My 14 Favorite Outdoor Entertaining Essentials

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One of my favorite things about summer is having backyard cookouts with my friends and family. There’s nothing better than firing up my kamado grill and cooking my latest grilling recipes like Filipino BBQ Pork Skewers, but hosting outdoors comes with some challenges—insects, hot weather, and keeping everyone entertained, just to name a few. That’s why I always have my favorite outdoor entertaining essentials on hand to make sure events go off without a hitch.

Credit: Pottery Barn

If you’re planning an outdoor party, there are several key items I recommend having, including outdoor dinnerware and glassware that won’t break, food domes to keep bugs off your food, a cooler to store drinks, and activities to keep everyone entertained. Don’t forget that great patio seating to gather around! To help you prepare for your next summer bash, I’ve put together a list of my go-to outdoor entertaining essentials that will make the day go smoothly and ensure everyone has a great time. 

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My Top Picks

  1. Best Serving Tray: Reluctant Entertainer Big Board – $199 at House of Hyacinth
  2. Best Outdoor Dinnerware: Kaloh Outdoor Dinnerware Collection – From $27.20 at West Elm
  3. Best Outdoor Glassware: Happy Hour Acrylic Drinkware Collection – From $8 at Pottery Barn
  4. Best Serving Bowl: Cabana Outdoor Melamine Oval Serving Bowl – $29 at Pottery Barn
  5. Best Cooler: Permasteel Rolling Patio Cooler – $199.99 at Amazon

My Favorite Outdoor Entertaining Essentials

1. Best Serving Tray: Reluctant Entertainer Big Board

Outdoor Entertaining Essentials: House of Hyacinth wood board
Credit: House of Hyacinth

If you’re planning to prepare food inside and then bring it out to eat, you’re going to need a sturdy serving tray, and my go-to is the Reluctant Entertainer Big Board. I frequently use it as a veggie tray, but you could use the wooden board to serve a charcuterie platter, fruit salad, or other cookout cuisine. I love that the board has a raised lip around the edge to keep food contained, and its two recessed handles make it easy to carry from the kitchen to your patio for serving. 

2. Best Outdoor Dinnerware: Kaloh Outdoor Dinnerware Collection

Kaloh plates
Credit: West Elm

When I’m hosting outside, I prefer to use plates made from plastic or melamine, which won’t break if they’re dropped. This dinnerware collection is specifically designed for outdoor use, and I love that it’s stylish and modern yet still lightweight and durable. It includes a variety of different pieces, including dinner and salad plates, as well as pasta and cereal bowls, and there are four color options to choose from. Plus, the plates are dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup after everyone heads home. 

3. Best Outdoor Glassware: Jupiter Beaded Drinking Glasses

Cute glassware is another must-have for outdoor entertaining, and this collection of beaded glasses includes cup styles for all your favorite beverages, from soda and wine to fancy cocktails and mocktails—my Boozy Watermelon Lime Granita is a cool and refreshing option for warm summer nights! The glasses, which come in clear or blue colors, are made from lead- and latex-free glass that looks super stylish and refreshing.

4. Best Serving Bowl: Cabana Outdoor Melamine Oval Serving Bowl

Credit: Pottery Barn

This large serving bowl is perfect for serving up my delicious Mediterranean Quinoa Salad to a crowd. The oval is easier to fit around plates and other serving dishing on a crowded patio table, and it can hole up to  3.25 quarts of food. I also love that it looks like ceramic, but it’s actually made of melamine, so it’s a bit more durable if it were to be dropped or scratched. It comes in three color options, too!

5. Best Cooler: Permasteel Rolling Patio Cooler

Rolling outdoor cooler
Credit: Amazon

A cooler is essential for your outdoor entertaining space, and this one is particularly stylish and convenient to use thanks to its rolling stand. The retro design is made from sturdy metal and comes in a variety of pretty colors, and its 80-quart capacity can hold enough drinks to keep your crowd hydrated on hot days. The split lid makes it easy to access the interior, and there’s even a built-in bottle opener with a cap catcher on the side, so no one has to go searching for one mid-party.

7. Best Food Domes: Hearth & Hand Food Dome

Food dome
Credit: Target

If you’re going to be serving food outside, it’s a good idea to have food domes to cover your dishes and keep insects off them. Inexpensive fabric domes are often a bit flimsy and can blow around on a breezy day, which is why I prefer these metal domes instead. They’re just under 16 inches in diameter, giving you enough room to cover most plates and serving trays, and they have a sturdy wooden knob on top that makes them easy to lift. 

8. Best Stand: Galvanized Metal Three Tiered Stand

Credit: Pottery Barn

If you’re short of serving space, this tiered metal stand is a stylish way to display different snacks, drinks, and fruits. It has a rugged look and is made of iron with a galvanized finish, making it a durable option to leave out overnight. You can also get matching pieces from Pottery Barn for a full set!

