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Product Review – The Hovergrill

Posted by Brandon On July - 22 - 2016

0000055_deluxe-individual-hovergrill_300Earlier this week we posted our review of the Smokenator, and in that we disclosed that along with the Smokenator we also received a product called the Hovergrill. Due to the length of that review, and our thoughts about the Hovergrill we opted to do 2 posts instead of cramming it all into one.

During the boxing it was pretty apparent that the Hovergrill was a serious product, worthy of it’s own review. While it may look like a typical round grill grate, the difference is that it has collapsible legs that raise it several inches. By the way those legs can lock into place so there isn’t any worry of it collapsing if you do your part. In addition to this the construction seems top notch. The metal is of heavy gauge and the finish appears excellent. It’s tough to know how durable it would be over time, but judging by the construction I think it would probably outlast the grill.

The Hovergrill is meant to be used by stacking it on top of your existing cooking grate. This in theory allows you to cook more food at the same time than you would with one grate alone. Not having enough grill space is one of those issues that most if not all tailgaters will experience, and if this product can mitigate that it would be of huge benefit.

So to test the effectiveness of the Hovergrill I set out to make fairly large batch of chicken wing pieces. Just how many I don’t know due to being a dummy and not counting them, but let’s say it was around 50. I had room for some more, but since there weren’t many mouths it wasn’t necessary. The pictures should kind of given you an idea of how this all looked.

After about an hour I had a whole batch of really nicely cooked wings that were ready for saucing. By my standards this is a passing grade for sure.

While my test was a simple indirect cook don’t forget that since this product sits on top of the cooking grate use with the Smokenator is not an issue. This opens up a lot more space for smaller foods, an area where we felt the Smokenator excelled. I can absolutely seeing this thing being used to smoke those wings, or to make a whole mess of other appetizers. Or if you’ve got that early morning thing going, some of those sausage fatties that I made for the Smokenator review would be good here, and you could make multiples easily.

Not bad since this is another item that can fit inside the grill during transport and doesn’t take up extra space in your vehicle.

However, there are some things to consider when using the Hovergrill. For starters, it’s designed for a round Weber kettle of at least 22″ in diameter, not something that everyone will have in their tailgating arsenal.  There is nothing to say that it couldn’t work on a different grill but the chances you’d get it to work a smaller portable grill are pretty slim.  When using the Hovergrill, if you need to flip/turn any of the food that might be under it, you’ll want a place you can set it off of the grill. Also take care that you don’t place something too large on the Hovergrill because it’s a few inches (3.5) closer to the top of the closed lid that you may not be accustomed too. Furthermore, don’t overload it. While I have no concerns about the ability to hold a lot of food, you don’t want to do anything that clogs up airflow since that will mess with your cook. Just keep a little space between items and you’d be fine.   None of those things are knocks on the product, just things we felt you should know.

In short we loved the Hovergrill. It’s well made and it really opens up some options for a tailgate menu. Without a doubt the Hovergrill is Tailgating Approved. You can purchase individually or in a combo with the Smokenator if you choose. For more information you can visit www.Smokenator.com

 

 

The Smokenator

Posted by Brandon On July - 19 - 2016

smokenator-grillI think it’s fair to say that the kettle-style charcoal grill is something of an icon in the grilling world. Not only is it a classic symbol of charcoal grilling, it’s easily one of the most affordable, and maybe more importantly versatile style of grill on the market. I’ll go out on a limb and say for the money it’s the best thing going. While many manufacturers have their own take on this design, Weber is probably the maker that most of us associate with the concept.

Kettle grill users know that not only can they crank out great burgers, steaks, and whatever else they want to throw over the fire, they also know that when set-up correctly their grill can work as a passable smoker. Sure it will likely never be as good as a dedicated smoker, but then again it’s probably better at smoking than a smoker is at grilling. But I digress…

We were recently contacted about testing a product called the Smokenator. This is a fairly simple device that aims to make the Weber kettle from an acceptable smoking device, into a much better smoking device. Naturally we were happy to give it a go and share our thoughts. The sample we were provided was their Smokenator 1000, I’ll be dropping the 1000 during the review, which is designed for the 22 inch kettle, but they do offer other models for the various kettle sizes. (Note we were also sent a sample of their Hovergrill product, but since it was not integral to the operation of the Smokenator we opted to review in a separate post which can be seen later this week.)

