tailgating tips

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: football season! That means glorious Sundays filled with nothing but touchdowns, tackles, and field goals, not to mention an excuse to guzzle beer and munch on pigskin staples like chicken wings and nachos for hours on end. And when you’re lucky enough to see a game live in living color, no Football Sunday is complete without a good ol’ tailgate. For a little inspo to kick off the season (hey, the off-season is long!), we asked some of your favorite NFL players to share their top tailgating dishes—get ready for the ultimate pre-game bash!

Joe Montana, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs
This legendary Hall of Famer now slings meat instead of footballs (he’s an investor in the online meat purveyor Crowd Cow), and he says nothing screams tailgating like a tried and true burger. “It’s the simplicity of a quality hamburger that makes it perfect,” Montana says. Pro tip: Form your patties ahead of time and layer them between pieces of wax paper, then they can go straight from the cooler to the grill.

Preston Smith, linebacker for the Washington Redskins
No tailgate is complete without snacks and sides. “When I went to tailgates growing up, my favorite food was always the sides because they’re really what keeps the tailgate going,” says Smith. His go-tos are items that are easy to make ahead and transport, like baked beans or mac ‘n’ cheese.

classic mac and cheese

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Thomas Morstead, punter for the New Orleans Saints
Don’t forget dessert! Even though the players can’t tailgate, Morstead’s mother makes sure it isn’t all work and no fun—she bakes the team her famous brownies every game day.

Christian Gaddis, former offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and Indianapolis Colts
“When I retired, I got the opportunity to fall in love with the game of football as a fan. My wife makes an amazingly delicious dish that’s perfect for a tailgate at home or the stadium—potato skins mac ‘n cheese,” says Gaddis. “It’s easy to prep ahead, travels well, and is easily reheated on a grill.”

Adoree’ Jackson, cornerback for the Tennessee Titans
“My favorite tailgate food is my dad’s turkey ribs,” he says. In fact, his pops makes them every gameday. “He attaches a smoker to the back of his truck and drives from St. Louis to the stadium in Nashville, where he parks and feeds family, friends, and fans before the game,” Jackson says. Afterward, he helps the team refuel by grilling up fresh grub for Titans players to grab as they exit the stadium.

Jarvis Green, former defensive end for the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, and Houston Texans
This two-time Super Bowl Champ went from the field to your grocery store when he created Ocean 97, a wholesale shrimp distribution service. His dinner kits are the perfect timesaver (so you can focus on the eating, not cooking) and come in whatever flavor profile you’re craving. (As a former Patriot, we think it’s also likely he might also enjoy our New England Clam Chowder Bites recipe.)

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Dre Kirkpatrick, cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals
Cold fried chicken is a Southern picnic staple that happens to be perfect for a tailgate, too. For some extra pizazz, bring honey and hot sauce to drizzle over each bite.

Lane Taylor, guard for the Green Bay Packers
Be the MVP of your tailgate by wowing with a beef brisket. Taylor’s secret? Smoking it. “I would smoke it using pecan wood. No sauce, just seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic, which puts a good bark on it,” he says. If you don’t want to post up in the parking lot for the hours a solid smoke requires, get it started at home and finish it off on site.

Davon Godchaux, defensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins
Keep it simple with sticky barbecue ribs and traditional potato salad. “You’ve got to have plenty of mayo, eggs, all that good stuff!” he says. Or, kick it up a notch with a dish that’s true to this Louisiana native’s roots: jambalaya. “Your jambalaya needs to have good sausage, shrimp, and crawfish if you can,” Godchaux says. Make it ahead or bring along a pot that fits on your grill and be a true parking lot chef.

Easy BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs

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Adolphus Washington, defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills
Off the field, just call him Chef Washington. His self-proclaimed secret talent is cooking, and his favorite meat is steak—a grill’s best friend. Sear off a few slabs, then slice them up; put out some soft dinner rolls and condiments and let people build their own steak sliders.

Tony Jefferson, safety for the Baltimore Ravens
“I love carne asada tacos. I’m from Chula Vista, Cali. and grew up eating a lot of Mexican food,” he says. For a break from burgers and dogs (but we won’t judge you if they make an appearance, too!), set up a DIY taco bar with meat or veggies you grill right there.

Kapri Bibbs, running back for the Washington Redskins
“You can’t really tailgate without a good Polish, you know what I’m saying? A nice sausage charred up on the grill is always my favorite food when I used to go to tailgates,” he says. (If you agree, try our Kielbasa-Cheddar-Sauerkraut Garbage Bread recipe.)

Slow Cooker Gourmet

D.J. Jones, defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers
Besides his dad’s barbecue (he caters!) and sliders with two signature sauces, sides are where it’s at for Jones. “You have to have some type of dip, like a Buffalo dip. You also need easy snacks like pigs in a blanket, chips, and don’t forget good beverages,” he says. (We concur, and also recommend our Buffalo Chicken Kolaches with Blue Cheese Dip for your next game day spread.)

Vincent Ray, linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals
Ray’s tailgating contribution is perfect for soaking up all that beer, both before and after the game: homemade popcorn. Pop a giant batch at home, then grab handfuls whenever you feel a little grumble.

James Hurst, an offensive guard/tackle for the Baltimore Ravens
Eat Hurst’s tailgating pick as an appetizer or main. It’s a cheesedog with a Carolina twist. “Red Hots are a North Carolina thing, but it’s a mix between a hot dog and a sausage with a little spice to it. Grill it, cut it open down the middle, then put a slice of cheese in there and eat it straight,” he says.

Related Video: How to Make the Perfect Dip for Your Super Bowl Party

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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