Picnic Food Ideas for Hot Weather 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Delighted man spending time on the picnic
Summer in Michigan often means we’re serving food in a completely different way compared to cooler seasons. In the summertime, lots of food is served outdoors, packed for on-the-go adventures or served to family and friend groups. Think picnic-style foods and you’ve got the right idea. Healthy, no-fuss foods can be great options to keep on hand. To help you with your next outing, we are sharing some picnic food ideas for hot weather.

Food safety in the summer

Taking precautions to ensure food safety is especially important in the summer months. Unrefrigerated meats, creamy dips, salad dressings and other items are all potential trouble spots for food-borne illnesses when picnic items are left out in hot summer temperatures. Each year, about 48 million adults and children in the United States – about one in every 6 people – fall ill from food poisoning. Of these, about 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 cases are fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, it’s important to choose picnic foods wisely.

Getting food prep right

According to the CDC, there are four main steps to take when preparing food that you’ll have out on a summer picnic. They are:
Clean: Wash your hands frequently while preparing food. Wash all work surfaces before and during food prep.
Separate: Keep raw meats, eggs and seafood separate from all cooked foods. Use separate utensils and cutting boards for anything raw.
Cook: Use a food thermometer to make sure you are cooking things to a safe internal temperature, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Chicken should reach 165 degrees, ground beef should reach 160 degrees and other meats should be cooked to 145 degrees.
Chill: Cold foods need to be kept refrigerated until serving time, then they should be kept on ice if you’re going to serve them outside. All leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. If the temperature outside is 90 degrees or higher, you have a one-hour window to keep food outside.
Picnic food ideas. Summertime picnics are known for their casual vibe. Sometimes there’s a grill involved, and other times food is carried in coolers and beach bags. The key is to keep the food easy and to follow the food prep rules to cut the chances of harmful bacteria growth and the resulting foodborne illness. So grab your cooler, a bag of ice and let’s get packing with these favorites:
Fresh fruits: You can serve these on their own – think big bowls of fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries – or tumble them together for a fresh fruit medley. Want to get creative? Pull out some single-serve yogurts from the cooler and let people layer their own fruit parfait.
Make-your-own trail mix: Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, sesame sticks and little garlic crisps all pair well for a make-your-own trail mix that can be grabbed by the handful. Separate containers of almonds or cashews also round out a picnic and provide some great protein and healthy fats.
Wrap sandwiches: If you’re grilling meat at your picnic, you can lay strips of grilled chicken, steak or fish on a tortilla heaped with green, shredded cheese and salsa for a tasty wrap sandwich. Or, pre-cook the meat and assemble the sandwiches in advance. Keep them wrapped and refrigerated until it’s time to picnic.
Meatless charcuterie boards: Lay out an appetizing mix of crackers, pretzels, nuts, olives, sundried tomatoes, sliced apples and dried fruits. Or bring the ingredients and let people build their own on big paper plates.
Sliced veggies: Serve cut carrots, celery, sliced peppers, cucumbers, radishes and zucchini as a raw veggie array. Or you can slice them thin and mix them together with a vinaigrette dressing.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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