Which outdoor dining essentials are best?
Moving your meal from the dining room or in front of the TV to your yard can make it feel like a special event. But you need the right outdoor dining essentials, whether you’re enjoying a simple dinner with other members of your household or a feast with a large group of friends and family.
If you don’t already have one, you’ll need a dining set to sit at, plus you might want to buy tableware and linen that’s better suited to outside use. The right pieces undoubtedly improve your outdoor dining game.
What do you need for outdoor dining?
Dining table set
If you’re serious about dining alfresco, you’ll need a decent patio dining set. You can find everything from compact tables that seat two to enormous versions with space for 12 or more. A seating capacity of six to eight is about right for most households. However, if you sometimes like to host large gatherings, consider buying a table with an extendable leaf.
Plates, bowls, glasses, servingware and flatware are all needed for outdoor dining. You may be happy to repurpose the same pieces you use indoors, but some people prefer to use sturdier offerings outdoors.
The right table linen transforms your dining area and makes it more practical. Table runners are less formal tablecloths for outdoor dining, although you don’t need a runner or a cloth unless you want one. Cloth napkins are a more eco-friendly alternative to paper napkins and make meals feel like more of an event, while placemats protect tables from heat and spills.
Lighting and decoration
Outdoor lighting is essential if you plan to eat outdoors after dark or keep the fun going well into the evening. You don’t have to hardwire outdoor lights or spend a huge sum on lighting. There are plenty of solar-powered and battery-operated options. You might also buy decorative items for your table, but they aren’t essential.
Outdoor dining tips
- Extend outdoor dining season: A gazebo and an outdoor heater or firepit let you comfortably use your outdoor dining space well into winter.
- Decorate with plants: Whether it’s a vine-covered pergola or just a few containers dotted around, plants brighten up an outdoor dining area.
- Cook outdoors: If you want to cook in your yard, as well, invest in a decent grill or an outdoor pizza oven.
- Think about shade: Shade sails, gazebos or large umbrellas can provide shade on sunny days. This lets you get more use from your outdoor dining spot without overheating or getting a sunburn.
Best outdoor dining sets
Seating eight, this long rectangular table is perfect for large households or entertaining and comes with chairs and cushions. The chairs and frame of the table are wicker-covered, while the tabletop is glass for easy cleaning. Sold by Wayfair
With four chairs and a bench, this table comfortably fits six or can fit seven at a push if you squeeze an extra person on the bench. Made from solid wood, it looks great and feels sturdy. Sold by Wayfair
This compact four-person set is ideal if you have a small outdoor space or don’t need to seat many people. The PE rattan finish is weather-resistant, as are the comfortable seat cushions. Sold by Amazon
Best tableware for outdoor dining
This dinnerware looks like stoneware with an attractive rustic glaze, but it’s really made from melamine, so it’s virtually unbreakable and great for the rigors of outdoor dining. The set contains four bowls, four dinner plates and four salad plates. Sold by Amazon
You’re bound to impress your guests with this gorgeous solid acacia wood salad bowl and matching salad servers. Not only does it look great, but it’s a practical and durable choice for alfresco dining. Sold by Amazon
While they’re designed to hold wine, these glasses are also great for cocktails, liquor over ice and soft drinks. Thanks to their versatility, they’re the only glasses you’ll need for outdoor dining, no matter what your guests drink. Sold by Amazon
These carafes are perfect for serving water or wine at the table, making it easier for guests to help themselves. They come in a set of three, each with a lid that keeps bugs and debris from getting inside. Sold by Amazon
Best table linens for outdoor dining
Table runners dress up your table while still keeping the mood relaxed overall. This one is water-resistant and heat-resistant, so you can easily serve food in pots or pans still hot from the oven without damaging your table. Sold by Amazon
The rustic look of these placemats lends itself well to outdoor dining, protecting your table without looking formal or stuffy. They’re machine washable, so they’re easy to keep clean between uses. Sold by Amazon
These napkins are naturally rumpled, which leans into the casual feel you want from outdoor meals. You can choose from 12 colors, including rustic taupe, soft teal blue, sunset pink and plum burgundy. Sold by Amazon
Best lighting for outdoor dining
You can hang these string lights to bring a touch of magic to any outdoor dining space. There are 25 lights on a string, but you can link up to three strands together for extra length and brightness. Sold by Amazon
These mason jar lights are perfect for setting on your table, providing light and decoration. They’re battery-operated and come with LED bulbs with 10,000-hour lifespans. Sold by Amazon
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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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