How to Safely Throw an Outdoor Barbecue During a Pandemic

Hosting a barbecue for friends and family is a bit different than you may be used to due to the pandemic. Food safety is certainly still a concern, especially in warmer weather, but now you also have to pay attention to social distancing and minimizing saliva contact between individuals.

COVID-19 isn’t a food-borne virus, which means it’s not transmitted through food. However, being too close to someone without a mask or sharing food can certainly pose a risk since the virus is transmitted through saliva. This means you can say goodbye to family-style serving, as well as dips that everyone sticks their fingers into — or double-dips their veggies and chips in. Here are COVID-19 guidelines to keep in mind when throwing a barbecue for family and friends.

[Read: COVID-19: How Safe Are You When Activities Reopen?]

The Guest List

So how many people should you invite? The reality is the fewer people the better. If you have a long guest list in mind, do check with your local state laws as to the maximum number of people allowable at a gathering. The state laws do change based on the virus, so check for updates.

The number will also depend on how large your yard is and how many people you can realistically keep at a 6-foot distance. You also want to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable.

There’s a lower risk of contracting the virus outdoors, so you want to keep your gathering outside. Keep an eye on the weather and have a rain date in mind.

Who shouldn’t you invite? Keep any high-risk individuals off your guest list. This includes:

— Anyone who is immunocompromised

— Anyone with a preexisting condition considered to be a risk factor for coronavirus, such as asthma.

— An older adult (over the age of 60).

— Someone is living with someone who is immunocompromised.

In addition, don’t forget to alert guests that if they don’t feel well, have a fever or have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus to stay home.

[READ: How to Lighten Memorial Day Foods.]

Before the Party

Set up chairs and small tables at least 6 feet apart from each other. Individual tables are best to minimize guests leaning over each other or sharing of any food. In order to minimize your contact with any saliva, opt for disposable dishes and utensils, and instruct guests to toss them in the garbage cans or bags you set up in advance.

Also, plan ahead if anyone needs to use the rest room. Tell guests to bring a mask if they would like to use the restroom — or to wear when not eating. Have extra disposable masks available in case they forget. Stock your rest room with disposable paper towels and liquid soap for guests to use.

Ask guests to bring sanitizers and ask the guests to apply when entering the gathering. The host should also provide hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes at a separate station or on tables so guests can sanitize their hands often.

[See: 7 Healthy Summer Dinner Ideas.]

Planning Your Menu

The Appetizers and Sides

Say goodbye (for now) to family-sized bowls of chips and dip. Instead, put together individual, pre-portioned boxes of chips and dip that guests can grab and eat on their own. The same goes for crudité and any appetizers.

You can even take orders, so you know what guests would like and how many boxes to make of each. Purchase individually packaged guac cups or smashed avocado like from Good Foods or Wholly Guacamole. You can also find individual hummus cups from Sabra.

Potato salad, pasta salad and other such items also shouldn’t be served family-style. The host can pre-portion everything out into small disposable cups and space them out on the table for people to grab one at a time.

Barbecue Fare

If you’re barbecuing, you can place the goodies on a main tray spacing the food out so items don’t touch. You can also designate one host to hand out the food, and they should wear a mask and gloves.


Opt for single-serve bottles or cans of water, juice, beer and other beverages. You can fill a cooler with ice and place the beverages there to stay cold or keep them in the refrigerator with the host designated to grab drinks for each person.


Individual desserts like packaged frozen pops or ice cream cups can help minimize any cross contact among guests. You can also bake cookies and pre-package them into small baggies for guests to take.

Bottom Line

COVID-19 is still a risk throughout the country, and even a small barbecue can spread the virus. It’s important to stay vigilant and take precautions to prevent the spread.

More from U.S. News

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10 (Mostly) Natural Ways to Evade Mosquitoes

How to Safely Throw an Outdoor Barbecue During a Pandemic originally appeared on

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