Tailgate Food: Our Favorite Game Day Recipes

Umami Girl’s definitive collection of tailgate food. Dozens of our favorite game day recipes, tips, and tricks for a fun, easy, crowd-pleasing party.

Tailgate Recipes _ Umami Girl 780

Game day should be easy

When we think of game day and tailgate food, we think relaxed, easy fun. Hearty recipes that range from indulgent to stealthy-healthy. Food that pairs well with beer. A combination of bite-sized apps and snack foods, really good dips, comforting mains like chilis, soups, mac and cheese, and pulled chicken. And, of course, low-key desserts.

For once in a lifetime of recipe roundups, we haven’t included any cocktails, because BEER.

Tailgate party tips

Game day gatherings around here are all about friends, food, and football. There’s not a lot of room in the day for anything else. Which is kinda great, because it makes party planning simple.

We’d recommend just a few strategies

Make most of the food ahead of time. Almost everything on this list can be made in advance.

Game day is a great time for a potluck. Have everyone bring one dish and a six-pack of beer. (Or have half your guests bring a dish and the other half bring drinks.)

Commandeer a big swath of countertop for your buffet, or use a big folding table.

Don’t forget nonalcoholic beverages.

Carve out a couple of spaces in addition to the TV area: a place for introverts to escape for a bit, and a separate place for chatters to hang without interrupting the game.

Tailgate Food: Our Best Game Day Recipes

Game Day Appetizers

Our favorite apps for tailgate parties

Game Day Dips

Our favorite dips for tailgate parties

Game Day Chilis and Soups

Our favorite chili and soup recipes for tailgate parties

Game Day Instant Pot Recipes

Our Instant Pot recipes for game day are easy and dreamy.

Game Day Pizzas and Burgers

Our favorite pizza and burger recipes for tailgate parties

Game Day Snacks

Our favorite snack recipes for tailgate parties

Game Day Desserts

Our favorite desserts for tailgate parties

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The Simplest, Best Roast Chicken Recipe

There are all kinds of crazy ways to roast a chicken. But sometimes you just want the best, simplest roast chicken recipe out there. Here it is.

The Simplest Best Roast Chicken Recipe | Umami Girl 780-2

Why we love this roast chicken recipe

There are a zillion ways to roast a chicken. To be honest, we love quite a few of them. (Especially Chez Panisse Herb Roasted Chicken and Roast Chicken and Potatoes with All the Best Things.) But we love this simple roast chicken recipe because sometimes you’re just not in the market for bells and whistles, and you shouldn’t have to be.

Sometimes you just want classic food, perfectly prepared. You want:

  • Great-quality roast chicken
  • With tender meat
  • And crispy skin

To be totally transparent: For decades my mom has been roasting an even simpler chicken than this. No olive oil. No salt. Not convinced she tucks the wings. And it turns out great. So I’ve always known that while sometimes you WANT a more elaborate roast chicken, you absolutely don’t need one to be delighted.

Simple roast chicken ingredients

All you need for this roast chicken recipe is:

  • One good-quality whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds. We always buy organic chicken for reasons you can learn about here if you like.
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • A half teaspoon of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Roast Chicken Prep _ Umami Girl

How to prep a chicken for roasting

Here’s all you need to do to get a whole chicken ready to roast simply in the oven. You can watch it all go down in the video that accompanies this post.

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the center.
  • Find a roasting pan that will accommodate your chicken. For a 4 to 5 pound chicken, we use a good old 9x13x2-inch metal pan.
  • Remove any giblets that may have come with your chicken. If there are any, you’ll find them tucked into the inside cavity of the chicken, probably in a little bag. You can use them to make gravy or discard them. For a simple roast chicken like this, we don’t use them.
  • Rub a tablespoon of olive oil all over the outside of the bird.
  • Sprinkle it generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Tuck wing tips under chicken. See below for more about this.
Roast Chicken Tucking Wings _ Umami Girl

To truss or not to truss

First things first: Trussing a bird before roasting means using kitchen twine to tuck the wings against the bird and tie the drumsticks together and snug against the body. For a large bird that needs a long time to roast, trussing can result in more even cooking. We always truss our turkeys for this reason.

But we find that for a bird this size — a 4 to 5 pound chicken — a full trussing isn’t necessary and ends up seeming kinda finicky.

And in fact, in our experience, the bird cooks up faster, crispier, and MORE evenly without trussing because more air is circulating around the legs and into the body cavity.

Here’s what we do instead of trussing:

Simply tuck the tips of the wings beneath the bird so they don’t burn. You can see that step in action in the video and in the step-by-step photos above. We leave the legs as-is.

