Tailgating before the game can be fun – and safe if you follow these tips

By Samuetta Hill Drew

There are many things to consider if you want to tailgate safely. (Provided Photo)

When school doors reopen it signals the return of football, one of America’s favorite sports. Football and tailgating go hand-in-hand.  In fact, in the South tailgating is almost another sport by itself.  The pre-game planning which goes into this event is very methodical and serious, but safety must be a major component in this planning process.  When handled responsibly, there are some dangers which can be avoided so this pre-game tradition can be a great deal of fun for everyone.

It starts with packing food properly. Nothing spoils your tailgate fun more than spoiled food and food poisoning.  Before leaving home, make sure to pack all perishable items in an insulated cooler.  Make sure there’s enough ice inside to keep your food at a safe temperature.  Also, tightly seal all meat to prevent the juices from cross-contamination.  Because while tailgating and grilling foods like chicken, burgers and other meats, it is important to 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 your raw meat in individual containers and place them in an ice packed cooler until they are ready for the grill.  It’s a good idea to designate one cooler to store extra bags of ice, so you’ll always have enough on hand to keep the raw meat cold.  Keep drinks in a separate cooler.

There are established safety rules which must be followed when grilling food.  To comply with this rule, you must have an instant read food thermometer.  Ground meats should reach an internal temperature of at least 160F, steaks at least 145F, pork chops at least 160F and chicken should reach at least 180F.  It is imperative that you have an instant read thermometer if you are unable to remember this essential safety food information.  Therefore, avoid taking food directly off the grill and placing it on someone’s plate regardless of how tempting it may be.

Make sure you keep your grill at least 6 feet away from any cars or other combustibles.  Never grill on your vehicle.  Also never, leave your grill unattended and keep children and pets a safe distance.  Make sure the coals have cooled before discarding them.  Dumping your trash is important and should be taken seriously because you want to prevent any start up fires or explosions.

No matter how confident one may be with their grilling abilities, mishaps do occur so keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit on hand at all times.  Also, remember to toss out any perishable food left out for more than an hour.  The best rule to grill by is “when in doubt, toss it out.”

Have a designated driver because tailgating includes family, friends, fun, food and drinks.  Many of these drinks include alcohol so you may want to have two designated drivers to be on the safe side.

Enjoy the 2017 football season while tailgating with your family and friends, but include Keeping an Eye on Safety so the tailgate party will be remembered with fondness.