Whether you're a tailgate pro or a total newbie, you can benefit from these tips from Bradford Thompson. He's a James Beard Award–winning chef and the owner of Bellyfull Consulting and Jule’s Gourmet Foods. During the NFL season, the lifelong Giants fan can be found cooking up a storm in MetLife Stadium’s D2 parking lot. His tailgates have been featured in The New York Times and New Jersey Monthly and on foodrepublic.com.

His tailgating pro tips:

1. Plan the menu ahead so you can do some early prep. But not too much—the fun’s in cooking in the lot.

2. Use heavy plastic bins for packing your grill, tools, etc., together—then you can spray them down to clean them. 

3. Show up early. Leave the rushing for the field—you’ll score a better spot, and have more time to whip up a feast. 

4. Park near a porta potty, but not next to it! Your guests will thank you.

5. Tie one on. String a large, colorful balloon to your car so pals can find you.

6. Check wind direction pre-BBQ so you’re not eating smoke all day.

7. Bring fresh herbs like sage for the grill to fend off bugs.

8. Be a ’gater, not a hater. Pick up trash, dump water in a drain or grass, and deposit coals in a charcoal-only dumpster.