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Outdoor “Pre” Cooking with Johnsonville

Posted by Brandon On October - 20 - 2015Comments Off on Outdoor “Pre” Cooking with Johnsonville

When I first started accumulating my tailgating provisions, I found the second best place in the store, the first being the beer aisle, for me was the camping section.  Why the camping section you ask?  Well that’s where all the gear for living outdoors is at.  After all, are tailgating and camping really all that different?  Both are outdoor activities, both typically involve being away from the comforts of home, and both usually involve indulging on plenty of food and drink.   Some NASCAR events have “camping” prior to the race which is nothing more than tailgating overnight.  If you ask me they are cut from the same cloth. So why do I draw this comparison between tailgating and camping?  Well as you might have guessed by the Johnsonville logo featured prominently in the post it has something to do with sausage.  Specifically pre-cooked sausage.   Johnsonville Logo Big

Good food safety practices involve lots of things.  Proper refrigeration, cooking food to safe temps, and avoiding cross contamination with raw meat juices are all things that pretty much anyone who has ever learned anything about cooking knows.  Coolers are the obvious solution to the refrigeration conundrum.  A good quality cooler with plenty of ice is a no brainer.  Cooking food to safe temps is also easy to avoid most of the time, especially if you have a good quality instant read thermometer with you.  That is something I recommend  for everyone cooking raw meat, its the best way to stay safe, and to not grossly overcook your food.

The problem that isn’t so easy to pin down is cross contamination, especially in the remote settings that tailgaters and campers alike share.  Sure some people have full sinks and all that in their RV, but for many of us we’re faced with the makings of a bacterial breeding ground.   I have cooked plenty of raw meat at tailgates, it can be done without a doubt, but you know I wonder how many times I touched raw meat and then spread any potential germs to other things.  I haven’t gotten sick, but I may have just gotten lucky so far.  This is where the pre-cooked sausage comes in.  By removing those raw meat juices we greatly reduce the chance of foodborn illness.  That way you can worry about staying away from the hangover and not if you’re going to wind up with food poisoning.

We’ve talked about some of Johnsonville’s pre-cooked offerings before, and we’ve never been let down by any of them.   Now while with one notable and extremely tasty exception, we’ve basically treated all of these products as a sausage in a bun type of thing, part of this article is show that these are versatile products that can work in other applications.

Disclosure: Johnsonville gave us coupons and a gift card to try these products and do some recipe development.

IMG_20151018_132434226 (1)So how can you use these pre-cooked offerings at your next away from home trip?  The first is obvious, use them just as you would any other brat or sausage from Johnsonville.  Grill it, put it in a bun, top it, and scarf.   If you are a brat fanatic, you might focus your attention on the Stadium Style Brats.  They deliver a near identical flavor profile to the standard Johnsonville Brat, and since they’re slightly smaller and more uniform you can fit many more on your grill.  Another upside is that you get 6 in a pack compared to 5 come in the normal pack, which means you can get more pieces in the cooler.   Not to mention they are usually less expensive!  I have a small Weber Smokey Joe Gold in this photo and you can see it holds plenty of sausages for a crowd.  Plus since we’re dealing with pre-cooked we can heat through to at least 140 degrees and serve.  There is no need to get to 160.  In fact the recommended cooking time is basically half of the uncooked brats.  If you often have trouble keeping up with demand these are the answer.

The next is a great dish for tailgaters and campers alike.  The idea of this dish is a staple in many cultures. Rice and Beans.  We decided to utilize the Andouille Split Rope Links to make a Louisiana-esque Red Beans and Rice. Upside to this dish is using only one pot.   Why one pot?  Fewer dishes to clean, and all the flavor stays in one place, no worrying about it being split over multiple vessels.  Using instant rice and canned beans we can knock this out in 30 minutes.  While cook time is always a concern, running a cooker/grill/stove for long periods of time with limited amounts of fuel is something that should be considered whether in the woods or parking lot.  Pot selection isn’t supremely important here, but I am a big fan of cast iron dutch ovens.  They are super versatile and can take a fair amount of abuse.  You can double the recipe if you have a pot of sufficient size, at least 6 qts. 


