The Underrated Tool I Swear by for Keeping Cookouts Pest-Free (Without Chemicals!)

published Jun 25, 2023
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Outdoor food spread topped with food covers.
Credit: Stephanie Ganz

Outdoor entertaining is one of my truest joys. I love filling my backyard with friends and family and firing up the grill while the kids run through the sprinklers. But what I don’t love is all the little critters and creepy crawlies who find their way to my curated tablescape. I’m talking all kinds of bugs — flies, ants, gnats, mosquitoes, and other buzzing pests — they all want in on the al fresco dining, and it’s my job to keep them out. Luckily, a friend gave me something that keeps my platters pest-free and looks beautiful while doing it: pop-up food covers!

Knowing how much I love to host cookouts and potlucks, my buddy Elliott gave me a darling white lace vintage food cover. I never would have thought to buy one for myself, but it turned out to be the perfect gift. 

Credit: Stephanie Ganz

The simple contraption uses a simple pull-tab to pop open, transforming from an umbrella shape to a tent that rests over a dish of food, keeping the bugs away. As soon as I tried it out, popping it on top of a platter of watermelon salad, I knew I would need about a dozen more for all my outdoor entertaining pursuits, so I turned to eBay and Etsy. The vintage food covers I found there (and at local antique shops) come in all shapes and sizes, some of which include charming embroidered details or unique structural elements. (I even found one that looks like a woman’s dress 😂.)

Once I realized how helpful these food covers are, I started picking up modern versions from places like Target (this metal one doesn’t collapse, but it’s nice and sturdy, which is always appreciated) and Amazon. The newer models are usually pretty affordable, running anywhere from $1.99 to $24.99. Most of the covers, including these and these, also fold up for easy storage (bonus!). 

Food covers have become my go-to for picnics or other outdoor occasions, and, yes, I have been known to bring them to 4th of July parties where I’m always asked, “Where did you get that?” by soon-to-be converts.