IMG_20160627_085523801First things first, the Smokenator is a simple design. It is basically some sheet metal that has been cut and molded to interface with the various surfaces of the Weber kettle. Also there are 3 holes in the top, 2 smaller round holes for access to the fuel and 1 larger rectangular shaped hole for the water pan. The included water pan holds roughly two cups of liquid.

Installation is super easy, just remove your cooking grate and place the Smokenator on the side of the kettle. You should be able to see how it interfaces with the tabs that hold the grate in place and the lower charcoal grate and make adjustments if needed. There is no anchoring or permanent modification of the kettle required. This is a huge benefit in my opinion because some, if not most, of us don’t have the luxury of taking several cooking devices on our tailgates.

The first test is purely to get a handle on how the Smokenator performs with an empty cooker and to see how easily we can manage the temps, or in other words a dry run.. This test was conducted by filling the Smokenator with 50 unlit briquets of standard Kingsford Original (Blue Bag) and 15 lit briquets of the same. Also used was 1 semi large chunk of pecan wood. The water pan was filled 2 cups of hot water (~165 degrees F), and 2 temp probes were placed in the cooker. One was on the cooking grate and one on the lower charcoal grate. You can see a narrative of the this test here, Smokenator Data – Sheet1.

A quick word about this type of cooking if you aren’t too familiar with it. There are many variables involved with maintaining a lower temperature like you’d use for BBQ cooking. The outside temp, wind, sun, precipitation will all affect the cooker temp. Also if you build too big of a fire in the form of too many lit coals you won’t be able to keep a low temp. Practice, practice, practice before you commit a lot of money in food costs and really get a feel for cooker temp otherwise you will be sorry. Even between my tests the environmental conditions were different enough to produce noticeable differences in cooker performance.IMG_20160628_123413119

My dry run showed a couple things, by hour 4 the fuel supply was considerably spent. This is likely due to the fact that I measured my temps at the grate levels and not at the dome. The dome temps are 10-20 degrees higher than the upper food grate per the Smokenator manual so my grate temps which were above the target mark in the Smokenator manual were much higher than the temps by which they based their calculations. If you’re cooking bigger food items you’ll want to refuel at hour 4 if using the Smokenator in the standard fashion. Possibly even sooner if the outside conditions require you to burn hotter.
While we’re on temperatures, notice the lower (charcoal) grate temp was much less than the upper (food) grate temp. If you’re planning on packing the cooker full of food you need to adjust for that bottom grate being much lower in temp. Also of note the fact that the temperature is lower on the bottom grate is a great sign that the Smokenator design really does make for a true indirect cooker. If you’ve ever tried indirect with charcoal before without some sort of holder you know sometimes keeping the coals where you want them can be tricky.

IMG_20160708_113813893The next test was to try a short cook to see how the cooker responds with food in the chamber. The first of which was a simple naked fatty. If you’re unfamiliar I’ll save you the risky Google and tell you what it is. A Fatty is a term BBQ for a smoked roll of ground meat, and the naked adjective means that it is cooked without anything more than some rub on the outside. I will disclose that the weather played some tricks on me with this one as a light drizzle began falling about and hour and a half into the cook. As I mentioned earlier weather is one of those variables that will really mess with your cooker temp. To compensate for the loss I made the decision to open the vents and try to shelter the cooker from the elements as much as I could without posing a fire hazard. This did help but the breeze, lack of sun, and rain really made this a much more difficult cook. I also believe the fatty might have still been a little frozen which made the internal temp just sit still for a long time.

Because this 2nd test was so full of variables that worked against the Smokenator I opted to conduct a 3rd test cook that would hopefully no
t have the same conditions as cook 2. Thankfully aside from a quick yet heavy downpour the 3rd cook was perfect. The 3rd cook featured not only another naked fatty, but also a bacon cheeseburger fatty made with a bacon weave and ground chuck.IMG_20160708_120626541

One thing that became pretty apparent with each cook was that the Smokenator requires some periodic attention to function at peak performance. As you replenish the water take the time to stir the coals using the included rod. You’ll knock the ash off the coals and keep them exposed to the air for better combustion. It’s also a good idea to consider adding more fuel if you expect to be cooking for longer. I wouldn’t do this every time but maybe every other water refill.

