The Washington Times-Herald

October 3, 2011

Tailgate Time

By Todd Daniel Lancaster
Washington Times-Herald

WASHINGTON — This week, I thought I might give you some thoughts on grills you might want to try for the optimum tailgating experience.

At a good tailgate, the grill is the center of the action. Standing behind the grill is like Captain Kirk on the bridge of the Enterprise or Dr. Who behind the controls of the Tardis. I have a good friend who hasn’t missed a Purdue home game in decades (obviously unmarried), who has turned his grill into a replica of the Purdue train and refers to himself as the conductor on the “Broilermaker Express.”

Many places do not allow charcoal anymore and the truth is, with as dry as so many fields are in the fall, that might not be a terrible idea.

Now if they do allow charcoal and you don’t have much space, then I like the Japanese hibachi. These were big in the 70s and the Japanese have been cooking on these things for centuries. They are great, especially if you are doing steaks or a couple of burgers. However, it is not great for things like chili or grill pizza, but still, it costs under $40.

There are also some great portable gas grills out there and they might make more sense if you are doing a lot of tailgating.

The first one is the Margaritaville G1000. This grill attaches to the trailer hitch and swings out 90 degrees. It is a 20,000 BTU grill, but only has one burner, so indirect cooking is tough. Another cool thing about the tailgate is it doesn’t have to take up space inside the vehicle since it attaches to the trailer hitch and stores on the outside of the SUV. And when push comes to shove, I’d rather put money in Jimmy Buffett’s pocket rather than some faceless corporation. These grills go for between $200 to $400, according to where you buy it. The truth is you are probably paying too much for the Buffett/Margaritaville name, but after all can you really put a price on cool.

Another good grill is the Coleman XL Road Trip. It is also around $200 and it has a nice propane system. When you are done it folds up flat and is very easy to travel with. My brother-in-law has used one of these for years, and had plenty of Notre Dame football players eating burgers off of it in the last few years and never had a complaint.

If you have the room and can use charcoal, the Weber One Touch is the best grill in the world. It is what grills are supposed look like and If you know what you are doing, the Weber is as versatile as your stove and oven at home. There are 18-inch and 22-inch models, both run under $80 and will last a very long time. There is also the Smoky Joe which is the table top model for about $30 and it is great choice as well.

Each of these are great and serve there own purposes, but as the guardian of the Holy Chalice once told Indiana Jones — “choose wisely.”

And speaking of chalices, if you find yourself with an empty one at a tailgate, then you might as well fill it with a margarita.

Many companies now make premixed margaritas in two liter bottles. Simply fill a very large cup with ice and pour it over. Garnish with lime. If you have access to power, bring a blender. Margaritaville also makes a wonderful blender called the Frozen Concoction Maker that hooks into your car power supply (cigarette lighter for we old folks).

But even if you have to drink your pre-made Margaritas over the rocks do so in very large insulated team logo mug.

Trust me — this trick has gotten me through years of little league and youth softball games.

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Email Todd your favorite tailgating tips at tlancaster@washtimesherald.com