With the fall semester upon us, football season has kicked off. And, where there’s football, there’s tailgating. Score a tailgate touchdown with your friends and family this season by checking out these helpful tips and tricks from Shelby Larsen.
As a Senior Catering Manager at Austin-based Freebirds World Burrito, Shelby regularly helps feed groups of 10 to 10,000. So, you could say she knows a thing or two about setting up the perfect spread. And, so you have your own perfect spread, don’t miss the mouthwatering Freebirds’ salsa recipes to make ahead of time. (Click the photos below for the recipes.)
Keep your food hot
1. Turn your cooler into a hotbox! Wrap 3 or 4 bricks in aluminum foil and place them in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. While your bricks heat up, layer cardboard on the bottom of your cooler. When the bricks are ready, carefully remove them from the oven and place them in the cooler. Set your food on top of the bricks and shut the lid. This will keep your food hot and ready until the game clock runs out.
2. If you’re setting up a buffet, pick up disposable wire racks and cans of chafing fuel from your local party supply store to have a professional catering set up for half the cost.
Keep your food cold
3. Instead of filling your cooler with ice, fill your cooler with frozen water bottles. This will keep your cold items refrigerated without creating a slushy mess or accidentally mixing water with your food. Bonus: You’ll also have ice-cold water to drink throughout the game as your bottles begin to thaw!
Transport food, spill free
4. Double seal your pans and storage containers with an extra layer of plastic wrap to prevent spills and leaks.
What to prep ahead
5. Always marinate meats overnight. It’s also helpful to freeze marinated meats, particularly smaller cuts like chicken wings or fajita meat. The cold temperatures will keep meat fresh and safe to eat, help keep your cooler cold and thaw to the perfect temperature by the time you set up at the stadium.
6. Dips are the perfect snack to prepare in advance. The flavors tend to get better overnight and will save you time day of. Bonus: If you want to prepare guacamole in advance, squeeze the juice of an entire lemon on top and seal in an airtight container. This will keep it from oxidizing and acts as the citrus needed in your recipe. When you’re ready to serve just give it a quick stir!
Food safety first
7. For food safety and taste, it’s best to cook meat right before you’re ready to eat instead of cooking in advance and reheating.
8. Never eat food that’s been left out for longer than 4 hours.
9. It’s helpful and easy to set up a hand-washing station at your tailgate. All you need is a large water jug with a plastic spout, a bucket, hand soap and paper towels. This will keep things safe and clean when you’re handling raw meat.
10. You can make a lightweight, portable trash can by lining a pop-up clothes hamper with a trash bag. It’s easy to transport and saves on space!