hot foods within a few minutes of being cooked if possible.
  • Serve cold foods cold.  You should try to keep cold foods below 40 degrees. With items that are highly perishable, such as potato salad, consider keeping the food on ice while serving. One popular way to achieve this is to use a larger bowl filled with ice, and then place the food in a smaller bowl set inside the larger one.
  • Never store cooked food in the container it came from.
  • Always keep cooked foods from coming into contact with raw food.  Bring a separate container for cooked foods.
  • Keep utensils, chopping blocks, and hands clean when preparing and serving food.  If soap and water are not available, bring hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes.
  • At the end of the day, discard perishable foods that have been left out for too long.
  • Generally, foods should not be left out for more than an hour in temperatures over 90 degrees, and for over two hours with the temperatures in the 70s and 80s, but this depends on the food.  When in question, discard it.
  •  Clean up thoroughly – and use the hand sanitizer you brought!

cooler full of beer

Safety extends beyond what you eat; what you drink matters too. Be smart if you are drinking alcohol.  Not only are you involved with running a big party and caring for the needs of many, but you will soon be walking into a stadium with your closest friends. No one needs you to make a spectacle of yourself – especially you. Be careful when wearing the opposing team’s jersey to a tailgate.  You will of course stick out, so be on your best behavior and don’t do anything to provoke fans of the home team.

Have a great time at your tailgate!  If you think ahead, use your common sense, and pray for a sunny day, everything should turn out wonderfully.