9 Secrets for Keeping Cold Food Fresh All Day Long

Keeping your potluck salads, sides and fresh vegetables cold during a picnic can be tricky. Here's how to keep even the most difficult foods chilled all day long.

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Family celebration or a garden party outside in the backyard.; Shutterstock ID 1109850203; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home

There’s nothing more refreshing than a cold dish on a hot day. But when it’s 80° in your backyard, the heat might threaten to wilt your outdoor buffet. Fortunately, we’ve got a couple ideas to help you keep food cold all day long!

Prep that gorgeous fruit salad or a cold sandwich spread, and use the following tricks to help everything maintain its freshness.

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Put Dishes on Ice

Set your serving plates and bowls on a bed of ice. For bowls, you can add a couple cubes to a larger bowl and place your smaller serving bowl inside. For plates and platters, add ice to a clean plastic or metal tub and place your dish on top. This will keep everything super cold, and won’t take up too much additional space on your table.

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Chill Plates and Bowls in Advance

Once you get cooking and have a little extra room in your freezer or refrigerator, toss your serving plates and bowls inside to keep them cool while you prep. As you finish up your legendary fruit salads, cold vegetable dips and more, pop them into the pre-chilled serving dishes.

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Family celebration or a garden party outside in the backyard.; Shutterstock ID 1054764974; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home

Put Leftovers Away

If you’ve noticed that your guests have moved from your cold apps onto sandwiches and other finger foods, put the apps away. This will make sure nothing goes to waste because it’s sitting out longer than it needs to be.

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Picnic with Brats, Watermelon, and Ice Water in a Red Cooler in the Shade; Shutterstock ID 411394444
Shutterstock / Sam Wagner

Keep Food in the Shade

It might seem obvious, but you need to shield your food from the sun. Even if this means setting up a second table under an umbrella or a tree’s leafy branches, it will make a huge difference once your food gets set out. (Especially if you’ve gone through the trouble of making an ice cream dessert, the last thing you want is soup instead!)

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Group Of Friends Having Outdoor Barbeque At Home; Shutterstock ID 165811274; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of Home
Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

Don’t Put Everything Out At Once

Instead of putting all your food on the table at once, bring dishes out in order of when they’ll be eaten. Start with chips and dip or a charcuterie board, and bring out your salad and entrees later. This will make sure everything is still fresh when guests are ready to eat.

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Shutterstock/ travellight

Serve Out of Smaller Bowls

Instead of making one big bowl of potato salad, dish up two or three smaller bowls. Put one on your buffet table, store the backups in the fridge and bring them out throughout the picnic as needed. This makes sense especially if you’re feeding a big crowd or hosting an open-house style event, where people are showing up throughout the day.

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how to keep food cold outside Four Women In A Kitchen Preparing Lunch.
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Serve from the Kitchen

Keep the plates and bowls your guests will be using cool, and serve up the food immediately out of the fridge. Having your food station in the kitchen will this eliminate moving everything to and from the fridge, and guests can grab a spot to eat outdoors.

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Inflatable Bar how to keep food cold outside
via amazon.com

Use an Inflatable Buffet

If you’ll be entertaining all summer long, you may want to snag an inflatable buffet or two that you can fill with ice and set up outside. When the ice melts, use it to water your lawn or flowers, or even fill up a thirsty pet’s water bowl.

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Keep Food Covered

Covering food with a clean dish towel or aluminum foil between passing it around will not only prevent bugs from getting in, it will keep the cold from escaping and prevent the sunlight from hitting your food as directly.

Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.