How to Keep Food Warm for a Picnic: 7 Proven Ways

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Going out on a breezy day with your friends or family to spend quality time is a great way to relax and bond with the people you love. Picnics make such an experience even more memorable as you get to be in close proximity and share a variety of meals.

Since most people enjoy having picnics away from their home, it is essential to know the right ways to keep certain foods warm long after their preparation.

However, no one wants a cold and chunky lasagna for lunch. Having it warm enhances the harmonious blend of flavor and texture of every delicious layer.

There’s no need to settle for only food that tastes good cold. After reading this article, you can expand your next picnic menu to include a variety of meals that taste amazingly warm.

Quick Picks

Rachael Ray Lasagna Carrier

To keep your casseroles warm on the go

Vesture Heat Packs

Hot packs to place them around your food

Insulated Food Jar

Best for keeping soups & liquids hot

How to keep food warm outside

1. Use a Slow-Cooker to transport the food

First, reheat the food right before the picnic.

Ensuring your food is heated just before leaving for your picnic is the first step to keeping its temperature high for longer.

If your food is saucy like stew, sauces, pasta carbonara, meatballs, etc., the easiest way to heat it is by using a slow cooker to heat it.

You can also use your own oven to reheat the food. Just put your food inside the oven, set it at a moderately low temperature and leave it on for 10-15 minutes before you leave. Then pack it using an insulated carrier.

Our favorite combination…

Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker

Use it to reheat food

Insulated Slow Cooker Bag

Keep it warm on the go

How to heat your food using a slow-cooker:

  1. Put your food in the slow-cooker.
  2. Turn the knob on the lowest temperature, or turn it to face the “Keep Warm” setting.
  3. Allow it to cook like this for 5-10 minutes (depending on the quantity) until warm.
  4. Turn it off and disconnect it from the electrical source.
  5. Pack the heated meal into suitable storage (use a instant pot carrier or any insulated bag from below)

2. Invest in Insulated Carriers

Having special storages and carriages that are uniquely designed to keep all the heat in is a recommended way to keep food warm without electricity.

You should know that such accessories don’t generate any heat of their own, but they specialize in conserving heat and preventing its escape. This way, your food stays hot in relation to its temperature when stored.

Here is are our top picks for insulation accessories that will keep your picnic foods hot for more extended periods:

Insulated Picnic Baskets

insulated cooler bag for transportation
Photo: Picnic Time

When packing for the picnic, a good place to start investing in an insulated picnic basket as opposed to the woven aerated picnic baskets. 

Just pack all your picnic food inside it and throw it in the truck of your car.

Our favorite insulated basket…

Picnic Time Malibu

Key Features

Insulated with Service for Two
includes cutting board, cutlery, plates, and glasses
room for 2 bottles
keeps food warm for hours

Insulated Casserole Carriers

casserolle carrier to keep food warm without electricity
Photo: Picnic Time

We love these two leveled casserole carriers, they’re insulated and perfect to transport hot dishes to your destination. 

They’re multi-functional and are perfect to use on various occasions: transporting food to parties, bring warm food from restaurants or transporting your dishes to dinners with friends.

Our favorite potluck casserole tote…

ONIVA Potluck Casserole Carrier

Key Features

Insulated with Two Compartments
keeps food warm / cold for hours
transport warm casseroles up to 300 degrees F

3. Insulated Thermos Containers

A thermos container is usually made of stainless steel on the outside and plastic on the inside. 

The stainless steel reflects away the rays of the light, so it doesn’t reach the food, while the plastic prevents the heat from escaping.

4. Grab the Nearest Cooler

Don’t let the name fool you.

These super containers keep food at high temperatures for long periods. The thick layers of insulation trap heat transfer. No matter how old-fashioned you think it is, the truth remains that it still gets the job done and is very easy to use.

How to use:

To use a cooler, first, we need to increase the temperature of the cooler.