Red Beans and Rice with Spicy Johnsonville Sausage

Serves: Serves 4-6


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 package Johnsonville Andouille Split Rope (2 links) or New Orleans Spicy Smoked Links (6 links), sliced into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 16oz cans red beans or kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cups of instant rice (Minute Rice)
  • Creole Seasoning


  1. Add the vegetable oil to a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned on one side. 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add onion, green pepper, and celery, cook until onions translucent, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, and sprinkle with seasoning blend.  
  4. Add the broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the beans and rice. Turn off heat and cover.
  5. Before serving taste and add more seasoning as necessary.

Another great option is something called a Hobo Pack.  Now many of you who were in scouting are probably familiar with this concept.  The idea is that you wrap things you want to cook in foil and then place it on the fire, coals, grill, etc.   The upside is that after heating let them cool off a bit and you can eat directly from the packet so no plates!  You can use this method for just about anything you want, but I think the Polish Kielbasa Split Rope with potato and onion hits the spot quite nicely.   Also what we’re doing to save some time is pre-cooking the potato since they really have to be cooked thoroughly to be appetizing.  You can leave the potato uncooked if you’d prefer, but keep in mind that will increase cooking time substantially.


Johnsonville Polish Sausage and Potato Hobo Pack

Serves 6


  • 1 package (2 links) Johnsonville Polish Kielbasa Split Rope, sliced into ¼” slices
  • 2 lbs red potatoes cleaned
  • 1 each sweet red and yellow peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ garlic powder


  1. Quarter potatoes by slicing in half, and then each half in half again.  Smaller potatoes may only need to be sliced in half.  Place pieces in bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap
  2. Microwave potatoes for 5- 8 minutes until potatoes are mostly cooked.  Shake halfway throughout.  After cooking carefully remove plastic wrap and drain.
  3. Toss all ingredients in bowl.
  4. Divide the kielbasa, potatoes, peppers and onion among six double thicknesses of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. x 12 in.).   Seal edges of foil tightly to form packet.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.
  5. Place “hobo pack” on grill, over direct heat for 10-15 minutes, turning several times throughout,  until packets are sizzling.  Let cool for a minute or so before serving.  Be careful when opening packet.

It is worth mentioning that the Split Rope sausages come packaged with 2 links, but each link is in it’s own pack.  So if you only wanted to use one you can just open that, the other remains sealed in it’s own packaging.   Also worth noting, is that many other packages of smoked/cooked links come in resealable zipper packaging.  So if you are out and about and only use a couple out of a package you can seal them back up and use them at a later time without worrying about them becoming water logged from sitting in the cooler.  Those are little things, but no one likes to waste food, and ultimately money if they don’t have to.

To summarize, whether it’s tailgating, camping, or cooking outdoors for any other reason give the pre-cooked line a look for several reasons.  Faster “cooking” time due to the need to heat not cook, no raw meat to cross contaminate, and a wide range of flavors and styles for versatility.

To learn more about where you can find Johnsonville’s extensive pre-cooked product line you can visit their product locator link.  The product line is so expansive that I can’t imagine any one store will carry them all, in fact for this article I had to journey to a couple stores.  While you’re there you can see all the offerings, and take a peek at Johnsonville’s very large recipe database.  Oh and why not enter their camping contest?  Could win some cool prizes!

College Football 2015: Best Remaining Games to Tailgate

Posted by Dan Stern On October - 19 - 2015Comments Off on College Football 2015: Best Remaining Games to Tailgate

It’s hard to believe that the college football season is already half over. It’s been a wild ride so far. But that’s nothing compared to the slate of games coming your way over the next few weeks. We hope you’ve got plenty of tailgating energy left, because with these monster match-ups, you’re going to need it. Also, if you were thinking about making a road trip to partake in some of the wildest tailgating festivities College Football has to offer, make sure you hit one of these games.

(Rankings based on the AP Top 25 Poll released on October 18, 2015.)