Thinking outside of the instruction manual another thing you could do would be to remove the water pan and either use it on top of the grate or use a different container altogether. What this accomplishes is that you’ll have more room for fuel in the Smokenator and, if you chose a larger water container, less frequent filling. You could alternatively omit a water pan entirely, but this comes with the downside of reducing humidity in the cooker as well as foregoing the benefits that the water lend to temperature control. I think I’ll likely tinker with things over time, but as long as the person doing the cooking knows what is what it shouldn’t pose an issue.

I’ll cut to the chase. Is the Smokenator “Tailgating Approved”? Yes it is. While it’s not the only way to go about the task, it absolutely allows you to easily, and maybe more importantly, temporarily modify your Weber kettle into a suitable smoker. Does it have some limitations? Sure, but if you know them you can easily work with or around them. The model 1000 we tested for the 22″ kettle comes in right around $70, but other options are available for some of the other kettle sizes.  For more info on the 1000 or the others you can visit Smokenator.com

Tailgating has come to Canada! (Sort of)

Posted by Dave On July - 8 - 2016
Toronto Argos Fan Tailgating

A Toronto Argonauts fan cooks on a grill during a tailgate party ahead of the team’s CFL season opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Toronto on Thursday, June 23, 2016. (Photo courtesy The Canadian Press/ Chris Young)

Canadian football fans can rejoice! Tailgating is not only allowed but encouraged at Toronto Argonauts games this season. Before you head to the beer aisle and buy the entire supply of Molson and Labatt Blue in preparation for this, you need to know something.

BYOB tailgating is still not allowed in Canada.

That’s not to say that you can’t have a frosty beverage while tailgating a Toronto Argonauts game – it is just going to cost you. You see, you can buy an overpriced and undersized beer from a BMO Field approved vendor, but bringing your own is not allowed. Leave your cooler at home and make sure to bring your wallet. And a good line of credit if you plan on having more than two.

Traditional American style tailgating in Canada has been non-existent due to the heavy restrictions on the consumption of alcohol in outdoor spaces. The Calgary Stampeders fans have tried to bring tailgating to the Canadian Football League but the fans can not overcome the existing laws across the Great White North. It’s not that you can’t have a tailgate party without alcohol. It’s just the fact that the Canadian government views their adult citizens as children that can’t handle the responsibility of consuming alcohol outside the confines of a bar or restaurant.

David Menzies of Rebel Media in Canada explains the hypocrisy of it all in this video rant:

David Menzies’ take on the situation is a bit more critical than the Canadian “mainstream” media. By going by the Canadian newspapers and blogs, you would think Toronto’s first season with tailgating mirrors that of a Buffalo Bills or Green Bay Packers tailgate.

CP24: Tailgating experience a hit with fans despite home opener loss for Argos
Hamilton News: Burgers, beers and beach chairs: Toronto tailgating experience a hit
York Region: Argos fans enjoy the tailgate experience
CBC: Argonauts fans celebrate start of the season with launch of tailgate parties
TSN: Tailgating coast to coast? Here’s hoping

With all that optimism, is Menzies the only critic? Probably not. But you need to keep in mind those dissenting voices may not be getting much publicity because the Canadian people have been lulled into believing their bureaucrats know better than they do.

I’d compare it to Soviet block countries that never knew what freedom and liberty was. If you only know standing in line to buy toilet paper or being pleasantly surprised when you can buy a ration of coffee, you really don’t know what you are missing. Same thing goes for the Canadians and BYOB tailgating. They will take what they can get but unless they have ventured south to an NFL game or even a college game, they don’t know what they are missing.

I would not be surprised if the Toronto Argos fans took in a Buffalo Bills game at Orchard Park, they would start demanding the bureaucrats start changing their laws.

Until the Canadian government wakes up and starts treating it’s adult citizens, well, like adults, they may have to resort to childish behaviors to get around these oppressive laws. We’d suggest checking out these Beer Can Covers for sale or the wide selection of Sneaky Flasks to disguise your hooch while tailgating up north.

Fatheadz Eyewear

Posted by Dave On June - 29 - 2016

FatHeadz eyewear

Sunglasses. No matter what season you tailgate, a good pair of sunglasses is key. The harsh glare of the sun during those early football season tailgates or the glare from that snow bank in the late season, you’re going to need some sunglasses this coming tailgating season.

A major complaint many tailgaters have is that they have a larger head and traditional, “over the counter”, one-size-fits-all sunglasses don’t fit properly and are uncomfortable. I have that same problem so I definitely feel your pain and frustration. That’s why when the folks at Fatheadz Eyewear contacted us about their line of products, we were pretty stoked to try them out.

