Tips for the Perfect Picnic

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Tips for the Perfect Picnic

By Paula Deen Test Kitchen

It’s the perfect time of year for a picnic. Creating a great picnic is easy to do; it just takes some preparation. Here are some tips to get you started:
The most important item to make your picnic a success is a good cooler. Choose a cooler that is well insulated and will keep food cold. Invest in cool packs to keep food from getting soggy; no one likes a damp sandwich.

Make sure to choose a cooler that is appropriate for the number of people you are inviting. If it’s a romantic picnic for two don’t carry a big cooler, and if it’s a large group don’t try to stuff everything into a small cooler. Keep in mind though that a full cooler will stay cool longer than one with lots of empty space.

Picnics are for relaxing and getting away from stress - don’t pack meals that require a lot of setup and preparation. Make finger foods that will make you and your guests happy. Try cherry tomatoes, cold roast chicken that you can tear off the bone, boiled eggs, or beautiful salads. Think simple. Picnics are supposed to be fun. Instead of packing pre-made sandwiches, put together a ‘deli bar’ with assorted meats, cheeses, rolls, and condiments so bread won’t go soggy before you even get a chance to eat. Pasta salads and other dishes dressed in vinegar-based marinades can be prepared the day before, hold up well in the heat, and continue taking on a wonderful flavor over time.

Shade is important. Here in the South, summer means hot weather. So picking a spot with shelter and bringing some folding chairs is sure to make you a hit with your guests. A little planning goes a long way here.

Tote melamine plates and cups instead of cumbersome ceramic dishes and heavy cutlery. After a long day in the summer sun no one wants to lug around heavy dishes. Like the backpackers say, tote it in and then tote it out. Make sure to leave your picnic site as clean and beautiful as when you showed up.
Make an easy to put together drink. Sweet tea is simple to mix and can be carried easily in a big plastic bottle.

Here’s a basic list of what to take on your next picnic:
A bottle of sunscreen for all to share
Napkins, preferably cloth
Melamine plates, both large and medium
Reusable flatware, forks for everyone usually works
Serving utensils—three should do it
Thermos for soup or cold drinks
Stemless wine glasses—small tumblers are good
Corkscrew and bottle/can opener
An assortment of condiments in plastic squeeze bottles
Paring knife
Cutting board
Coarse salt in a jar and pepper mill, or salt and peppershakers
Damp wipes, soft cloths or paper towels for washing up
Little flower vase for wildflowers
Plastic bags for leftovers
Garbage bag
A camera
Blanket, bedspread, beach towel or quilt—cotton is best and can go in the wash

Happy 4th of July from Paula and her Savannah-based crew!

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Reader Comments:


Love you, and these wonderful picnic ideas.

By joyelaine on July 06, 2013


A couple of years ago you and your family were in your backyard and you had a way of getting rid of flys? Please forward the recipe if possible. I really enjoy your shows,thank you in advance

By Denny O'Donnell on June 05, 2011

I like the tips from you. I need to make the list from you to keep because I always forget something. You have a nice holiday too. I watch everyone of your shows.

By Patricia Burke on July 01, 2010

Where is the recipe for that great looking Barbecued Chicken???

By SALLY SOTO on June 30, 2010

Hey Beth! The salad in the photo is chilled grilled corn and watermelon salad.

By Libbie Summers on June 29, 2010

Love all the great tips and recipes.  The picture with this newsletter about Picnic tip’s looks like watermelon and corn in a salad bowl.  Can I get the details on what this is and how to make it.  Thanks!

By Beth Caldwell on June 29, 2010

I love the tips- thanks for sharing! One thing I always try to bring to our outings is a small first aid kit.

By Carolyn on June 29, 2010

We never leave home without our washer toss game - takes hardly any room in the trunk and can be played in a fairly small grassy area.

By Harriet Stroupe on June 29, 2010

Great idea with the ice Greg!!!! Thank you so much for always giving us great ideas and encouragement!

Libbie Summers, Senior Food Editor for Paula Deen

By Libbie Summers on June 29, 2010

Paula,  I love all the tips for your 4th of July picnic.  I do a lot of talegating at NASCAR events and have found if you buy a bag of ice the night before and put it in the cooler you’ll be using, it helps get it nice and cold so you don’t have to worry about the items getting water logged by the ice you put in the day of the picnic.

Another good thing is some vinegar and/or bug sting ointment.  There are lots of hungry little critters out there that want to use us as their holiday meal as well.

And don’t forget to take a frisbee or other fun out of doors games for the kids and the adults that just feeling like being kids.

Hope yours and everyones holiday weekend is the best of the summer.

By Greg Kantner on June 28, 2010

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