That said, if you plan to present the whole chicken on a platter before carving and would like it to look more elegant (rather than a little excited and spastic, like an untrussed bird does), you can tie the tips of the legs together with a bit of twine. It may take a little longer to roast.

How to roast a whole chicken

We also find that for a 4 to 5 pound chicken, it’s not necessary to fuss with cooking temperature. You can leave the oven at 425°F the whole time and expect a quickly, evenly cooked bird.

You will simply:

  • Place the prepped bird into a 425°F oven. Place the pan on a rack in the center.
  • Roast for about an hour, until the juices run clear when you prick a knife between a leg and thigh, and the breast meat reads 145°F on an instant read thermometer.
  • Let the chicken sit for 20 minutes.
  • Carve and serve!
How to Carve a Chicken 1

How to carve a chicken

Here’s what you’ll do to carve a whole chicken. You can see these steps in action in the video. You’ll see that I’m a little clumsy at carving (always have been, maybe always will be), but also that it’s reasonably easy to carve a small, properly cooked chicken. It’s almost like it WANTS to be carved.

Wait until the chicken has cooled enough to handle, and then:

  • Remove the legs and thighs from the body by pulling the leg away from the body and cutting through the skin and the hip joint (which connects the thigh to the body). For a small chicken, we usually don’t bother to separate the drumsticks from the thighs, but you can do so if you like by cutting through the joint that connects them.
  • Remove the wings next in a similar fashion.
  • Remove the breasts by running your knife down and then out to the side of the bird, following the line of the breastbone.
  • Slice the breasts.
  • Place everything on a plate, and serve.
How to Carve a Chicken 2

What to do with the chicken carcass

You can use the carcass, and ALL the bones and connective tissue if you like, to make a really great stock (a.k.a.) bone broth.

What to serve with the best roast chicken

If you’re going for a classic roast chicken dinner, there’s nothing better than a salad and some potatoes, plus maybe a cooked green veggie. We love:

Other great uses for roast chicken

One of the things we love most about this roast chicken is how versatile it is. The meat is juicy and tender and simply flavored, and no one says you have to sit down to eat it like a proper meal from 1950. (Though NO shade if you want to — we love that too.)

You can also use roast chicken in:

The Simplest Best Roast Chicken Recipe | Umami Girl 780-3

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The Simplest, Best Roast Chicken Recipe in the World

There are all kinds of crazy ways to roast a chicken. But sometimes you just want the best, simplest roast chicken recipe in the world. Here it is.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Serves 4


  • 1 good-quality whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) with a rack in the center.
  2. Remove any giblets from the cavity of the chicken and pat it dry all over.
  3. Place the chicken into a roasting pan. For a 4 to 5 pound chicken, we like to use the good old 9x13x2-inch metal roasting pan we've had for years. Nothing fancy.
  4. Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil, and sprinkle all over with the salt.
  5. Tuck the tips of the wings under the chicken.
  6. Roast for about 60 minutes, until the juices run clear when you stick the tip of a knife between one of the legs and thighs, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the breast reads 145°F (63°C).
  7. Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 20 minutes. Then carve and serve.

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Beet, Goat Cheese and Mint

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Serves Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish


  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds cucumbers (about 4 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives


Place the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Slice the cucumbers into thin 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Place them in the bowl, add the chives, and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed before serving.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

1. Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Spread a rimmed (18×13-inch) half sheet pan with the tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Dunk the salmon in the miso glaze and arrange along one edge of the baking sheet.

4. Next, toss the asparagus in the glaze and arrange in one even layer in another corner of the baking sheet.

5. Finally, toss the bok choy with the remaining glaze and arrange in a pile in the open space on the baking sheet (don’t worry about piling it up a little—it will help them steam and cook through).

6. Roast in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the fish is firm to the touch (if you’d like a little more color on the salmon, broil it for 2 minutes at this point).

7. Remove from the oven, garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds, and serve.



Our Financial Independence Journey: The Third Book of January

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Two decades ago, The Millionaire Next Door taught us a surprising lesson about the making of a millionaire. We return to it every January, along with a few other pivotal financial independence books. See all the posts in Jonathan Cope’s series about Our Financial Independence Journey.

Financial Independence Books: The Millionaire Next Door

At my best I will ask for directions.
Not always but sometimes.

In the case of our financial independence journey I have been conservative, often cautious, and have looked for guides. The studious type rather than those selling.

The Millionaire Next Door

We owe much to Thomas J. Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door and its sequel The Millionaire Mind.

Mr. Stanley offered a relatable view of the wealthy. A dull normal view. No glitz. No glamour. Millionaires who started with no funds, no advantage, no magic, and no special skill.

