Tips for the perfect tailgating party

Planning a tailgating party can be hard but following these simple tips and tricks from BBQ pitmaster Melissa Cookston and owner of Memphis Barbecue Co. can help relieve game day food worries so you can focus on cheering for your team.

1. Prep


"In the restaurant business “prep” is a way of life. We constantly prep and organize in order to make the business of cooking and serving meals as simple and prompt as possible.  At home or tailgating, I always do the same.  Step one is planning your menu, then looking at everything and seeing which steps may be done ahead of time, and what can be done to eliminate waste and space."

Recipe: Pepper Bacon Poppers

2. Know your crowd


"Whether you are feeding “linemen” or “cheerleaders” makes a big difference in your menu, amounts to prepare, and seasonings you select."

Recipe: Sriracha Mayo

3. Be original


"Sure, burgers and brats are fan favorites, but sometimes it’s nice to have a change of pace.  I like to always blend in a unique item with the normal fare to keep things interesting.  This is also a great way to “test market” new items to see if they will make it to the big leagues."

Recipe: Cold Crawfish Dip

4. Sauces


"Sauces add variety, may either be purchased or made ahead of time, and allow people to personalize their meal.  Examples are as simple as mayonnaise.  Bring your regular mayo for the kids and make a cilantro-chipotle mayo for the adults."

Recipe: Cilantro-Chipotle Mayo

5. Foil is your friend


"I am an aluminum foil addict.  It makes preparing certain items much easier and clean up a snap.  One trick I like to use is to line the foil with parchment paper for delicate items or ones prone to sticking."

Recipe: Thai Glazed Shrimp

6. Organize


"Absolutely nothing is worse than forgetting an integral ingredient or having to spend too much time searching for what you need.  Utilize plastic containers to maximize space in the cooler and pack according to what you need at certain times.  For example, if I need to get my potatoes cooking first, I will make sure they are on the top layer of the cooler."

Recipe: Build your own sliders