The Best Tailgate Food?
It All Depends…

When you think of the best tailgate food, what comes to mind?

Tailgate food: Pigskin!
Bacon-wrapped sausages  ©NFLCheapskate
Steak? Lobster?

Beef is king, and lobster is well, lobster, but “best” does not always mean expensive.

Or exotic. Or elaborate.

It means what’s best for you and your guests tastes. What’s best for your budget. What’s best-suited for your tailgate party’s conditions.

The best tailgate food is what's ideal

Ideal for an NFL tailgate party, that is. Tailgate food, in theory, needs to fuel and sustain fans through hours of alcohol consumption, cheering, jeering, yelling, high-fiving, nail-biting, more drinking, & generally making a spectacle of ourselves, often in cold and sometimes even brutal weather conditions. Therefore…

        It should         And should not
  • Stick to your ribs
  • Keep you feeling full & satisfied
  • Keep you warm
  • Help slow your body's rate of alcohol absorption
  • Be relatively easy to prepare
  • Not cost a day's pay
  • Be raw or uncooked
  • Be served cold
  • Require anything other than plastic utensils to eat

It also needs to be ideal for your budget, so unless you plan on serving steak every time, here is a list of foods and how they rank based not only upon cost, but other factors such as ease of preparation and the ability to affect alcohol absorption.

  Prep AA Warm F/P Cost Score
Pizza 3 3 3 3 4 16
Chili 2 4 5 3 4 18
Buffalo Wings 4 2 5 3 5 19
NY Strip Steak 4 4 2 3 1 14
BBQ Ribs 1 3 3 3 2 12
Italian Sausage 5 5 2 3 5 20
Burnt Ends 1 5 2 3 3 14
Philly Cheesesteak 2 5 4 3 4 18

These tailgate food ideas were rated on 5 categories:

Ease/difficulty of preparation. (Prep) A lot of people still like to cook on site rather than at home, so ideally you should be able to prepare your tailgate food with just basic cookout equipment.

On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 = smoked ribs and 5 = bratwurst, sausages, & hot dogs.

Ability to reduce your body's rate of alcohol absorption. (AA) The mere presence of food in your stomach will help, but “The rate at which alcohol is absorbed depends on how quickly the stomach empties its contents into the intestine. The higher the dietary fat content, the more time this emptying will require and the longer the process of absorption will take.” *

Simply put slower is better, and foods containing fat, protein, and carbohydrates reportedly are excellent at slowing the absorption process. However, that doesn't mean you should be guzzling cooking oil or serving up a deep-fried slab of bacon at the next game. 1 = raw veggies. 5 = Philly cheesteak, burnt ends.


Ability to help keep your body warm. (Warm) Foods that are abundant in niacin (animal liver, eggs, cheese) and spicy foods boost blood circulation thereby keeping your body warm. 5 = “Death” wings, 5-alarm chili.

Familiarity/popularity. (F/P) So you've discovered that yak meat is dirt cheap and bursting with protein, or that hippo intestines are really easy to cook and will keep you warm as toast, but what's the point if nobody wants to eat it?

Homer Simpson's favorite tailgate food People tend to stick with tailgate food that are either familiar to them or are well known.

Since this rating is extremely subjective it is weighted less than the other categories. 1 = venison or other wild game. 3 = pizza, burgers.

Cost. (Cost) If money was not an object then we'd all be dining on Kobe steak and lobster tails at tailgate parties. I'm talking about a realistic budget though. 1 = t-bone steak, lobster. 5 = hot dogs, beer-butt chicken.

This “best tailgate food” list is rather subjective and not meant to be all-inclusive, but informational. I’m sure it can be improved upon, so please feel free to suggest.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Home > Tailgate Party > The Best Tailgate Food | Top of page

NFL Cheapskate

Stay up to date!


Brew Your Own Beer Today!
Easily Brew Your Own Beer

Top Home Brew Kits
These Home Brew Kits Will Save You Money

These are some of the best tailgating ideas
These are some of the best tailgating ideas

Best Tailgate Party Games Under $100
Best Tailgate Party Games Under $100

Save on your next tailgate grill
Find The Perfect Tailgate Grill

Do-it-yourself tailgating tips
Do-it-yourself & save