Even if you’re not into camping or cottage core, picnics can still be fun. Plus, food just tastes better outdoors, whether you’re snacking at a tailgate, a barbeque, or a hillside hike. A good picnic box contains hot food and cold cuts, so you need both heating and chilling equipment. So as we prepare for that pleasant sunlit meal, let’s find out how to keep picnic food warm.
How to Keep Picnic Food Warm
1. How to Keep Food Hot for a Picnic | Tesco Food
If you often host picnics or tailgates, you probably have a cooler box somewhere in the house. But did you know it can keep food warm as well? This tip works best for cooked food. Pack it immediately after it leaves the stove to give it a head start. You’ll also need tin foil, rice, and socks.
Line the inside of the cooler box with foil, and wrap your hot casserole dishes in foil as well. Next, stuff some clean cotton socks with raw rice (uncooked) and microwave them to make DIY heat packs. Stack the socks around the food dishes and place hot water bottles on top.
For most people, a picnic is a laid-back outdoor snacking option. Just pack some sandwiches and nap in the sun. But some folk prefer a more energetic approach. They want to slip in a hike or bike ride before they stop to eat, and a picnic backpack is a perfect solution to this.
These backpacks have sturdy straps so you can comfortably lug them around. And they have compartments that make it easier to pack your food, drinks, utensils, and snacks. They can protect fragile items (like champagne bottles!) and allow you to pack and/or clear up faster.
3. DIY Tailgate Warming Drawer | HGTV
When we talk about tailgates, we don’t mean driving too close to the car in front of you. We’re referring to the picnic-style parties and barbeques you typically see at sports events. They got their name because food is served on a tailgate, the hinged rear flap of your truck.
So tailgating tips can be helpful as you figure out how to keep picnic food warm. Earlier, we made heat packs from microwaved socks stuffed with raw rice. This time, wrap some clay bricks in aluminum foil and pop them in the oven. They’re awesome at retaining the heat.
Slow cookers are so convenient for cooking. Especially the newer hi-tech ones. Just pop your food in, confirm your settings, and let it work. You could set it up as you leave for work or run errands, though it’s best not to leave slow cookers unattended. They keep food warm too.
So as you load up for the picnic, you could use the same slow cooker that prepared the dish. Just unplug it and load it into your picnic stash. Traditional slow cookers can do this as well, so you don’t have to spend a fortune on new-fangled devices. Go borrow your mom’s!
5. Catering Tip: How to Keep BBQ Warm – Fattybombatty
Indigenous communities will sometimes smoke their meat in pits covered with soil and firewood. You can harness this technique to keep picnic food warm, even if it’s not barbeque meat. Wrap your food in tin foil, then cover the foil with an old towel, bathrobe, or tea towel.
Place this in a cooler box and pour some boiling water on the towel, then close the cooler box. This tip can keep your picnic food hot for an hour or two. Carry a thermometer with you so you can occasionally check the temperature inside the box, and add hot water as needed.
Cooler boxes are insulated, so they maintain internal temperatures while blocking out external heat sources. This means they can keep hot things hot and cold things cold. But if you can’t be bothered to jerry-rig your cooler, just buy a ready-made insulated picnic basket.
They have heavy-duty handles to support the weight of your food, and they often have slots, straps, and/or sub-sections for utensils, dishes, and picnic gear. They can be wicker, fabric, or even plastic, and some have additional features like crockery and foldable picnic tables.
7. How to Keep a Hot Lunch Brought From Home Hot – Baby Gizmo
Did you (or your kids) ever carry packed lunch to school? Their food had to stay hot and healthy from prep time to lunch break. And it had to stay warm and safe without going bad or getting contaminated by bacteria. Your hot lunch tricks can be useful for picnic snacks.
The simplest solution is a thermos. They come in various sizes and styles for food and drinks. Before loading the food into the thermos, prime the thermos with boiling water. To help the thermos along, you can pack the flasks in insulated lunch bags, picnic baskets, or backpacks.
So far, we’ve looked at DIY heat packs made of clay bricks pre-heated in the oven, hot water bottles, towels soaked in hot water, and tin foil liners. But you could save yourself the hassle with store-bought heat packs. And you can order them online as well. Various styles exist.
The most convenient types are the dual packs that serve as both heat packs and ice packs. These packs are filled with a thermal insulating gel. You can pop them in the microwave to keep your food warm, or you can ice them in the freezer if you need to chill your beverages.
9. Quick Tip Tuesday: Cool Idea for Warm Meat – Blind Grilling
When you use a cooler box to chill your drinks, it works by keeping external warmth from penetrating the box. But when you’re wondering how to keep picnic food warm, the cooler box will use its insulating materials to prevent heat from escaping the box. It works for up to 6 hours!
In the case of picnic meats, pour apple juice or apple cider vinegar on the meat to keep it moist, then wrap the meat in foil. Line the bottom of the box with thick towels, put your food in, then add more towels on top. This works for other picnic foods too, but without the juice!
Did you know some cooler boxes come in the form of a bag? They have the same insulating layer, but instead of a hard plastic casing, the insulation is fitted in a fabric or plastic bag with sturdy handles. These bags maintain the temperature of food and drinks, hot or cold.
When you’re shopping for these items, you may spot different names. These include branded options like Rachel Ray’s Expandable Lasagna Lugger, but you can buy a cheaper generic one too. These expandable casserole carriers have zip-up compartments for multiple containers.
11. Catering Pans, Chafing Dishes, Warming Racks, and Gel/Liquid Warmers
Picnics often involve sandwiches and finger foods for convenience. But sometimes, you want to warm or prep your food at the picnic site. Cookout tips can be helpful here because they keep food warm for guests that will arrive later. So you can translate some for your picnic.
The simplest option is a warming rack. These are cheap wire cages where you can place steel dishes or foil catering pans. Under the rack, set up small propane heaters. Or you can place your chafing stands on a portable barbeque grill to reheat the food and keep it steaming hot.
Okay, so we’ve looked at insulated casserole carriers to transport your food. And we’ve checked out chafing dishes and warming pans for reheating pre-cooked food on-site. But can you combine them? Yep! Try a food-heating lunch box, which is exactly what it sounds like.
It’s an insulated carrier back with an electric plug, so you’ll need a power outlet at the picnic site. You can also plug the heating bag into your car’s cigarette lighter socket. Warm the food in a heatproof dish e.g. a microwave-safe container or chafing pan. Or wrap the food in foil.
13. How to Keep Food Hot for Hours on the Road with a Small Budget
You can buy chafing dishes and warming racks at most dollar stores. But if you want a sturdy option, you can buy the stainless steel catering pans that work with propane heaters. Or you could hire a set from a trusted catering company and use these steam tables for your picnic.
Another option is Vidacasa. It combines several of the ideas we’ve reviewed so far. A set of shallow steel pans is used with hot water, absorbent pads, an insulated outer casing, and a carrier bag. Vidacasa is easy to set up. And the Heat Blaster pads will boil the water for you!
What’s your favorite picnic snack, and how do you keep it warm? Tell us in the comments!