Tailgate the Right Way

Stocking a cooler, setting up camp, and lighting the grill are a given. But for a real knockout tailgate, you're gonna want to put these tips to good use.

Once football season kicks into high gear, an afternoon at the stadium is a damn good way to spend your Sunday. If you ask us, though, the best part starts in front of the grill, long before kickoff.

Bring great beer

Your tailgate deserves better than bland, big-name beers, so stock your cooler with the good stuff instead. There's a huge range of terrific craft options out there in all kinds of crowd-pleasing styles. Try pilsners, blondes, or amber ales, all of which are flavorful but won't bash your guests over the head with ultra bitter hops or overproof alcohol levels.

And since plenty of craft breweries are choosing to can rather than bottle their suds, you can grab canned craft offerings to make it extra convenient -- they're lighter, easier to pack, and shatter-proof. Try any of these knockout canned beers, or shop around at your local beer store and pick up whatever catches your eye.

Prep the night before

Shape your burgers and stack them between wax paper. Slice cheese and vegetables for toppings and lay 'em out on a tray, then cover it in plastic wrap. Skewer and marinate kabobs. Pack everything that's going into the cooler in waterproof zip-lock bags. The more you can do beforehand, the less work you'll have to do in the parking lot.

Invest in a slow cooker

These things are a godsend for easy cold weather meals when the days are short and you want to come home to a rich, tender, and aromatic dinner with hardly any effort. For game day, you can repurpose one as a serving bowl for chili, soup, or spiced cider since they hold a low, constant temperature and are a lot easier to deal with than a portable burner.

Stock plenty of toppings

Anyone can cook hot dogs or lay out a sandwich spread. Set yourself apart by packing a strong layout of toppings to complement whatever's on the grill so that your offerings are customizable. Fried onions, scallions, jalapeños, pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, crushed chips, top shelf cheeses -- all fair game.

Wait until after the game

The pre-game tailgate is a tradition, we know, but hear us out: moving the cookout to after the game lets you eat, drink, relax, and bask in your team's win. Meanwhile, all the other poor saps are sitting in traffic for an hour since everyone's trying to head home at the same time.

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