October 31 – #13 Florida/Georgia
Even though Georgia hasn’t been as good as expected this year, with this game annually played annually in Jacksonville, the stadioum is equal distance from both campuses. They don’t call it “The World’s Largest outdoor Cocktail Party” for nothing. You know what that means: insane parking lot tailgates. Even if you’re not a Florida or Georgia fan, Everbank Field in Jacksonville has a pool. Yes, you heard right. A pool. Add this game to your tailgating bucket list.


November 7 – #9 Florida State at #6 Clemson
This game could ultimately determine ACC supremacy between these two unbeaten squads. Plus, you know those South Carolinians know how to tailgate.


November 7 – #23 Duke at UNC
No, this isn’t a basketball match-up. With Duke fielding a solid football team this year, you know those Tar Heel fans are going to be chomping at the bit to knock their hated rivals off their high horse. This tailgate will 100% get out of hand and that’s a good thing.


November 7 – #5 LSU at #8 Alabama
Obviously those Alabama fans know how to have a crazy tailgate, but with both teams in the top 10 and Alabama already having one loss, this game could decide who from the SEC makes the playoff. This Alabama-style tailgate will definitely be one to remember. Plus, LSU fans has a reputation when it comes to tailgating and you know Tide fans want to make a good impression on the visiting fans.


November 14 – #18 Memphis at #21 Houston
Surprisingly, both of these football teams are having great years. The winner will most likely vault into the top 15, so you know those Texans are going to be going nuts at the game. Plus, Houston always has great weather and BBQ, so there’s no going wrong at this tailgate.


November 21 – #2 Baylor at #14 Oklahoma State
There’s nothing like a huge Big 12 showdown in Stillwater. Oklahoma State fans are already salivating at the thought of knocking off a perennial National Championship contender. Keep your eye out for the massive tailgate before this game.


November 27 – #2 Baylor at #4 TCU
Baylor again? Well, the fact that this game is on a Friday night on ESPN, the TCU fans will undoubtedly go balls to the wall for this game with a chance at the #1 spot. As I said before, those Texans know how to throw a good tailgate, and this could be the best one of the year.


November 28 – #17 Oklahoma #14 Oklahoma State
This is, of course, one of the biggest rivalries in College Football. They call this rivalry “bedlam” for a reason. Bragging rights in the Bedlam Series at stake. Plus, with both of these teams in a similar position, the winner will get a HUGE advantage in securing a premier bowl bid. If you’re going to make a road trip to any one of these games for the tailgate, make sure it’s this one.


November 28 – #1 Ohio State at #15 Michigan
This could be one of the greatest tailgates of the year. These teams’ fans HATE each other. And with Michigan coming off a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State, they need to win a game of this magnitude to remain in the hunt for a premier bowl bid. There’s nothing like a tailgate and huge game at The Big House. Make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes and hot drinks – it’s going to be freezing in Ann Arbor in late November.


November 28 – #9 Florida State at #13 Florida
You gotta love the battle for Florida. Especially when both teams are good enough to win the National Championship. If I had to pick a game to go to, it’d probably be this one. Why? The weather will be warm, the tailgate will be ridiculous, and this matchup always ends up being one of the best games of the college football season.

What games did we miss that you’d want to tailgate at? Which one of these games are you dying to go to?

Recipe: Warm Crack Dip

Posted by Dave On October - 16 - 2015Comments Off on Recipe: Warm Crack Dip
Warm Crack Dip

Photo courtesy of Plain Chicken

Five ingredients, one bowl and a big wooden spoon. That’s what you’ll need for this tailgating dip that will bring everyone to your tailgating space.


8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 (1 oz) package Ranch dressing mix
1 (3 oz) crumbled bacon
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
16 oz sour cream


Preheat oven to 400.

In a bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well. Transfer to 2-quart baking dish; cover.

Bake dip 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

If taking this dip tailgating, we suggest transporting it in a Tailgate HotBag to ensure it arrives just as hot in the parking lot as it did coming out of your oven.

(We modified this recipe found on Plain Chicken to substitute bacon bits for crumbled bacon. Because you know how we here love us some bacon.)


Posted by Dave On October - 15 - 20151 COMMENT

TableTopIt Featured

We all have those standard folding utility tables that we take tailgating. They are useful, practical and durable. The one thing they aren’t; appealing to the eye. Covering them up with a standard tablecloth is tough because they stain easily or they blow off if it is windy. Plus, who wants the standard red checkered table cloth that looks more like your grandma’s picnic blanket than a tailgating tablecloth.

We recently discovered TableTopIt. It’s a tablecloth that fits snuggly onto 6′ utility tables. Its elasticized construction allows for the cloth to hug the corner of a standard-size folding table, preventing it from slipping off. The best part, they have team licensing so you can transform your tailgating table into a football gridiron and has your favorite team’s logo.

As you saw in the video, the elastic on the TableTopIt resembles a fitted sheet. It hugs the corners and the edges of your 6′ utility table so that the tablecloth lays flat and taught against your table. It is also spill and satin resistant because the manufacturer understands tailgaters can sometimes drip or spill while out in the parking lot.

We had a chance to test out the TableTopIt the other weekend prior to the San Diego Chargers vs. the Cleveland Browns game. It was a little rainy and windy that day but as you can see from the photos, the table resisted the water and stayed tight around the corners of the table even in the wind.

We had a few samples with us so we decided to share another sample with one of our tailgating neighbors. You can see in the above photos, they put it on their table and loved it.  They then asked us where did we get it. We are going to take that response as a “Tailgate Approved” from our longtime tailgating neighbors we have parked next to for the past seven years.

To answer that question, you can buy the TableTopIt from, drum roll pleasetabletopit.com.

Priced at $29.99, these tablecloths will not only last you for the season but well into next season. Spilled something on it? Just throw it in the washer with your jersey that probably has the same BBQ sauce on it and it will be good to go for the next time. Playing beer pong on a TableTopIt is also a good choice because the cups will not slide like they do on a regular table from the condensation dripping down the sides and bottom of the cups.

Even though we were given samples of the San Diego Chargers TableTopIt, they have all the NFL teams including a Super Bowl 50 design. The Super Bowl 50 TableTopIt would be perfect for your homegate in February no matter if your team is playing in the Super Bowl or not. They also make a generic football field design if you just love football but don’t have a favorite NFL team.

Priced right at $29.99, the TableTopIt fits right in at any tailgate party or even your home watch parties for when your team is on the road. The best part is that if you order a TableTopIt via their online store, use the coupon code “tailgatingideas”, and you’ll get 10% off your purchase. Just enter “tailgatingideas” in the coupon section during check-out and your discount will apply.

For more information or to see all the TableTopIt designs, visit: tabletopit.com

Stubb’s Recipe Contest Winners

Posted by Dave On October - 15 - 20151 COMMENT
Stubb’s Game Day Sausage Kebabs

Stubb’s Game Day Sausage Kebabs

After a few weeks of submissions and a week of voting, we are happy to announce the winners in our Tailgating Recipe Contest.

Congratulations to Shauna H. for her winning recipe, Stubb’s Game Day Sausage Kebabs. Being the top vote getter, Shauna will receive a $100 Visa gift card, Stubb’s apron, Stubb’s tote, T-shirt, mason jar and sauce carrier along with $25 in Stubb’s free product coupons.

The voting ended on Monday at midnight pacific time with nearly 4,000 votes cast. The top three vote getters were:

1st PlaceStubb’s Game Day Sausage Kebabs – 1761 votes (Submitted by: Shauna H.)
2nd PlaceStubby Tacos – 1635 votes (Submitted by: Sabrina O.)
3rd PlaceBeefy Bacon Boss Burger – 218 votes (Submitted by: Sherri W.)

To see the list of all the recipe submissions and to try out these recipes at home or while out tailgating, please visit the Stubb’s Recipe Contest Finalists page.

Congratulations to Shauna, Sabrina and Sherri for their winning submissions.





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.