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Grilling Tips: Delicious Food Is On The Menu

UPDATED November 1, 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Seth Carrier


You might be ready to support your favorite team as they take to the gridiron this season, but are you prepared for the game before the game? That is, are you prepared to tailgate like a champion? A lot goes into making the perfect pre-game feast, but with these helpful hints you`ll quickly become the parking lot MVP.

The perfect day of tailgating begins well before kickoff. Plan to arrive 3-4 hours early so that your food is ready to eat about 2 hours before game time. Also, try to set up shop near any grassy areas or at the end of a parking row; this will give you and your friends more room to spread out!

Like in any sport, having the proper equipment is the first step toward success. Here`s a list of items you`ll want to have on hand to make your tailgating experience a winner:

  • A tent or canopy, so you can keep cooking even if the weather is bad.
  • A sturdy fold-up banquet or card table that you can use for food preparation and to put out the spread.
  • Disposable plates, cups, bowls, and utensils (2-3 per person).
  • Napkins or paper towels (at least six per person).
  • An extra propane tank (if cooking with gas).
  • A food thermometer.
  • Brushes for spreading barbeque sauce.
  • Oven mitts.
  • Lots of ice (more than you think you`ll need).
  • At least two gallons of water for cleanup.
  • Lots of trash bags.
  • If cooking with charcoal, bring a chimney starter so you can avoid using lighter fluid (this will improve food flavor).

Now that you`ve got the right gear, it`s time to focus on the star of the show-the food! Before the cooking begins, remember to leave enough time to properly preheat the grill. This takes 20 minutes for a gas grill and 30 minutes for charcoal. Also, line the bottom of the grill with aluminum foil to make for easier cleanup at the end of the day. After the grill is done preheating, use a wire brush to clean the grill rack before placing food on it.

One of the main staples of any tailgate cookout is meat, and this means that food safety is a big priority. Don`t forget to use separate plates for raw meat going on the grill and cooked meat coming off it. Be sure to keep cold foods below 40 degrees F and hot foods above 140 degrees F to prevent bacteria growth. Use your food thermometer to make sure that meats are cooked thoroughly. Safe temperatures are 180 degrees for chicken, 160 degrees for pork chops and ground beef, and 140 degrees for steak.

One good cooking trick is to only place charcoal under half of the cooking surface. This will give you a space for slow-cooking certain items, or a cooler place to move any food that is cooking too fast.

A common grilling mistake is to cut into a piece of meat or hot dog to see if it is done. Not only is it difficult to see the inside of the meat to check for doneness, but this also allows the meat`s juices to spill out, which diminishes taste. A better method is simply to press on the meat with your finger; a rare steak will be squishy, a medium piece of meat will be springy, while one that is well-done will be taut.

Also, wait about five minutes before slicing down your meat after it comes off the grill. During this time the juices inside will thicken and they will then stay inside the meat after it is cut.

In addition, only apply sauces in the final few minutes of cooking your chicken or steak. This will allow it to become a nice glaze when it comes off the grill. Applying your sauce at the beginning of the cooking process will make it into a charred mess by the time it`s ready to be served!

Once the cooking is done it`s important to dispose of hot charcoal briquettes in a safe manner. Ideally, one would let them cool for up to 48 hours. However, to speed up the process you can use tongs to pick up the coals individually and place them into a bucket of water. Never pour water directly onto hot coals, as the steam produced could burn you. Afterwards, wrap the used coals in foil and dispose of them in a non-combustible container.

Finally, don`t forget to check with your favorite team to see what kinds of regulations they may have in place regarding tailgating. Luckily, most college and professional teams have websites that make this information easy to find.

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