The Best Tailgate Food For Cold Weather
Save Time, Money, & Hangovers

A discussion on “the best tailgate food”, however innocuous, will almost surely elicit many different opinions.

Food, after all, is a highly subjective and even personal matter for many.

But people are more objective when it comes to eating with a purpose. And that purpose, for most NFL fans, is to keep warm.

After all…

    Tailgating: Chili weather
    “Chili” weather
    By Jame Healy [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons
  • Most people eat differently - and more - when it’s cold
  • 22 out of the 30 NFL cities are cold weather cities (average temp. of 50º F Sept. - Dec.)
  • The average temperature drops to 40º F for the second half of the regular season (Nov-Dec)
  • Though 8 teams play in domed stadiums, that doesn’t help the fans that tailgate outside

It gets cold while tailgating!

So if you want to stay warm when the weather outside is frightful - as well as save money and prevent hangovers. here is…

The best tailgate food

The best tailgating food should do more than just keep you warm - if it were only about that, well, a heated blanket would do the trick.

Since the average NFL fan:

  • Is not a gourmet chef
  • Can only spend so much time outdoors before losing feeling in her extremities
  • Does her fair share of drinking
  • Has a limited disposable budget

…it should:

  • 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

So forget the veggie nachos and the meatless chili; you can eat healthy when you’re home.

Popular tailgate foods rated

We took 8 popular tailgate foods and rated them 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 tailgating 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)  Contrary to popular belief, alcohol neither raises nor lowers your body core temperature. It does however, make you drunk, and it’s in everyone’s best interest if you slow down that process.

While 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.” *

Tailgate food: Pigskin!
Bacon-wrapped sausages  ©NFLCheapskate
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 dishes 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.

  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

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