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What The Hell Do I Cook For My Tailgate?

Illustration for article titled What The Hell Do I Cook For My Tailgate?

Welcome to the Feedbag, where all the dumb questions about food, drink, cooking, eating, and accidental finger removal you've been embarrassed to ask can finally receive the berating they goddamn deserve. Also: answers. Send all your even-vaguely-food-related questions to with the subject "Feedbag." All of them.



I'm hosting a tailgate in about a month. Besides the usual beer, burgers, brats,

Just a second there, professor. Don't do brats. Brats are boring. Do hot Italian sausages with sautéed bell peppers and onions, instead. Or kielbasa with sauerkraut, caramelized onions, and brown mustard. Don't do brats. Break out of the brats box, buddy. Beriously.

what are foods that would make a great tailgate? Last year, I cooked chili in a crockpot over night and it made the hotel room smell fantastic.

Chili's grand, especially if you slop some of it over some regular-ass hot dogs instead of being yet another brat-slingin' bore. If you're planning on making your tailgate an all-day (or most of the day) event and have access to a pair of grills, you could serve quick-hitter stuff like burgers and chicken and whatnot as the day goes along, and cook some ribs or a brisket or a pork shoulder in the background and have that be the climax of the affair. Or hey, bring along some taco fixings (cheese, salsa, sour cream, some kind of crunchy lettuce-type thing, flour or corn tortillas), whip up some simple guacamole on the spot (avocado, chopped cilantro, minced onion or garlic or shallot, minced jalapeño, salt, fresh-squeezed lime juice), grill some shrimp or grill and slice some boneless skinless chicken thighs or both, and let people assemble their own tacos. That's fun.

It's important not to overthink things, here. Everybody wants to be the guy who's serving the fancy, exotic, surprising food at his tailgate or backyard cookout or dinner party or whatever—Over here are the lardo-wrapped geoduck medallions with shaved black truffles and white beluga caviar, smoked over a printout of what this meal is doing to my credit score—and that's fine, but it's also fine to serve well-executed takes on the familiar stuff. What matters is whether people enjoy eating it. And whether you have the courage to agree that bratwurst is boring.


I feel very cliche starting this way but I am an impoverished, time-crunched grad student living alone and trying to feed myself. I was at the supermarket last week and decided to supplement my freezer full of chicken thighs with another meat, so I got the cheapest thing they had that I could stored individually.

Ground pork burgers.

What do I do with these?? What do I put on them?? Have I made a huge mistake???? Help!


Eh, treat 'em like regular burgers. They'll do fine. Most pork is at least as tasty as most beef, and often quite a bit tastier. Grill 'em or sear 'em, top 'em with cheese (top them with cheese, damn you), and eat 'em on buns with whatever combination of condiments and vegetation pleases you. You can also treat them like non-patty portions of ground meat and make a ragù or seasoned taco meat out of them. Depending on their provenance (are they fancy organic pork, or scary industrial asshole-mash?), you may need to take more care to ensure doneness than you would with beef, but that's about the only meaningful difference. That, and that they likely cost a fraction as much as beef, because consumers are morons.


Up to this point in my life, I have proven to be physically incapable of making decent white rice. It just ends up being a pile of mush. My girlfriend says I am using too much water, but I just follow the directions on the bag of rice and go with 2/1 H2O to rice. Please help.


Well hey, Justin, it's hard to diagnose exactly what you're doing wrong from all the way over here (your coat closet, to be exact), but gummy, mushy, sticky white rice is a pretty common malady, and there are a few pretty simple things you can do to improve your result.

First of all, generally speaking, longer-grain rice produces a less mushy final product than the shorter-grained stuff. Maybe you're a rice partisan (arborio or death!!1!1) and are determined to find a way to de-mush your favorite variety, but if you're not, then you are not a worthless scumbag and also you should use the longest-grain rice you can find. Short-grain rice is typically used for sushi and risotto and the like—preparations that specifically require sticky mushiness; you can de-mush this rice, but it's a pain in the ass, or anyway it's a lot more of a pain in the ass than just getting some long-grain rice.


Secondly, you can rinse the loose starch off of your rice before you cook it. This is pretty straightforward—you dump the rice into a sieve and rinse it in cold water many, many times, until the water that pours through it comes out clear or close to it—and effective, but it's also an annoying time-consuming pain in the ass. Be warned.

Thirdly, although the package instructions indicate otherwise, you can use a slightly—slightly—lower ratio of liquid to rice. Say, 1.75- or 1.8-to-1 or something like that. This is tricky, because if you knock off too much liquid you'll wind up with undercooked rice, and if you don't knock off enough liquid, you won't notice a difference at all. That is to say, this approach probably isn't worth the bother, but maybe you'll wanna tool around with it to see for yourself.


Finally, whether you do any of the previous three things or not, when your rice is done cooking, turn the heat off under it, fluff it gently with a fork, and then let it sit under a slightly askew lid for five or ten or 15 minutes to dry a bit. This is pretty reliable, and really, all it requires of you is that you start dinner five or ten or 15 minutes earlier than usual.

Try those. Some combination of them will produce less-mushy rice. This has been a really scintillating discussion.



Hi Albert: Recently, I went to a restaurant and had a fancy pants burger that was medium rare in the middle and PERFECTLY charred outside: I'm talking both sides (which any fool can do) and the curvature of the edge, all perfectly crispy and charred (the char was about as thick as a credit card). Any idea what sorcery is this, and how can I do it at home?


It was probably either deep-fried or pan-fried in an inch of hot oil. Scandal!!!!!

I mean, I suppose it's possible that the burger was prepared by, like, the Meadowlark Lemon of short-order cooks, and he tilted it up onto its edge and rolled it around on the griddle and spun it like a quarter while "Sweet Georgia Brown" played in the background until it had a nice char all the way around its edge, but I'd say that's unlikely. Awesome, but unlikely. But man, really awesome. How come you get to have Meadowlark Lemon cook your burgers and not me? This is bullshit, man. Total bullshit.


I bet they just deep-fried it. I bet they just deep-fried it and Meadowlark Lemon wasn't even the guy who did the deep-frying. I bet Goose Tatum's ghost did it instead. Shit, that's even cooler. Fuck you, Adam.

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Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home, or in shorter form on Twitter @albertburneko. You can find lots more Foodspin at


Image by Jim Cooke.