  • Place heat packs, hot water bottles, or towels soaked in warm water at the bottom of the cooler.
  • After that, you can now place your food inside the cooler.
  • For best results wrap the food in aluminum foil.

Don’t pour boiling water inside your cooler.
To protect the cooler and prevent it from melting, make sure you don’t put boiling water inside the cooler. Use warm water and place towels at the bottom to make sure your cooler doesn’t damage.

The best selling cooler…

YETI Tundra 45

Buy on Amazon

Indestructible Design

  • thick insulation
  • highly durable
  • available in 9 colors

5. Invest in Heat Packs

Heat packs, when used properly, can keep your food and sandwiches warm for hours, although for longer hours, you might combine them with another technique.

How to Use:

  1. Place the food inside your picnic basket or box
  2. Then line the sides with heat packs.

Ideally, you can place the heat packs on the top of the food container, on the sides, and at the bottom.

If possible, you can place newspapers or napkins on the bottom of the picnic basket before placing the food container there to prevent heat loss.

You can also use warm towels to do this in place of heat packs or pads.

6. DIY Temperature Conservation

diy solution to keep food warm outside

If, for any reason (financial or convenience), you can’t purchase equipment to keep your food warm, don’t fret.

We’ve got you covered with an easy DIY method that works just fine.

The Towels Method:

  1. Wrap your food into a foil paper or pack in a suitable size plastic container
  2. Layout blankets or towels on a flat surface
  3. Place food in foil or container in the middle of the laid towel
  4. Fold the blanket/ towels in over the package
  5. Wrap all around and repeat the process with as many layers as possible

Having your food well-cushioned in all those layers will ensure heat is preserved and your food is kept warm for a more extended period of time.

7. Keep Lid Tight at All Times

This is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to keeping anything at a constant temperature. Ensure you stop its interaction with the external environment. This way, the heat of your food doesn’t dissipate.

Plan how you intend to distribute the food. This way, you can avoid opening the insulated containers too often.

Also, when opening each container, take the appropriate portion out as quickly as possible and shut the lid very tightly. Frequently checking if the lid is tightly fixed is a great way to avoid accidentally leaving it open.

Other tips to keep in mind

Fuller Storage, Hotter Food


The more food you have in a container, the longer the temperature will be retained. This doesn’t mean you should make food in excess but instead simply get containers that are the appropriate size for your dish size.

Use A Thermometer to Clear All Doubts

To confirm that your food temperature is 140 ℉ (60 ℃) or above, simply use a thermometer. This way, you can be confident that the food you serve at your picnic passes the appropriate level for safety.

Why should you keep your food warm?

Whether you are planning a picnic in summer or winter, on your favorite beach or by a lake, having great food is one tradition that most people enjoy. You may be wondering why it is essential to keep certain foods warm.

Here are a few important reasons:

It is healthier: Bacteria multiply rapidly at certain temperatures, and that’s why FDA recommends that foods should be maintained at a temperature of 140 ℉ (60 ℃) and above.

It is tastier: Although there are some foods that don’t need to be warm, like sandwiches; We have found that most people enjoy meals like soups, lasagna, and pizza when warm. That way, the crunchy and the gooey cheesy parts taste remarkably better. This applies to crispy chicken, BBQ wings, and various pies. Something about the hot temperature enhances our taste buds.

Easier to bite on: The warmer a meal is, the more tender its constituents are. Having foods that are easier to chew on will increase the ease at which kids and the elderly eat. Even those who don’t have any problems munching on a cold, chewy pizza, a warm, delicate melty cheesy one, require less stress to eat.

Preserves food longer: The warmer your food is, the longer it’ll last before going bad. This way, any leftovers will be in excellent condition to be stored in a refrigerator for a later time.


Sharing a steaming meal, intimate conversations, and heartwarming laughter with loved ones at a picnic will always be a memorable experience.

There is no better way to enhance this occasion than with a variety of delicious meals that taste like they are fresh out of the cooker.

With the tips provided in this article, you now know various proven ways to keep your picnic meals steamy and tasty during your next picnic.

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