Tailgate Tips & Tricks: Food Safety


Team Turkey

Itching to get back to the stadium this fall? Team Turkey has a full season ahead with the best recipes and tips to make your tailgate a touchdown. Before we get down the field, let’s touch on the basic do’s and don’ts of setting up your spread. They say that the battle on the gridiron is won in the trenches, and that’s how we view food safety. It’s the little things that will take any tailgate from practice squad to All-Pro. Study up on our list of first downs and fumbles to give you all the examples of wins and losses when it comes to food safety this football season.

First Downs

Any good offense knows that the key to setting up big plays is convincing the opposing defense that you can win underneath, just ask TB12. These first downs may seem obvious, but their importance is unmatched for the health and safety of your fellow fans.

Sanitize Tools & Surfaces: Whether you’re in the parking lot or the backyard, it’s pivotal to serve food using clean platters/boards and utensils. Make sure that you wash surfaces and tools with soap and water. In the lot with no sink? Bring some extras and sub them for dirty dishes. Just like any monstrous d-line, rotation is key.

Avoid Cross Contamination: We just touched on surfaces and tools but what about transport on the way to the game or home? Make sure that raw turkey is in its own plastic bag to avoid any cross contamination. In addition, be sure that any raw veggies are prewashed and packed so that they are not in direct contact with turkey for the trip. We’ve got your back, home or away.

Cook to 165: We always cook our turkey to 165°F, no matter what. There are a wide variety of internal temp probes on the market to choose from at a range of prices. Whichever you choose, make sure to bring it with you and always register a safe temperature of 165°F to neutralize any bacteria.


Check the film, these food safety fumbles could get you benched! If a running back isn’t bracing for contact, there’s a good chance that ball is getting turned over.

Not Wearing Gloves: Seriously? It’s a no-brainer. Make sure you’re wearing disposable gloves when handling raw foods, especially if you are not close to a sink/soap. More importantly, how many pitmasters have you seen without gloves on? Sometimes, you’ve got to follow the example set by the greats. Trust us, the gloves will impress your guests and more importantly keep them safe.

Not Washing Your Hands: Ew, dude. Always try to have clean hands when preparing food for yourself or others (especially if not wearing gloves!). Clean hands, full hearts, can’t lose – wasn’t that the line from Friday Night Lights? Anyways, keep your hands clean to keep that spread lookin’ mean.

No Trash Bag: This one has got to be the most obvious – bring a trash bag! Don’t leave your trash on the ground and certainly not close to any ready-to-serve foods. Nobody roots for garbage (unless you’re a lifelong D.C. sports fan like us…). Make sure you have a plan in place to dispose of your trash safely.

A non-football quote, but you’ll catch the drift: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin


Running Down the Clock: While tailgating is a key play, letting your food sit out all day is not! Toss any food that has been left out, and not kept at proper temperatures, after two hours. If it’s 90°F or hotter, toss it out after one hour. Keep your cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Here are a few tips from our teammates at USDA on how to keep your food to temp.