The Event: Football season! Every fall the temperatures start to drop and the modern day gladiators strap on their helmets. Football season is a magical time for fans. The pigskin hitting the gridiron represents an entertaining three hour catharsis, a reason to get together with friends, and a way to connect with other rabid team followers.
The tradition of grilling and tailgating runs deep in this sport. Pre-game tailgating has been reportedly enjoyed for just over a century and the phrase itself was forged by Green Bay Packers fans back in 1919. Today, the smell of grilled meat and the sight of gulpable suds are synonymous with, and an integral part of, the game day experience. Of course, many devotees who prefer to watch at home with cohorts, big screens, and instant replay carry on this tradition in backyards across America.
The Meal: Cooking out before the game isn’t about fancy desserts or healthy vegetables. It’s about meat…and lots of it. After all, this isn’t tennis or some dinner party. Two mouth-watering parking lot staples were chosen: Sausages and wings. The sausages function as the appetizer and are grilled, cooled, cut and then served with a variety of dipping sauces. The chicken wings are marinated overnight in a famous sauce and then slow cooked.
For this momentous occasion, we picked a craft beer to complement each course. Tailgating is all about knocking back some brews, not sipping some high-end hoity-toity, imported specialty ale. The beer selections are crowd friendly, good ole’ American brewskis.
The Appetizer: Touchdown sausages — a variety of sausages, a trio of mustards and barbecue sauces score big points before the game even starts.
The five sausages: Hot Italian Sausage, Mild Italian Sausage, Polish Kielbasa, Bratwurst, and Andouille. All were purchased at The Fresh Market, but any high quality butcher will suffice.
The three barbecue sauces: Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, Famous Dave’s Devil’s Spit, and Famous Dave’s Texas Pit.
- The Beer: Sam Adams Oktoberfest — a German style fall lager brewed by Boston’s famous brewery.
- The Pairing: The Oktoberfest’s rich, caramel-like German malts balance the many flavors of the sausages and sauces.
Sausage Directions: Have the grill (or smoker) temperature preferably between 215-240 degrees F (use a thermometer) and add a couple of handfuls of oak chips and a fistful of hickory chips. Then place the meat as far away from the coals (or burner) as possible and keep the lid closed. After about an hour and a half move sausages directly over the coals and cook until desired doneness. Pull sausages directly from the grill then chill in a cooler or refrigerator. When cooled, cut into slices, mix the sausages together and serve with the sauces. Touchdown sausages can be conveniently prepared the day before.
The Main Course: MVP Wings — Marinated, smoked, and flame-finished gourmet hot wings that will definitely win the MVP (Most Valuable Poultry) award. This recipe has received “best wings ever” compliments from quite a few wing connoisseurs. Only bench warmers pick up Hooters wings on the way.
- The Beer: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — a drinkable, hop forward, and delicious pale ale. It’s also one of the original craft beers.
- The Pairing: Sierra Nevada’s crisp citrus hop flavors and bitterness contrast and compete with the heat of the buffalo wings.
Wing Directions: The day before– Thaw a 3-5 lb bag of frozen wings, open and drain. Pour one bottle of Frank’s Original Red Hot sauce — the original buffalo wing sauce — into bag, close, and let marinate overnight.
Game day — Have the grill (or smoker) temperature preferably between 215-250 F (use a thermometer) and add a couple of handfuls of oak chips and a fistful of hickory chips. Then place the meat as far away from the coals (or burner) as possible and keep the lid closed. Add wood chips every 30 minutes or so if possible. Open a new bottle of Frank’s Original Red Hot sauce and baste about once an hour, turn wings at this point too. After about three hours, move the wings directly over the coals and cook until done, making sure to sufficiently crisp the skins. Try one to make sure they’re done and not rubbery at all. Pull from grill, lightly cover with hot sauce, then serve with ranch and/or blue cheese dressing, and Frank’s Original Red Hot sauce on the side.
Remember, your team may win or lose but you can be a tailgating star! And before the game that’s all that matters. Now get on out there and start those grills!
Advanced-Level Barbecuing with Direct (Flame) & Indirect Heat (Smoke)
We like to utilize “low and slow” indirect heat along with wood chunks/chips to infuse a smoky flavor. A smoker (Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker) was used in conjunction with a charcoal grill (for direct heat) but a lone charcoal or gas grill will adequately do the trick for both (see the additional grilling information at the end of article). Oak was chosen as the wood for its clean and modest smoke flavor. A smoker box (or tin foil pouch) and soaking the wood in water is recommended to avoid flare-ups, particularly if using a grill. Add a handful of wood chips periodically throughout cooking, especially when the food first hits the grates.
Of course we use direct heat (directly over the coals or burner) at times during the cooking session too.
Temp: Try and keep the temperature between 215-250 F.
Additional grilling information:
If using a charcoal grill only: Start with only about 20 briquettes and keep them to one side of the grill, put the food on the other side of the grill. Keep the vents mostly closed. Add more charcoal as needed to maintain desired temperature. Use a chimney charcoal starter, not lighter fluid, to ignite coals.
If using a gas grill only: Turn on one of the end burners on low and put the food on the other end of the grill, adjust end burner to achieve desired temperature.