9 Mistakes to Avoid When Tailgate Grilling on Your Portable Grill

9 Mistakes to Avoid When Tailgate Grilling on Your Portable Grill

Everybody loves a good tailgate party; it’s a favorite American pastime. If your hobbies include sports, grills and good cuts of meat, this guide is for you. We’re going to look at the top 9 mistakes you may be making when you tailgate with a portable grill. Whether you’re hanging out before the big game or just hanging out in your backyard, check out our tips for avoiding common tailgate grilling mistakes. 


Safety First

  • Children in the yard

  • A dirty grill

  • Grilling in an enclosed space

  • Grilling too close to anything

  • Not watching the fat

Tasty Next

  • Not paying attention

  • Running out of fuel

  • Grilling cold meat

  • Cooking with flame

Photo by Brady Rogers on Unsplash

Safety First

Your safety comes first. We’ve put together a list of the top mistakes grillers make when tailgating on a portable bbq grill that may compromise safety. 

  1. Children in the yard

No matter where you’re tailgating, there are likely young’uns around. Sometimes we adults get distracted, and that can lead to very serious consequences. 

Always make sure your grill is being watched by an adult. Pets and children are probably running around having fun. If they’re not watching where they’re going, burns or even tipped portable charcoal grills can be the result. 

  1. A dirty grill 

Grill masters who are proud of their craft keep a clean grill. But life happens. Maybe there was a rainstorm after your last bbq and you didn’t get the chance to scrape your grill just yet. 

A grill that has last cookout’s remnants on it will not only make your bbq taste “off” but can also lead to flare-ups. A grill fire will most certainly ruin your tailgate party, so take steps to avoid it. For an ultra-easy clean, use the Kick Ash Juniper BBQ Scraper.  

  1. Grilling in an enclosed space

You may be camping, tailgating under an awning or even (yes, it’s been done) trying to grill indoors. If you’re grilling in an enclosed space, you’re making one of the most common tailgating mistakes. 

No matter whether you’re using a gas grill or a tailgate charcoal grill, grilling indoors or in a small space can be extremely dangerous. Carbon monoxide poisoning is no joke – make sure your grill has plenty of room to breathe so that you do, too. 

  1. Grilling too close to – well, anything

In the same way grilling in an enclosed space is a bad idea, grilling too close to other objects is not a smart move. Low-hanging tree branches, patio furniture, and even the railings of your deck can instantly go up in flames if you’re not careful. 

Don’t forget about your body. Don’t stand too close to the grill, and always use heat-resistant gloves when you’re tailgating. Even the startle of a small burn can lead to much bigger bbq grill problems. 

Be sure to give yourself and your grill plenty of clearance before you set up your tailgate. Portable grills have a great feature – they’re portable! You can place them in a safe spot and enjoy your tailgate party safely. 

  1. Not watching the fat

If you don’t already have one, get a drip pan for your grill. Whether you’ve got a Big Green Egg, a Traeger or a Weber, there’s a pan on the market that will fit your grill. After all, the best portable grill is one that keeps drippings under control.

Now, with that said, you’ll need to be vigilant about the grease and fat that’s dripping from your food onto your flame. As you know, fat drippings can cause flare ups. When you’re cooking one or two pieces at a time, this usually isn’t an issue. But if you’re overloading your grill, it can quickly become a very large and fiery problem

Limit the meats you put on your grill and be mindful of what’s dripping down into your embers. A divider can also help you transfer dripping meat to a less flame-prone portion of the grill. 


Tasty Next

Safety obviously comes first, but what about the taste of your grilled goodies? Here are some common mistakes to avoid when you’re tailgating to protect the flavor of your food. 

  1. Not paying attention

We’ve already talked about how not paying attention to your grill can ruin a good day fast. But it can also ruin good food in a hurry. 

If you can, try to keep four hands on deck. With two people manning (or womaning!) the grill, you’ll be less likely to get distracted by the game or the beer in the cooler. This can help you prevent overcooking your food and may just save your grillmaster reputation. 

  1. Running out of fuel

Whether you’re using a charcoal or gas portable gill for tailgating, you’re going to make sure you can keep that baby hot. Be sure you’ve packed ample fuel before you leave for the party. 

Forgetting the fuel can be disastrous. You may not be able to serve your guests. You may have to make an emergency run to the store. In a worst case scenario, you unknowingly undercook your food and your guests get sick

Avoid this common tailgating mistake, and stock up before you head out. 

  1. Grilling cold meat

If you’re headed out to the Big Game for your tailgate party, you’ve probably got your meat packed on ice. Be sure to give it a little time to thaw and come to “room temperature” before tossing it on the grill. 

When you put cold meats on the grill, they’ll take longer to cook through to a safe temperature. That can lead to two possibilities: meat that’s overcooked on the outside or meat that’s undercooked on the inside. Both can be avoided if you bring the temps of your meat down before cooking. 

  1. Cooking with flame

The best grill masters know that the right way to tailgate bbq grill is over slowly burning embers. Remember that you’re grilling, not building a bonfire. It’s tempting to create flames on the grill – after all, they look pretty cool – but it will absolutely ruin your food. 

Little natural flare-ups will happen as you cook your food. As fats drip into your coal, you’ll see those exciting little outbursts. But perhaps equally as sinful as cooking over flame is some cooks’ habit of squishing their meat to create man-made flare-ups. 

Please don’t cook over open flame; this does not create tasty food. And please don’t squish your meat; the result will be a super-dry meal that no one will enjoy. 


Winning at Tailgating: Avoid Amateur Mistakes

Whether you’re new to tailgate grilling or have been cooking steaks truckside on a portable grill for half a century, there’s the possibility that you may make a mistake or two. This list of the most common tailgating mistakes is common sense, but following our rules for success just might save your tailgate reputation.