Warm weather picnic ideas
June 2, 2012 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Looking for picnic food that doesn't require refridgeration

A group of us are going on a hike, and the temperature is expected to get into the high 70s/low 80s F. We want to have a really nice picnic lunch, but we don't want to haul along a cooler. Bread, cookies, cake, fruit, and vegetables are on our list, but we need some main course ideas that don't contain ingredients that might spoil (so mayonnaise-containing foods are out). The food will be in our bags for about 3 hours before we find the perfect spot settle on a place to eat.
posted by AMyNameIs to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
What about frozen quiche that will defrost on the way?
posted by misspony at 5:56 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Three hours is really not that long, even in the low 80s! If I were you I would bring whatever you think you would want, and if you're really concerned pre-freeze some of it (or even just freeze half your water, since the food might take longer than three hours to thaw).

What else are you thinking? "Foods that will not go bad in three hours" is a pretty big category, and bread, cookies, cake, fruit, and vegetables already sounds like a very nice lunch to me, though a little light on protein - so maybe some cold chicken (or meat of your choice), cheese, yogurt, a pasta/potato/grain salad (made with vinaigrette dressing if you're concerned about mayonnaise), or a some kind of legume salad (three-bean? lentil?)?
posted by mskyle at 6:20 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my experience, three hours (or even all day) is not nearly long enough to make your foods go bad. Health department types are always going to err on the side of caution because they don't want to be blamed for the one in a million who dies of a warmish sandwich, but in real life millions and millions of people have always been making all sorts of perishable food every morning and leaving it unrefrigerated until they eat it at lunch.
posted by pracowity at 6:23 AM on June 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

Some lunch meat needs no refrigeration. Dry salami goes especially well with pears, Pecorino cheese and a french baguette. Cookies for dessert and a nice red wine.
posted by francesca too at 6:28 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would go with cold chicken, and you can keep it cold by freezing some of your water and carrying it along with the food, and then you'll have cold water on the hike back.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:56 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

For extra protein you could have baked falafel or canned tuna. Or you could make sandwiches of good, wholewheat multigrain bread spread with hummus, with grilled peppers and salad. Alternatively you could bring pita to stuff with hummus and salad.
posted by essexjan at 7:15 AM on June 2, 2012

By the way, there is nothing special about mayonnaise to make it particularly dangerous, but if you can't look at room-temperature mayonnaise without hearing old wives nattering in your head, you can take along a small unopened jar of mayonnaise and open it fresh on the spot. An unopened jar of mayonnaise will keep for weeks, months, maybe years. Open it, spread it on stuff, mix it with stuff, and eat it right then and there. You can of course also do this with other jarred or canned items: get the small sizes, use them up during the picnic, and dispose of the containers instead of taking them home.
posted by pracowity at 7:15 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pack a ploughman's lunch. Crusty baguette, several types of cheese, olives, pickled okra/gherkins/peppers and fresh fruit. The cheese might get a little sweaty but it won't spoil.
posted by workerant at 7:20 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Green papaya salad with beef jerky? Or just beef jerky?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:22 AM on June 2, 2012

Best answer: Mark Bittman to the rescue. Not every dish here is non-refrigerated, but many are.

Seconding cold cooked chicken, grilled or fried, whatever you prefer. It's very, very satisfying and protein-packed, and remains just fine for a few hours in a backpack. I've taken it on many picnics over the years and had not a single problem. I like DoubleLune's suggestion of packing it next to a frozen water bottle that will be your afternoon drinking water.
posted by Miko at 7:31 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cold fried rice works surprisingly well, turns into a sort of rice salad. Don't put meat or seafood in, but small cubes of tofu, any veg you like, plenty of green onions and sesame oil for flavour – after cooking it, cool it down and put it in a container. Seen me through many lunches.
posted by zadcat at 8:06 AM on June 2, 2012

What I was taught in my food safety class, before working at a restaurant, was that the danger zone was perishable foods held at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees fahrenheit for more than 4 hours. At 4 hours foods could be reheated to above 140, once, and then re-served for another 4 hours.

That was the legal, bureaucratic, erring-on-the-side-of-food-safety rule. I'm personally of the belief that you can go a while longer but maybe you're not so I'm not going to encourage you to do anything you're not comfortable with. But if you start at fridge temperatures, even the health inspector at my restaurant would be fine with your food after three hours.

Take whatever you want to eat.
posted by gauche at 9:59 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My favorite picnic lunch usually involves cheese, proscuitto, salami, baguettes and some nice mustard. I'm partial to tarragon mustard and it works great as a replacement for mayonnaise. Nice mix of zing from the mustard, some sweetness of the tarragon and the hearty spice of the meats.

But for a 3 hour walk on an 80F day? Really, just about anything will stay perfectly acceptable for safe consumption. If anything make sure to get it plenty cold in the fridge over the night before and pack it with a freeze pack or two.
posted by wkearney99 at 2:12 PM on June 2, 2012

In the vein of jerky, there is also Pemmican.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:45 PM on June 2, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I always thought that mayonaise plus a few hours outdoors equaled trip to the ER. It'll probably take me more than a couple of days to retrain myself, though, so I am going to add cheese, olives, and pickles to the basic list and bring along lots of grilled chicken, packed with the cooled drinks.
posted by AMyNameIs at 1:25 PM on June 3, 2012

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