7 Safety Tips for a Terrific Tailgating Experience

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Pre-game tailgating gives us the chance to bond with fellow sports fans over the grill and cold beverages, but it also presents a few hazards that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Before you head off to the big game, take our crash course on tailgating safety that learn how to avoid food poisoning, protect yourself from the scorching sun, avoid dangerous driving, and more.

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1. Meat requires stellar sanitation

Nothing ruins a day at the stadium like food poisoning. Because tailgating and grilling burgers, chicken and other meats go hand in hand, be especially careful to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Wash utensils, cutting boards and other surfaces every time raw meat comes in contact with them.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching raw meat, and dry them with paper towels (not dishtowels).
  • Have lots of paper plates on hand, so you never make the mistake of placing grilled meat on a plate that held raw meat.
  • Pack raw meat in individual containers and place them in an ice-packed cooler until they are ready for the grill.
  • Designate one cooler to store extra bags of ice so you’ll always have enough on hand to keep raw meat cold.
  • Keep drinks in a separate cooler.

2. Grilling guidelines

Image: Luis Quintero, Pexels

Your guests are hungry and begging for your famous barbeque chicken; it’s tempting to take it off the grill before it’s done, but doing so is a recipe for disaster. Although meat will continue to cook for a short while after it’s removed from the flame, you should follow well-established guidelines to be sure it’s fit for consumption.

Get an instant-read food thermometer. Then follow temp guidelines to make sure your food is cooked:

  • Ground meats should reach an internal temperature of at least 160°F
  • Steaks should reach at least 145°F
  • Pork chops need a temp of at least 160°F
  • Chicken should reach at least 180°F.

If you don’t want to remember these temperatures, then just arm yourself with an instant-read food thermometer and download the MeatTemps app; you’ll never have to worry about undercooking meat again.

3. Keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit on hand

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You never think it will happen to you. After all, you’re a grill master. But even veteran tailgaters need to be prepared for the worst.

When you’re grilling, make sure you have a fire extinguisher in close proximity (not packed in your truck). If you don’t need it, another tailgater might. Here are the best fire extinguishers.

If you’re grilling with coals, be sure to douse them with water and let them cool before placing them in a container to discard or pack in your vehicle. And be sure the container is one designed to store coals, not a random box or bag you found in the trunk.

Packing a first aid kit is always a good idea. You never know when a friendly game of Frisbee or a sharp knife might lead to a cut or injury. Here are the best first aid kits.

4. When in doubt, toss it out

Make “when in doubt, toss it out” your tailgating mantra. We all hate throwing away food, but as you wrap up your tailgating extravaganza, it’s time to throw away perishable foods that have been left out for more than an hour in hot temperatures or more than two hours in moderates conditions.

5. Count on a designated driver


Image: Kampus Production, Pexels

Let’s face it, tailgaters are notorious for having too much to drink. If your tailgating party includes alcohol, be sure to have one or more designated drivers.

A few tips will make things go smoothly:

  • Offer to buy the DD non-alcoholic drinks during the game and maybe pitch in for a few snacks to say thanks for their duty.
  • Always offer your tailgating companions non-alcoholic choices, including bottled water.
  • Encourage drinking partygoers to have plenty to eat and drink a non-alcoholic beverage in between drinking alcoholic ones.

6. Party in numbers

Tailgating and socializing are nearly synonymous, but avoid gallivanting through crowds of rowdy tailgaters alone. Because alcohol impairs decision making, it’s especially important to sick with a buddy if you have been consuming alcohol. If you do head off on your own, make sure your friends know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.

7. Sun protection and hydration

The sun might not be sizzling like it was during summer, but even under a cloud-covered sky it’s easy to get scorched while tailgating. If you’re hosting a tailgating bash, have plenty of sunscreen on hand for your guests and don’t forget to protect yourself. Dehydration is another potential tailgating villain.

Mild dehydration symptoms include headache, dizziness, sleepiness, strong-smelling urine and thirst. Drink water to battle dehydration, not soda, juice or alcohol. Drinking water in small amounts throughout the day helps guard against dehydration.

If you’re sweating over a grill, you’ll need to be particularly vigilant about consuming water.

You’ve put a lot of thought into game day; don’t ruin an otherwise festive day of tailgating by being unsafe. Follow our crash course in tailgating safety and you and your guests will enjoy a healthy and entertaining day of pre-game partying that won’t soon be forgotten.


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Alexia Chianis
Written by
Alexia Chianis
Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics.

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