9. Best Pizza Oven: Ooni Koda 12

Ooni Koda pizza oven
Credit: Ooni

Pizza nights are always a fun activity for all ages, and you can elevate your homemade pies with an Ooni pizza oven. This particular model runs on propane, making it quick and easy to fire up, and it can fit pizzas up to 12 inches in diameter. The interior reaches temperatures up to 950 degrees F to cook pizzas in as little as 60 seconds! It does take a little bit of practice to get the hang of launching pizzas into the oven, but it’s a fun learning process, and the whole family will enjoy being able to create custom pies right in your backyard. 

10. Best Fire Pit: Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0
Credit: Solo Stove

For nighttime parties, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. The wood-burning fire pit is just the right size for three or four people to sit around, and its unique design minimizes smoke, so you don’t have to worry about it being blown in your face. It’s ideal for roasting marshmallows or just relaxing at the end of the day, and the stove has a handy ashtray in the bottom that makes it easy to clean out after use. 

11. Best Utensil Caddy: Mind Reader Utensil Holder

utensil caddy
Credit: Amazon

You can keep utensils and napkins organized during your gathering with this handy utensil holder. The mesh design is divided into four compartments, including three smaller ones for forks, knives, and spoons, as well as a large section where you can put napkins or condiments. The caddy has a handle that makes it easy to carry in and out of the house, and you can simply clean it with soap and water after use. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors, so you can match it to your patio decor.  

12. Best Drink Dispenser: Optima Chill Cell Beverage Dispenser

Beverage dispenser
Credit: Frontgate

You can make sure big batches of drinks—like Freshly Brewed Iced Tea—stay cold throughout the party with this handy beverage dispenser. It has an ice chamber inside the reservoir to keep drinks at the perfect temperature without watering them down, and it’s available in three sizes, depending on how many people you’re serving. The dispenser has a matching stand to keep it elevated off the table, and its spigot makes it easy for your guests to top off their drinks. 

13. Best Bluetooth Speaker: Anker Soundcore 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Anker speaker
Credit: Amazon

Every party needs some background music, and this budget-friendly Bluetooth speaker is the perfect way to play some tunes outside. The design is waterproof and easy to connect to with your phone, allowing you to play music from up to 66 feet away. The speaker’s battery also lasts for up to 24 hours on a single charge, so you don’t have to worry about it running out of power mid-party. 

14. Best Insect Repellent: ​​Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Candle

Mosquito repellant candle
Credit: Amazon

Nothing puts a damper on an outdoor party quite as quickly as mosquitoes, so I always like to keep a few citronella candles on hand to keep pesky insects at bay. These mosquito-repelling candles use a mix of rosemary, peppermint, and lemongrass oils to create a bug-free zone in your yard, and they come in a pack of two, so you can set them up around the party area. Plus, despite their small size, each candle burns for around 30 hours, so you can use them all summer long. 

15. Best Prep Trays: Williams Sonoma Grill Prep Trays

Grill prep trays
Credit: Williams Sonoma

Alongside your favorite grill tools, these grill prep trays make it easy to carry food from the kitchen to the grill and back. They’re made from a lightweight BPA-free melamine that won’t absorb odors or break if dropped, and the trays come in three sizes to accommodate any type of food. They have deep sides to keep raw food and marinade liquids from dripping on the floor, and the trays are also color coded to help avoid food contamination as you prep for your party. 

16. Best Seafood Serving Tray: DEAYOU Ice Serving Tray

Credit: Amazon

Serving seafood dishes like Shrimp Ceviche can be tricky in the summer heat—you don’t want anything to spoil. This nifty serving tray allows you to chill the seafood with ice below the tray, so you don’t end up with soaked shrimp cocktail when the ice melts. The bottom also doubles as a lid, so you can use it to transport crudite or a cheese platter to a potluck.

17. Best Lawn Game: GoSports Classic Cornhole Set

Credit: Amazon

No outdoor party is complete without a fun lawn game, and cornhole is an easy-to-learn option that’s a blast for all ages. This option from GoSports comes with 8 beanbags and a traveling case, so you can bring it to your friend’s backyard or a park. Plus, there are several designs to choose from to fit your party planning aesthetic.

About Me

Peruvian Grilled Chicken Skewers
Credit: Skinnytaste

Hi! I’m Gina, the author and recipe developer behind Skinnytaste, where I share my favorite lightened up recipes made with whole, fresh ingredients. I love cooking outdoors for family and friends during the summer, and through lots of trial and error over the years, I’ve figured out what works—and what doesn’t—when entertaining outdoors. 

In addition to products that I’ve personally used and love, this list includes top-rated outdoor entertaining essentials from some of my favorite brands. I looked for options that are highly functional and easy to clean, and I read through dozens of user reviews to help find the best options for your next backyard bash. 

The Best Recipes for Serving Outdoors

grilled vegetables
Credit: Skinnytaste

When hosting outdoors, I like to fire up the grill and cook some of my favorite recipes. You can stick with classics like hamburgers and hot dogs or get creative with easy dishes like Grilled Shrimp or Turkey Burgers with Zucchini. I also love cooking seasonal summer produce on the grill—you’ll be impressed by how much flavor is in Grilled Zucchini and Grilled Corn On The Cob. Here are some other recipes to try out for your next summertime party:

Prices were accurate at time of publication. 


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