Fatheadz prides themselves in being able to fit each person to their needed width of sunglasses. Their sunglasses range from 130 mm – 164 mm width options. Even if you have a head the size of a watermelon in August, they have you covered.

We had a sample of the Fatheadz Big Daddy V2.0 sunglasses sent to us to test out.

(Disclaimer: We received a sample of Fatheadz Eyewear free of charge. The fact this sample was provided to us for free in no way influenced our opinion of the product nor did it impact our ability to test and review the product fairly and objectively.)

My hat size is 7 5/8 which translates to needing a frame width of 145 mm (5.71 in). They arrived professionally packaged with a sturdy carrying case and fit my face like a glove… actually not a glove but just like a great pair of sunglasses should. After having them on for less than five minutes, I was convinced I had found my new pair of sunglasses for the upcoming tailgating season.

Fatheadz The Boss Sunglasses

Fatheadz The Boss Sunglasses

The Big Daddy V2.0 sunglasses cost $99.00 and the available frame colors include: Black, Trans Grey, Trans Brown and Clear. Available lens colors include: Smoke, Brown, Glacier Blue and Volcanic Red.

Fatheadz boasts nearly 10 different frame styles and within each frame style they are available in multiple colors and lens options.

After testing out Fatheadz Eyewear, if you have a larger head and have trouble finding sunglasses that fit, Fatheadz Sunglasses are definitely “Tailgate Approved”.

Fatheadz are available for purchase via Amazon or you can buy directly from their website, fatheadz.com

Drive for Uber & Lyft to supplement your tailgating habit

Posted by Dave On April - 15 - 2016

Uber and Lyft logos

By now you are probably familiar with Uber and Lyft; two transportation companies that allow passengers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to drivers who use their own cars essentially as taxis.

What if I told you you can earn some extra money in your spare time driving for Uber and/or Lyft in order to help finance that tailgating habit of yours that can be quite expensive?

If you are unfamiliar with both Uber and Lyft, we’ll let their Wikipedia pages speak to them and what they are all about.

Wikipedia – Uber

Wikipedia – Lyft

If you have never used Uber or Lyft, here are some coupon codes for free rides using either Uber or Lyft.

Lyft rider free $50 credits

Lyft – $50 in free ride credits – Scan the QR code above or click on it or click HERE to claim your $50 in free rides from Lyft.

Uber coupon for free ride up to $15

Uber – Get your first ride free (up to $15 maximum) – Scan the QR code above or click on it or click HERE to get your first ride for free up to $15. (*Free ride value amounts vary by city.)

Both promotions through Uber and Lyft only apply if you are a first time user of Uber and/or Lyft. If you have already requested and taken at least one ride with Uber and/or Lyft, you are not eligible for the free coupons. The good news is if you have friends or family that have never take Uber or Lyft, pass those coupon codes along to them and they can get free rides themselves.

Drive with Uber / Drive with Lyft

Now that we gotten the free ride coupons out of the way, let’s jump to how you can make some money and also provide some hints and tips on earning more on your very first trip.

Right now, Uber is offering a $750 bonus for drivers who sign up and complete 75 rides WITHIN 30 DAYS. 75 rides may seem like a large number but 75 rides is quite easy to achieve. To sign up to drive with Uber, click HERE.

Because I am based in Orange County, Calif., Lyft is offering a $750 bonus to new Orange County drivers who complete 75 rides in their first 30 days. To sign up to drive with Lyft, click HERE.

(The bonus structure for Lyft varies from city to city and they sometimes will adjust it up or down based on driver supply and rider demand. An example is those who want to drive in San Francisco can earn a $1,000 bonus and need to complete 100 rides in 30 days. New drivers in Columbus, Ohio can earn a $150 bonus while only giving 30 rides in 30 days. Check out the Referral Rewards for Lyft Drivers page to see if Lyft is in your city and what the bonus structure and requirements are for your area.)

If you are a tailgater, you probably have your own car. That’s the first step towards driving for Uber and Lyft. Your vehicle needs to have at least four doors and be in good condition. In addition to having your own vehicle, you need to be 21 years of age or older and have a smart phone. Uber and Lyft requests come to drivers via a mobile app so it is recommended to have an iPhone 4s or newer or Android 2013 or newer.

In order to be approved by Uber and Lyft, you will need to have a clean driving record and pass a criminal and personal background check. Your vehicle will also undergo a safety inspection to ensure your vehicle is safe and presentable.

