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Throw an epic tailgate with expert grilling tips

Chef Tobias Dorzon, a former NFL player, shares his top tailgating tips.

While we’re always sad to say goodbye to summer, we welcome fall with open arms. From delicious spiced desserts to crisp weather and cozy sweaters, there’s so much to love about the arrival of autumn. At the center of it all is football. From Thursday to Monday night, there’s no shortage of games to watch and teams to cheer for. Whether you’re attending a game at a stadium or watching from the comfort of your couch, no game day is complete without the ultimate tailgating spread. Tailgating is, of course, about the food, but it’s also a chance to get together with loved ones for good conversation and fun ahead of the big game. Former football player and chef Tobias Dorzon is sharing his top tailgating tips, along with his go-to recipe for grilled margarita shrimp skewers.

Make the marinade

The heart of Dorzon’s shrimp dish lies within the marinade. A combination of garlic, jalapeño peppers, brown sugar and a bevy of spices are blended together until smooth. It’s zesty, spicy and a little bit sweet, making for a bite that seafood lovers won’t be able to get enough of. The marinade is then poured over the shrimp, which soaks up all that good flavor for a few hours before grilling.

The beauty of this dish is that you can prepare the shrimp and marinade in advance of your tailgate and then it’s ready to go when you arrive in the parking lot to grill.

Get grilling

When assembling and grilling skewers — whether it be shrimp, chicken, veggies or a mixed grill — be sure to soak the wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before placing them on a hot grill.

“The reason why we do this is because we don’t want the flames from the grill to burn the skewers,” says Dorzon.

If you’re tailgating on-the-go, soak the skewers in advance or add them to a gallon-sized zip-top bag and fill with water.

When cooking on a charcoal grill, create at least two heat zones. The high-heat zone can be used for searing. The low-heat zone is for steady, even cooking.

Take the tails off the shrimp so they do not get thrown around at the party from guests.

Use two skewers when adding the shrimp on so they lay flat on the grill and can cook evenly. Let shrimp cook 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Pro tip: Use two skewers when grilling shrimp.
Pro tip: Use two skewers when grilling shrimp.Heidi Gutman

On the side

Complete your tailgating feast with an assortment of snacks such as potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, popcorn, salsa and guacamole (for dipping).

Fill squeeze bottles with ketchup, mustard and relish for garnishing hot dogs, hamburgers or veggie burgers, too.

Don’t forget about dessert! Bring crowd-friendly treats like chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes decorated to celebrate your favorite team.

More winning recipes for your tailgate

Beef and Cheese Sliders

Meaty ground beef, melty cheese and crisp veggies come together in these buttery sliders. They’re great for feeding game-day crowds because they can be prepped ahead, are full of flavor and so fun to eat.

Kansas City Ribs

A smoky dry rub and tangy barbecue sauce make these ribs a real standout. They turn out perfectly tender, charred and sticky every time. You’d never guess making the perfect ribs was so simple.

Pickled Cucumber Salad

Every cookout needs a little crunch! This salad is the perfect side to serve at any barbecue or tailgate. It is bright, bracing, refreshing and helps cut through the richness of heavier dishes.

Midwest Square Pizza

This pizza doesn’t skimp on anything. It starts with a thick, crispy crust and then gets layered with rich sauce, melty cheeses, hearty meats and fresh veggies. It has something for everyone and is sure to be a crowd-favorite.