How to Create a BBQ Bar for Your Next Tailgate
A well-organized barbecue bar can be the highlight of your tailgate party. However, creating one requires a lot of forethought and planning.
Heed these tips to impress fellow tailgaters with your spectacular smoked meat corner.
1. Decide on BBQ Styles
Variety is at the heart of BBQ bars, but it’s more than just offering diverse meats, sauces, toppings and side dishes. All proud barbecuers have their style, so feel free to showcase your gastronomic chops at your next tailgate.
Use tried-and-true methods if you have no time to craft unique recipes and develop different cooking techniques. Your safest bets are the four most popular regional BBQ styles — Kansas City, Memphis, Carolina and Texas.
These mainstream BBQing methods share some similarities but have unique characteristics that make them special. Some of them also have iterations, so familiarize yourself with the nuances of the proteins, dry rubs, grilling fuels, sauces, and sides between Central and South Texas, Piedmont and Eastern North Carolina, and the like.
Doing the Big Four will satisfy most palettes. Incorporating less heralded regional BBQ’s will add more variation to your selection. Cooking meats in these styles will make fellow tailgaters’ mouths water:
- Santa Maria
- St. Louis
- West Tennessee
Even experienced pitmasters can be complete novices in many styles, so use this opportunity to expand your horizons. Learning at least one new regional cuisine is a feather in your cap.
At the end of the day, your guests may experiment with different food combinations even if you teach them which should go with which. No need to sweat about it as long as you serve an impressive selection of smokey goodies.
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2. Serve Vegan Options
Grill plant-based meat alternatives to make your barbecue bar inclusive. About 4% of Americans consider themselves a vegetarian or a vegan, so you may party with guests who strictly avoid animal-derived foods for dietary or ethical reasons.
A thoughtful tailgating host keeps different diet restrictions in mind, so think of tasty meat substitutes and use a smoke flavor infuser to your vegan goods BBQ-esque.
3. Buy the Right Drinks
Beer is the ultimate BBQ companion, but some brews suit particular smoked meats better than others. Do your homework to discover which beers will hit the spot based on your chosen BBQ styles. Visit the Grill Masters Club Guide to Pairing Meat & Beer here for some in-depth tips.
For example, the Indian Pale Ale’s malty flavor balances the mustardy Carolina Gold sauce’s tanginess. A stout like the Guinness Draught underscores the richness of Texas barbecue bathing in a tomato-based dressing.
Wines and grilled meats are a match made in heaven, too. White wine connoisseurs will find fresh grapefruit and green apple notes mesh well with tangy Memphis-style wet ribs and pulled pork.
Bourbon-based cocktails like the mint julep can complement sweet and spicy BBQed meats. You can also enjoy your whiskey like Southerners — neat or on ice.
What about non-drinkers? Soda is the best thirst quencher, hands down! If spicy ginger beer and root beer are unavailable, iced tea or lemonade will work.
4. Mind the Essentials
Bringing enough eating utensils and cleaning paraphernalia is a given, but your cooling equipment and grilling gear will make or break your tailgate party.
Cooler or portable fridge? The latter can keep raw meats and beverages cold longer than the former, but you may have to recharge it multiple times to avoid running out of juice.
Regarding outdoor cookers, portable grills are convenient and versatile. However, they have limited capacity and may be suitable for smoking meat for smaller crowds. Experienced tailgaters understand this, so many acquire an aluminum trailer to boost their grilling game.
Compared to BBQ trailers, this trailer has ample space for storing tailgating essentials of all sizes and shapes. An aluminum trailer is also customizable, giving you more latitude in choosing features to simplify the loading and unloading of cargo. Towing one of these will make you feel like a food truck owner.
5. Think About Presentation
Your BBQ may taste good, but is it organized? Ensure you have adequate space to display all your grilled meats, sauces, toppings and side dishes. Determine how many picnic tables you need to accommodate them neatly and securely. Use multi-slow-cookers to keep them warm come mealtime.
Ensure the layout makes sense, too. Breads, meats, sauces, toppings, sides and beverages should appear on the table in this order so the line moves smoothly.
Put a premium on labeling. Your self-service BBQ bar should educate your guests on what proteins and cuts are on the table and what else is on the menu. Highlight the barbecuing styles you use and recommend pairings to eliminate guesswork. The sight of a stacked barbecue bar can be overwhelming, so offer your advice since you’re the expert.
6. Anticipate Possible Hiccups
Tailgating is fun only when everything goes to plan. Some setbacks are beyond your control, but you can prepare for obstacles if you can predict them first.
Your portable fridge may suddenly die. You may bring less hickory or fewer grilling pellets than needed. Your cooker may quit on you in the middle of smoking. It may rain or snow just when everybody is ready to eat.
Foresee all possible negative scenarios and plan how to address them. Only this way can you keep the party going whenever you hit a snag.
Nail Your BBQ Bar Like It’s Not Your First Barbecue
The success of your grilled meat corner will spell success for your tailgate party. Hopefully, these tips will mentally prepare you for this exciting project just as you would hype yourself up before your favorite sporting or music event.