After you are approved, you are ready to hit the road and start earning money.

Lyft driver referral code

Lyft driver referral code

To start driving with Lyft, scan the above QR code with your smart phone or click HERE.

Uber driver referral code

Uber driver referral code

To start driving with Uber, scan the above QR code or click HERE.

Some Uber and Lyft drivers have reported they earn an average of $1,500 per week. This varies based on the number of hours they drive and which days they choose to drive but the opportunity to make some money is out there. Even driving part-time on your schedule, you can earn some extra beer money or money to take a road trip or buy some new tailgating gear.

If you do end up driving for Uber and/or Lyft, here are some hints and tips:

  • You can drive for both companies. With Uber and Lyft, you are an independent contractor and are free to work for both companies. Both companies do not deduct taxes from your payments so it is your responsibility to save a portion of your earnings when filing your taxes. You will be given a 1099 form for tax purposes and therefore you are eligible to work for both companies.
  • Speaking of taxes, you can write off a portion of your gasoline and maintenance costs if you drive for Uber and Lyft. Since gassing up is needed in order to give rides, the IRS views gasoline as a business expense. Same thing goes for oil changes, new tires and even car washes and auto detailing. We are not tax attorneys so we would suggest consulting with someone who has more knowledge than us to know exactly what portion of these costs can be written off your taxes.
  • You can have both apps open at the same time. When a Lyft rider request comes through and you accept it, turn off Uber. Same goes after you accept an Uber request. You want to turn the other app off so that your acceptance rate does not suffer. Both Uber and Lyft encourage their drivers to maintain a rider request acceptance rate at or above 90%. Turning off the other app when on another ride will ensure a request will not come through that you have to ignore and thus affecting your acceptance rate with that company.
  • Lyft allows for passengers to give tips directly within the app. Uber does not have a tipping function within the app. If a Lyft passenger chooses to tip a driver, 100% of that tip amount is passed on to the driver and Lyft does not take a percentage.
  • Keep your car clean both inside and out. Passengers getting into a dirty car are less likely to tip and will probably give you a lower star rating than had your vehicle been clean and presentable.
  • Understand that when accepting a ride request, you will be routed to wherever that passenger is located. It may be at a house or a business and you may have to drive a few minutes to pick them up. You do not earn money on your way to pick up the passenger but the clock starts ticking and you start earning money as soon as you pick them up.
  • Fares are based on total miles and total minutes during a ride. Longer mileage and the more time spent means a higher payout to you. Even if you are sitting in traffic or at a stop light, you are getting paid to give that ride. The mileage and minute rates vary between the companies so make sure you know how much they pay.
  • There are no set hours when driving for Uber and Lyft. You can drive early morning or late at night or anytime in between. It is up to you to determine how much or how little you want to drive. You turn on the app when you want to earn extra money and turn it off when it is not a convenient time. It is truly a job where you set your own hours and are your own boss.
  • When picking up a passenger, you will not know where they are going until you confirm they are picked up. They might be going to the airport which is 90 minutes away or they might be going a half mile from the super market to their home and do not want to walk carrying all their bags. You never know where you are going to end up until the passenger gets in your car. Make sure that if you have an appointment during the day, you budget enough time to be able to get there based on wherever you end up. Turn off your app about an hour prior to your appointment time to ensure you are not too far away and can not make it in time.

There are plenty of other hints and tips to driving with Lyft and Uber but those are the basics to get you started. We are considering doing a “How to be an Uber/Lyft Driver” video in the future. Be on the look out for that.

If you are ready to start earning some extra money with both Uber and Lyft, there is very little stopping you. If you meet the above criteria and you and your vehicle pass all the checks, you can be earning money right away. The get driving with Uber and Lyft and start earning bonuses, click the link below:

Drive with Lyft

Drive with Uber

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About Me

TailgatingIdeas.com is a tailgating blog dedicated to bringing you the latest and most intriguing tailgating ideas out there. Whether it is the latest tailgating gear reviews, a great new recipe or a funny list to make you smile, our goal is to inform and entertain the avid and the casual tailgater alike.

Started in August 2007 by tailgating enthusiast Dave Lamm, TailgatingIdeas.com has evolved into an advocate for tailgaters rights and is not afraid to touch on controversial issues confronting those who frequent the tailgating parking lots.

To learn more about TailgatingIdeas.com and our team of writers, reviewers, cartoonists and contributors, please visit the About Us page.