The Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for snacking. You need to bring your A game.
"You want to feed your friends well, and if you put out some good food, that's going to put out some good vibes for your team," says Debbie Moose, author of Fan Fare, a tailgate-themed cookbook.
Chili and chicken wings may be the traditional favourites, but if you want to win the award for MVH (Most Valuable Host), you have to mix up your playbook with some team-specific recipes. If you think food prepared in a parking lot can't rain touchdowns on your taste buds, then you don't know tailgate cuisine, where fans are always trying to outdo and one-up the competition.
But which team to go with? Bookies have the Packers as the slight favourites to win the Super Bowl, but we look at how the two teams stack up in the all-important chow championship.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Burgers topped with Wisconsin cheddar
Pregame workout: Come kickoff time, you want to be on the couch, not in the kitchen. Don't miss the biggest game of the year because you're staring at the oven waiting for the soufflé to rise. Packers fans abide by the couch imperative: cheese balls can be made the night before the game and brats and burgers can be prepped and ready to go well before the coin toss. Gain 40 yards.
Game-day gear: Vince Lombardi, the Packers coach who led the team to victory in the very first Super Bowl, loved to keep things simple. His spirit lives on in the team's tailgate food. All you need is a grill and tongs for the brats (pronounced BRAHTS, a term of endearment for bratwurst, a mildly spiced sausage) and burgers. A bowl is all that's required to make the cheese balls. Gain 30 yards.
Surprise play: Much like their style on the field, there aren't many tricks in Green Bay's culinary playbook. Instead, it goes with straight-up classics, starting with brats. "That's No. 1 in Green Bay," says Joe Cahn, who runs the website Tailgating.com. "It's brat country." Cheese balls are a natural fit for a Wisconsin team as is a burger topped with Wisconsin cheddar cheese. Lose 8 yards.
Pep-talk power: Grill masters may wax eloquent about brats, and sure, it's fun to say brats, but they aren't exactly conversation fodder. That leaves you with this fact to share at the party: Although it's disputed, Wisconsin claims to have invented the hamburger. It's hardly an explosive conversational play to drop on a party. Gain 15 yards.
Korean-style braised short ribs
Pregame workout: With more Super Bowl titles than any other team (six), the Steelers know success is all about preparation. The Gridiron Grinder, a meat-stuffed sandwich served on a long roll, can be made the night before the game, and perogies can be whipped up the morning of, leaving you with a finger-food fest at the ready come kickoff. But if you want to cook your ribs the Steelers-wide-receiver-Hines-Ward way, by roasting them after they're braised, you're going to be stuck by the oven while all the good seats are being taken. Gain 30 yards.
Game-day gear: You're kitchen is going to look messier than a team locker room after the game when you're through with this menu. The Gridiron Grinder only requires a knife and a cutting board, but for the rest you're going to need a grater, a masher, several pots, a cookie sheet, a wire rack, a roasting pan, a strainer and a Dutch oven if you've got one. Meanwhile, your Packers rivals have tongs and a grill and are laughing at you and all the post-game washing up. Gain 22 yards.
Surprise play: Gridiron Grinders are a Steeler staple. "This is an Italian town with some incredible sandwiches," says David Joachim, author of The Tailgater's Cookbook. Pittsburgh also has a large Polish community that has helped make perogies a parking-lot favourite. "The amount of perogies cooked at a Steelers game is really incredible," Mr. Cahn says. But Korean-style braised short ribs? In Pittsburgh? No one's gonna see that coming. Gain 24 yards.
Pep talk power: Explain those short ribs to your guests and display your pigskin prowess by dropping this knowledge on them: Offensive playmaker Hines Ward's mother is Korean, and No. 86 is such a fan of this type of ribs that he contributed his mom's recipe for them to The Sunday Night Football Cookbook. You'll be in the end zone with that one. A touchdown dance is optional. Gain 24 yards.