Everything You Need to Host Outdoor Dinners, According to Ina Garten

Here's how to do outdoor dining safely.
By Kennedy Vogel
October 30, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Ina Garten has gifted us with nuggets of wisdom for hosting and entertaining over the years. Even in the middle of a pandemic, she delivers. The idea of safely hosting friends and family members for the holidays may sound like a daunting task (as if hosting without a pandemic wasn’t enough to worry about), but Garten took to Instagram to share her tips for safe, socially distanced gatherings outside. 

Credit: Amazon

Garten recommends inviting just one household at a time; however, if you’re hosting multiple households simultaneously, seat immediate families together but distanced from other families. Using a long table or multiple small tables can help maintain a safe six-foot distance. Garten also advises maintaining an intimate environment despite the spacing with candles and other cozy accents. “I set up outdoor heaters or build a nice fire, plus cushions and blankets for each person so we’re nice and warm under the stars,” she said. If you’re at a loss for menu ideas, she has a book (or 12) for that. Her latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, is just the pick-me-up needed to feel inspired in the kitchen again after a long quarantine. 

Adapting your Thanksgiving celebration and other holiday gatherings according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations is doable, especially if you can host outdoors. Based on Ina Garten’s expert advice, we found the best products to help you and your family comfortably enjoy socially distant gatherings outside this season.

Note: Expert recommendations are evolving daily so please refer to the CDC for guidance on the current best practices for keeping your loved ones healthy and preventing the spread of the virus.

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

There’s no better way to enjoy chilly outdoor gatherings than snuggled in a warm blanket. This electric blanket has 10 heat settings so guests can customize their blanket from 66 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if you don’t have access to an outdoor outlet, you can still enjoy its warm and soft flannel material without the added heat. Between gatherings, be sure to wash each blanket in the washing machine so every guest always has a fresh and clean blanket to cuddle up with.  

To buy: $46; amazon.com

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Just because temperatures are starting to dip doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy the patio all season long. With a patio heater, you can re-create the outdoor dining experience of restaurants while staying at home. This stainless steel propane heater not only looks good, but it will provide toasty warmth up to 200 square feet. The powerful heat output will keep dinner guests comfortable even when the sun goes down. 

To buy: $250; amazon.com

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Set the scene for a cozy and inviting dinner with the warm glow of candlelight—sans candles. These multi-use lanterns can be hung, staked into the ground, or placed on the table for ambient lighting throughout the evening. Even better, the lanterns are solar-powered and waterproof so you don’t have to worry about taking them inside once guests leave.  

To buy: $50; amazon.com

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

The key to minimizing the spread of germs is by limiting touch points, especially when serving food. With these small ceramic dishes, everyone can enjoy their own personal Cornish hen or single-serving of potatoes without passing around large serving bowls family style. The matching set can make meals feel a little more special and dress up the dinner table—even when you’re not hosting a socially distanced event.  

To buy: $45; amazon.com

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

It isn’t the holidays without dessert, and these mini pie pans are the perfect way to cut back on passing dishes from person to person. With personal pies, everyone can enjoy their own personal dessert just the way they like it. Plus, you can make multiple kinds of pie from decadent French silk to warming apple pie. The nonstick, five-inch pie tins come in a set of four and are easy to clean in the dishwasher post-feast. Tip for families with pie lovers: You may want to make a few extras so there are no wandering eyes looking for leftovers.  

To buy: $14; amazon.com