Because no one wants a helping of lukewarm chili.
Tailgating, our beloved Southern art form, just wouldn't be the same without a tantalizing buffet of casseroles, slow-cooker soups, and chips lining a buffalo-check tablecloth. We gather for the football and to hang with our neighbors, yes – but we stay and mingle around the parking lot decked out in our best SEC and ACC gear because of the food. Few folks tailgate better than Southerners.
If you've ever tried to bring your signature 30-Minute Chili to the game, however, you've likely experienced the disappointment of getting to the stadium and, by 11:30 a.m., pulling out a not-so-hot scoop of stew. From the time your chili cooks on the stove at home through traveling to the game and getting everything set up, soups and stews can lose their heat – make them much less appetizing choices for chilly fall football gatherings.
Although we may not be able to keep your chili at it's perfect on-the-stove cooking temperature, there are a few things that you can do to keep as much heat in your stew (or cheese dip!) as possible.
1. Use Your Car
If you're a frequent tailgater, this may be your best bet. While there aren't many battery-operated Crock-Pots on the market, there are a handful of smaller slow-cookers that can be plugged directly into your car's lighter socket to keep food warm on long drives. Or, purchase a power inverter (they usually run under $30) and plug your full-size cooker right into the car. Just be sure to unplug it once you've gotten to the game, or you may need a tailgating buddy to lend your his or her jumper cables.
2. Try Individual Servings
If you have a family of four or five going to the game, why not try giving everyone their own dish? Insulated storage containers, like Thermos, help keep smaller portions of your One-Pot Beef Stew steaming hot until you have a chance to dig in. Plus, you don't have to sacrifice any of the tailgating fun; bring some toppings and let everyone customize their dish buffet-style.
3. Transform A Cooler
If you've got a large container full of Loaded Potato Soup and no way of keeping it warm in the car, we challenge you to think outside your cooler's usual uses. With a few hot bricks, you can create an insulated space for your dish. First, line your cooler thoroughly with aluminum foil. Then, before the game, heat three or four bricks in the oven at 300˚. After 15-20 minutes, the bricks will be ready to go. Wrap the heated bricks in additional foil, and place them in the bottom of your lined cooler. Add your container of food on top of the bricks, and, if there is any extra space in cooler, add a few dish towels to keep the heat in. Although this method is a little more time-consuming, it's a tailgating trick that'll give your soup a heated boost at the game.