Planning ahead is the secret ingredient to any successful tailgate party. Racing tailgate parties are not just a day like most football tailgates. Typically a race tailgate will last for a whole weekend, anywhere from 2 to 5 days. Doing as much food prep as you can before you hit the track is a major factor. Knowing how many people you will be feeding and planning a menu are key! Simple yet doable recipes are optimum too, especially if just working with coolers.
You should freeze or cool your food ahead. Pre-chill or freeze food and drinks before packing them if possible. If you are going in a motor home or trailer, odds are you will have proper refrigeration, but extra coolers are always a great thing to have on hand. Especially a separate cooler just for drinks. Those tend to get opened and closed more often. You don’t want to keep food in a cooler that is continually being opened and closed. If tenting it or just taking a truck, an insulated container or cooler with some pre-frozen items will be necessity. Instead of using loose ice, consider freezing water in lightweight plastic containers or clean milk jugs; that way when they melt they won’t flood your cooler. This can add to your cool water supply, during and post-race. Better yet, use water bottles, that way you can drink from them directly to make optimal use of cooler space.
Doubling up on recipes is helpful on race weekends. Many recipes can be doubled or tripled to feed the masses. It is still better to have too much, than too little. If you have proper ways to store leftovers, I’m sure that someone will nosh early morning or late night on those goodies. Don’t multiply certain ingredients like oil and butter that are used for sautéing. Just use enough to cover the bottom of your pan. A good tailgate bin should have a fresh container of olive oil or vegetable oil and/or possibly a can of spray oil anyway.
Marinate your food ahead of time.Do all your marinating pre-race when possible. Marinate meat in a cooler or refrigerator and throw out any remaining marinade used for raw meat. This works best with beef and pork, or even turkey for deep frying. Boneless chicken, fish and shrimp tend to marinate quick. Quicker marinated items can be done at the track in good quality zipper bags and a cold cooler. Marinating items like this can be done quick and easy by bringing some fresh oranges or lemons and squeezing the juice right onto the meat and adding some spices from your tailgate bin. Having a bottle of your favorite Italian dressing on hand is great marinade too. Dressing doesn’t need to be refrigerated until after you open it. Refrigerate any other fresh marinade that has not been used on raw meat to flavor cooked food later on.
Other pre-race prep is pretty common sense. Make sure your tailgate bin is properly stocked. This includes things like foil and grilling tools and a hand crank can opener. After every tailgate party you should restock immediately so that you are ready to go at a moments notice.
Have extra fuel for your grill, BBQ smoker and deep fryer. Make sure that you have extra charcoal, wood, or a full tank of propane or two. Some race venues will have a place to stock up on ice and propane, but if this is a new venue for you, or you are not sure, make sure that you are prepared. You don’t want to set up your turkey fryer on the third day of race tailgating, after a few breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and run out of LP gas half way through frying your turkey. You can always use the propane another day. Don’t plan on using your smoker every day if you are not properly stocked with wood or charcoal. Make sure your hoses and regulators are in proper working order before leaving for the track too. Odds are a big box store is somewhere near by, but why chance the hassle if you don’t have to. Traffic is usually bad enough on a race weekend. Why add any aggravation to the mix if you don’t have to. Make sure that your gear is properly stowed for travel too. You don’t want to get to the track or camp and find out that the lid for your grill blew off at mile marker 9.
Pre-race prep is important for any tailgate. Even if you are just a participant, ask the chief cook and bottle washer what you can bring. Ask if help is needed. If you want to enjoy yourself at the race, you don’t need to just be a drinker and face stuffer. Some help may not be required but if you want to be asked back again… help out when it is needed.
Have a great racing season.