Their stories leave only admiration, no envy. Stories of the deserving. The type of story to write for ourselves.

Financial independence books

The Millionaire Next Door chronicles the simple living, saving, and investing habits of the verified wealthy in the United States.

Plumbers, janitors, bus drivers, middle managers, teachers. “Dirty Jobs” kind of people. Regular people. Parents, grandparents, C-students, folks with foibles. People.

So what made them different?
Why did they end up wealthy?

Just a few things.
A few things practiced consistently. Consistently for years.

Earn, save, invest, spend

Earn, save, invest, and then spend.
In that order.
Nothing fancy.

Many ran small businesses. Cleaning, building, recycling, repairing, hemming. Not because they had vision. Most because they had no choice. No one would hire them otherwise.

Most lived in simple neighborhoods. They owned simple houses. They drove older cars. Their children went to public schools, as they did. Nothing fancy or unattainable.

They cared about quality, frugality, charity, community, and family. Most of their families had one income.

A life well-lived mattered most of all.

Their frugality stemmed initially from necessity. It persisted out of habit. Coupons were clipped on Sundays because they always had been.

Building a life well-lived

Their saving and investing also stemmed initially from necessity. They saved for rainy days. They invested in their businesses to grow their incomes. Or some invested within their employer’s retirement plans to receive matching payments. And the habit of saving and investing persisted thereafter.

I reread The Millionaire Next Door each January as grounding. To remind myself to be in good company. To keep it simple. To emulate the successful.

And each time I am reminded of the potential of a life well-lived.

Our Financial Independence Journey: The Second Book of January

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Robert Kyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad is pure financial independence wisdom at a fourth-grade reading level. Here’s why we return to it every January. Read all the posts in Jonathan Cope’s series about Our Financial Independence Journey.

Financial Independence Books Rich Dad Poor Dad | Umami Girl 780

In January I read to recharge and to prepare.

I read the same five books each year.

They serve as a meditation on wealth.

A way to set my mind and our year.

Financial independence books

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kyosaki is the second book of January.

Reading level grade four. So says the author. Well within reach of the youngest Cope.

A book I wish my ego let me read sooner.

Its purple, gold, all-singing, all-dancing cover led me to treat it like an infomercial for the ShamWow. Not for this guy, thanks. Darn it. So good. (Can’t speak for the ShamWow.)

Kyosaki teaches that wealth is the product of a way of being meeting a way of working.

Gaining strength and leverage from a system to make fruitful work a matter of behavior not of brain or brawn.

One can bear a burden for a wage. But it is more pleasant not to have to. Letting savings, or those of others, earn one’s wage is best. Doing so leaves time and energy for one’s purpose.

Rich Dad Poor Dad changed me. It changed the way I thought about the scarcity of money, the meaning of an asset, the power of ideas, and the best work to build wealth.

And it gave us just a little more courage to build our rental property portfolio and our businesses. Courage that we’ve needed often. Courage that I recharge some each year as I turn the pages. 

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Our Financial Independence Journey: The First Book of January

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From Babylon to Buffett and beyond: The five best financial independence books we read every January to kick off the year on the right foot. See all the posts in Jonathan Cope’s series about Our Financial Independence Journey.

Financial Independence Books | Umami Girl 780

In the early days of the year I like to read. 

We’re a fairly introverted family. We need quiet time to recharge from December hosting.

It is great to be the family’s holiday destination but, nonetheless, we need our time to reflect and to prepare.

To ensure the recharge is uninterrupted I read the same five books each January. 

Financial independence books

Curled on the couch, often with a cat or two, I first make my way through The Richest Man in Babylon. 

I read it first in 1999. I don’t recall how it came to me. Likely from my father. He was always dropping light hints with books.

Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life. Balzac’s Pere Goriot. Stendhal’s The Red and The Black.  

Clason’s The Richest Man in Babylon is a start. A simple path to wealth. A straight and narrow path. No math. Just habits. 

George Clason, in a voice borrowed from the Old Testament, nudges the reader to emulate the wealthy. To emulate the richest man in Babylon. 

Arkhad started from nothing, was enslaved by spending, freed by vocation, empowered by saving, and enriched by investing. 

The text gives me hope. Purpose. A way forward. It reminds me that few have found the path. And also that it is only fair to point the way.

Reading of Babylon leads me to talk to our girls. Each year the details become more refined. Our oldest has read the text, too. Our youngest knows its lessons. 

Earn. Save. Invest. Spend. In that order. 

Our youngest often asks if everyone is allowed to do this. It is difficult. But yes, everyone is allowed. 

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