COOL GEAR FOR TAILGATING
Autumn and football may be good reasons for an outdoor party, but great tailgating is an event all its own.
Autumn and football may be good reasons for an outdoor party, but great tailgating is an event all its own. To help your celebration outside the stadium, Kiplinger's Personal Finance went in search of great tailgating accessories -- everything from grills to barbeque tools, shelters and coolers. Take a look at our picks and see if any are right for you.
By Christine M. Varner
A small charcoal grill will work great for doing up a family-sized meal, but if you're feeding a small team and want to cook in style, consider the propane-fired Napoleon Prestige II FreeStyle infrared grill (Price: $506, www.barbecues.com). It has 1.49 square feet of cooking area plus a warming rack half that size. Because it reaches temperatures of up to 1100 degrees, you can cook a one-inch-thick steak in five minutes. (And it works in 60-mph winds, too.) If it won’t fit in your trunk or truck bed, you can buy a tailgate mount partially pictured here ($56).
BURGER FLIPPERS, REJOICE
A serious tailgate griller needs a utensil set up to the task (it’s not like you can run back to the kitchen) and that transports well. Our pick: The Sharper Image’s 25-piece Stainless Steel Grill Set (Price: $90, www.sharperimage.com). The aluminum box set includes 8 corn-on-the-cob holders, four skewers, a corkscrew, salt-and-pepper shakers, a large grill fork, carving knife, a grill-cleaning brush, basting brush, four steak knives, extra-long tongs that will help keep your fingers blister-free, and a spatula with serrated edges. Plus there's an all-important built-in bottle opener. All pieces are dishwasher safe. And for an additional $20, you can purchase the three-year replacement guarantee.
Your tailgating spot is your kingdom, and every king and queen needs a throne. Sink into the GCI Outdoor Wilderness Recliner (Price: $60, www.gcioutdoor.com). Its padded headrest, seat and backrest keep your legs and other body parts from falling asleep before kickoff. You can keep your beer cold or your coffee hot in the pivoting insulated cup holder. Function plus value.
A FLASK FOR THE TASK
As the chilly winds of autumn blow across the frozen tundra of the parking lot and you know you're not driving home, you might need a little nip (strictly for medicinal purposes). Don't risk damaging your great-grandpa's sterling silver flask. Instead, buy a Nalgene Flask (Price: $9, www.nalgene-outdoor.com). It holds 12 ounces of liquid and features a removable one-ounce shot cap and a removable insulation sleeve.
Neither wind, nor rain, nor blazing sun should ruin the revelry. So keep the party going with the EZ UP Dome II Instant Portable Canopy (Price: $150, www.ezupdirect.com). The water- and fire-resistant polyester fabric blocks 98% of harmful UV rays. It's designed to stand up to a warm Florida sun in October or a gusty Chicago wind in November. Add the optional weight bags that attach to each leg and can hold up to 40 pounds of sand each ($35 for a set of four).
POWER TO SPARE
About 30% of tailgaters never see the inside of a stadium, according to the American Tailgaters Association. We're hoping scarce tickets are the main cause. For those who are shut out, the Craftsman Briggs & Stratton 3600-Watt Generator ($590, www.sears.com) will keep the television and satellite dish powered up until the final seconds tick off the game clock. With six outlets and a four-gallon gas tank that keeps it running for up to 12 hours, you'll be able to catch all the replays, keep your slow cooker cooking that four-alarm chili and the space heater blasting.
Burgers and brauts are fine, but when only the finest cut of meat will do, you want steaks. Lobel's steaks. These dry-aged cuts have a rich, nutty flavor and are so tender you can almost cut them with a fork. They should be, for the price -- $50, plus $26 shipping, for two 8-ounce New York strip steaks (www.lobels.com).
Hydration, of course, is a paramount concern among tailgaters. When it comes to coolers, Coleman leads the pack with the 100-quart Wheeled Xtreme Cooler ($90, www.coleman.com). Its tow handle and large wheels make transport a snap, and its lid with four drink holders doubles as a nice little end table allowing you to have your drink and a plate of chips and salsa at your fingertips. It also has enough cargo space to hold 130 cans (that's 5.4 cases) of the beverage of your choice, plus ice. And it can keep ice for up to five days in 90-degree heat.
Yes, we save the best for last. If tailgating is a competitive sport for you, you can crush the opposition with the Freedom Grill FG-900 ($9,000, www.freedomgrill.com). Boasting six burners and 99,000 BTUs, it comes with two 30-pound propane tanks and two insulated stainless steel storage compartments for keeping cold dozens of burgers and all the condiments you want -- with room for a case or two of the beverage of your choice. Simply hook it to the back of any vehicle with a 1 7/8" ball hitch, and you're ready to roll.