Picnic Food Ideas for Large Outdoor Parties

Picnic and party big time in your backyard or venue.

Picnic food ideas for the great outdoors - we know it's not easy leaving the kitchen inside.

Picnic recipes and a good picnic plan are important. There's more to it than a tasty dish - especially with a crowd on the way. And it's even more challenging when you hit the road.

Picnic Desserts are so fun! Chocolate Fruit Skewers,
easy to make and served on ice. Yumm!

"Venue Plans the Menu" - We're not saying that you can't serve Roasted Cornish Game Hens at the Park Picnic Grounds - but it takes planning and safe food handling. Think about where you'll be, what you've got, and how much work you're ready to do.

Beyond burgers. Nothing wrong with backyard BBQ. We love it, and so do you. But you can do so much more, especially for celebrations. Caterers use basic food handling techniques and rely on preparation. With available food warmers, coolers, gear, guidance and picnic food ideas, it's surprising just how much you can do with some good picnic food ideas - lots more than burgers and dogs!

Most of Party Recipes and Ideas recipes are designed to be made ahead of time. Try to do as much prep as possible, then it's about time and temperature:

How to Keep Cold Picnic Foods Cold:

1. Chest style, picnic coolers - even cheap ones, including disposables - do a nice job. Use lots of ice and keep foods indoors, or out of the sun until ready to serve. We often keep an iced cooler under the buffet table with a serving dish on top, then we keep re-stocking the serving platters with new food as needed.

2. Food Warmers can also be used as coolers. Fill the bottom pan with ice instead of hot water, and keep it covered when not in use. This is elegant way to serve lots of foods, including salads.

3. Ice Blankets. If you have a cold buffet table with foods sitting out, use gallon zip lock bags with ice and lay them on top of the foods. This really helps when you're trying to build a nice food table - then quickly lift off the ice bags just as guests arrive.

Here's one of our best picnic food ideas: We have used this ice blanket technique to the extreme for entire buffet tables - filled with cold foods. After setting up the buffet, we cover the food with film, and then put a large sheet of light plastic disposable (painter's) dropcloths on top of the film, directly above the food. Then we carefully cover the plastic dropcloth with ice. Just as guests arrive, we carefully lift off the dropcloth and dump the ice out of sight.

How to Keep Hot Picnic Foods Hot:

1. Food Warmers are a great way. These use sterno fuel and work very well. Because they heat with warm water, foods tend not to dry out as quickly as when we use dry heaters or lights. We show both kinds, the nice looking ones and the disposables too.

2. Picnic Coolers can keep hot foods hot - just use warm bricks instead of ice. Read about it in: Another way to keep food warm.

3. Holding Grill. Have another BBQ Grill set to a low temperature, and use it just for holding cooked foods.

Safe Picnic Food. Doesn't matter how great food tastes if it's not safe. Read our Food Safety page, and plan safety into your picnic food ideas following these five steps:

1. Handwashing - Bring a jug of water just for washing hands. Use it before handling food, and make it available for your guests too. Keep some soap and towels there, and some hand sanitizer too - although sanitizer is not a replacement for good old soap and water.

2. Use food warmers and chafing dishes to keep hot foods hot, and coolers to keep cold foods cold.

3. Know Your Temperatures - Follow our Temperature Chart for the internal "done" temperature and use a Chef's Thermometer to be sure.

4. Separate. Keep your lighter fluid away from the steaks.

5. Sanitize. Bring a long a bottle sanitizer and use it. Keep everything clean.

Everything Outdoors

At your outdoor venue, picnic grounds, park, open field, or whatever place that doesn't have a kitchen nearby - find ideas and answers from our Venue Kitchen section:

  ♦   Water   ♦   Food Safety   ♦   Cooking ♦   Refrigeration   ♦
   ♦   Electricity   ♦   Fire Control   ♦   Trash   ♦

Cook Here, Serve There. Prepping ahead of time, often in your home kitchen is the way to go - but that means transporting the food and gear to the party venue. Our Transportation section has lots of ideas about getting everything there in one piece.

Insect and Bug Control. Chemicals and pesticides are out of the question. Having tried everything imaginable, we'll settled on this simple solution to keep bugs away from the buffet: Fans.

We get simple, cheap 20" window fans from WalMart, etc., and place them so that they will blow air over the buffet. The moving air will keep most of the bugs off. This is one of the items that we plug into a generator if needed.

Pals of ours invested in a pricey ultrasonic system which they claim works - but we haven't tried it.

Check out some Appetizers!

How about some Salads?

Ready for some Dinner and Entrée ideas?

And/or, you can ask us for more picnic food ideas, quantities, catering secrets and tips. It’s free and we’re happy to help.

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Best Food Warmer,
our most popular,
really inexpensive,
home party perfect!

Our favorite knife - we use
it 85% of the time. Cheap
knifes should be illegal.

Party Food MUST! Food
safe and savory, have
one in my pocket now.

Great occasional use,
best all purpose size,
with lid, priced right.

Caterer's use real Bases
for sauces, soups and more.
Amazon has all the
different flavors.

This disposable chafer
is ugly, but it works
great, especially back
in the kitchen.

THE best caterer's cookbook
ever, for serious party food.
Written for devoted cooks
there's nothing better.

Believe it or not, you
can stir 350^ oil with
this spatula. We use
ours everyday.