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Act Like You Know What You're Doing: A Cheat Sheet for the Novice Tailgater

"Stick the the basics." -Bud Kilmer

Delivering a grilled feast in the friendly confines of your backyard is an achievement with an asterisk. Sure those steaks were grilled to a perfect medium-rare and those veggies were kissed with a touch of smoke, but you did it with home field advantage and no shot clock. And in your heart, you already knew that.

Starting this weekend the real grill masters will take their rickety portable grills on the road to parking lots across this great nation to deliver juicy burgers and plump hot dogs to their slightly intoxicated friends.

Fortunately, with a little preparation and some slight of hand, you can fake your friends into thinking that you are, in fact, one of those guys. If you've ever wondered how to deliver an adequate parking lot feast, this checklist is for you:


  • Grill

  • Fuel (Propane or Charcoal)

  • Note: If you're using charcoal, for the love of God use a chimney starter. Match Light charcoal is for sissies and lighter fluid is basically a disgusting condiment imparted by combustion that'll ruin your burger. A chimney starter is the best $9 you'll ever spend... I really couldn't feel more strongly about this.


  • Hot dogs

  • Hot dog buns

  • Hamburgers

  • Cheddar cheese (It looks more professional than Kraft Singles)

  • Hamburger buns

  • Brat's (optional)

  • Lettuce (optional)

  • Pre-sliced tomato (optional)

  • Sliced pickles (optional)

  • Note: In the immortal words of Bud Kilmer, "Stick to the basics."


  • Ketchup

  • Mustard

  • Choice

  • Note: Bring a slightly offbeat condiment like Chipotle Mayo and tell people it's your favorite. It'll make people think you know what you're doing.


  • Cooler (make sure it's roomy enough for your food and plenty of beer)

  • Tent (optional)

  • Paper plates (optional)

  • Spatula (for flipping burgers)

  • Tongs (because you'll expose yourself trying to pluck a hot dog off the grill with a spatula)

  • Trash bags


  • Lots of beer (Note: As the saying goes, "A magician's best friend is a drunk audience." Happy tailgating!)

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