the big game
By Mindy Merrell and R.B. Quinn of Cheater Chef
Even if you’re a complete sports nut, fully devoted to your teams and focused on all their stats, you’ve got to admit that a big part of the fun of competitive sports is the food, the drink, and the party that goes with them. There is no better excuse to call friends, fire up the grill, fill the crock pot, and ice the cooler. Game days are party days.
And party days are “made in the USA” KettlePizza days.
With a little planning and organizing you can have it all – hot from the KettlePizza, sides and snacks, friends and family, and cold beverages. And you can do it whether you’re in the crazy three-ring circus stadium parking lot or in a neighborhood backyard (yours or anyone else’s). Let’s face it, everything tastes better in a parking lot.
Successful tailgating and homegating are all about smart organizing and packing, efficient setting up, showing off a few parking lot cooking skills, laughing and talking, sharing food with others, cleaning up, and repacking. More or less in that order.
Accomplished ‘gaters are the ones checking the forecast on Tuesday or Wednesday, shopping on Thursday, and whenever there’s free time washing coolers and folding tables, and staging the necessary gear in the garage so everything is ready to go in the morning.
To get the most out of your KettlePizza tailgate time, here are a few tips:
— Pack the Weber kettle, charcoal, and charcoal chimney last so that they are the first items out of the car.
— Light the charcoal in the chimney as soon as you arrive and before you do anything else – no EZ-Up, no quick round of cornhole or ball-tossing, no beers and joke-telling. Get the fire going first and then get busy setting up tables and chairs, breaking out the coolers, and opening up snacks and pizza fixings.
— Parking lots and backyards can be busy places so set up your KettlePizza cooking zone on level ground and not too close to chairs, tables, and people or car traffic. Give yourself a room to maneuver safely around the kettle.
— Locate your stadium’s charcoal and ash dispensers. Most stadiums provide them.
–If you’re using a foldable plastic table with four separate table legs, bring four sections of plastic PVC pipe about 10-12-inches long and slide them onto the bottoms of each of the table legs. A higher table makes pizza prep and serving a whole lot easier on the back.
— Enlist a couple enthusiastic (i.e. responsible) friends to be your KettlePizza crew. Once the oven is hot, keep the pies rolling so you can enjoy the pizza, clean up, and get to your seats. One of you preps the pies, one works the oven, and one slices and serves.
–This is not the best time for lots of different individual pies. When tailgating, fewer choices are better. Decide your toppings ahead and keep it simple. Everyone can try them all.
–Consider creating a signature pie for your home team and go with that. Here in Nashville we’re taking a liking to pineapple in honor of our new QB, Marcus Mariota.
–As soon as the last pie is out of the oven, remove the KettlePizza kit from the Weber grill and set it in a safe place to cool down. Place the metal lid on the Weber and close all air vents to extinguish the charcoal.
–Use gallon size plastic bags to store leftover pizza slices (in the cooler) while you watch the game. You’ll need a post-game snack in the parking lot while you wait for the traffic to let up.
To make your KettlePizza tailgate time as easy and fun as possible, here’s our prep and packing KettlePizza checklist:
KettlePizza Cooking Equipment:
Weber grill and metal lid (emptied of leftover coal and ash)
KettlePizza kit components (metal ring, grate, pizza stone)
Charcoal chimney starter
Newspaper or fire starter cubes and lighter/matches
Bag of dried hardwood chunks
Long metal tongs for handling wood and charcoal
Heavy duty work or welder’s gloves
Long handled metal spatula for scraping pizza stone
Big cutting board and pizza slicer
Plastic jug of tap water (to extinguish coals if needed)
KettlePizza Pizza Elements:
Pizza dough options:
— tubs of your own homemade dough (see Mindy’s easy make-ahead pizza dough recipe. If you’re going roll out dough, be sure to bring a small container of flour for dusting the board and your hands.
— bagged dough from store or pizzeria (see our post on tips for using dough from the store
— refrigerated canned dough (see our post on tips for using canned refrigerated dough
— ready-made pizza crust from the store (plenty to choose from).
Sauce, cheese, and other toppings:
You know what you like and what works for you, but whatever you bring, rely on plenty of small plastic storage containers with tight-fitting lids that are easy to pack in a cooler and set out on a party table. Otherwise, just keep the ingredients simple and make it easy for you and your friends to mix and match the ingredients.
Your own sauce ( scroll down this post for a good simple one) or your favorite bottled sauce
Crushed red pepper
Any anything else you like. Simple is best.
For “Tips and Tools from the United States Tailgating Association” go to: