Mediaplanet: What is your earliest memory of tailgating? 

Rachael Ray: This is probably isn't one of my earliest tailgating memories, but one of the craziest memories I have of tailgating comes from a time when a bunch of us attended a NASCAR race and we had an Iron Chef throw down. I made my ancho beef black bean chili and seven layer quesadillas. By the end of the evening, we were all drinking moonshine out of glass bottles handed to us by strangers and Mario Batali was driving Chef Tim Love and myself around in a golf cart. I'm not quite sure how we procured that golf cart, but it sure was fun.

MP: What would you say is the most common mistake people make when learning how to master the grill?

RR: I'd say that one of the most common mistakes people make when learning how to master a grill is overcooking and putting food on too soon. If you put food on too soon, it causes these flare-ups which burns rather than chars the food.

MP: What are your tailgating essentials that you won’t leave your home without?

KEEPING IT SIMPLE: "Everybody loves a chili dog and the simple necessities at a tailgate."

RR: Every tailgate will be different and I think it depends on the host and attendees. I think a tailgating must-have list really focuses on the food, so the essentials will really be catered and unique to the people joining the party and what they want to eat. For example, at some of my tailgates we like to make sausage sandwiches, so the most obvious thing you'll need is a grill. Then you'll need a collapsible container to keep the rolls warm. Once you get them just right, you need to par cook your sausages to prevent burning when you put them on the grill.  You'll also need a nice sturdy cast iron casserole that you can also put in a thermal bag to keep the peppers and onions nice and warm.

MP: What tips would you give to our readers about throwing the prefect tailgating party?

RR: I think in order to throw the perfect tailgating party you need to keep it simple, get organized, rally your friends to contribute so you don't have to do it all on your own and be sure to pack extra paper goods (plates, cups, etc.) because you always use more than you think. I'd also say to be sure that everything is recyclable so that you can be eco-friendly at your tailgate.

MP: Is it safe to cook food partially at home so it grills faster while tailgating?

RR: I think it is safe to cook food partially at home so it grills faster while tailgating, but only if you have the proper materials like thermal containers and similar items. Sometimes I boil sausages and then cool them so by the time I throw them on the grill and they get charred on the outside, they are completely cooked through. 

MP: What is the most common mistake a tailgating novice makes?

RR: I think the most common mistake that a tailgating novice makes is being overly ambitious. A lot of beginners are either trying to do way too much or preparing something that is way too complicated. Keep it simple, you're going to be making a lot of food for a lot of people, so make it easier on yourself. Everybody loves a chili dog and the simple necessities at a tailgate.