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Pizza ovens, BBQs and garden kitchens: a guide to outdoor cooking

by Ace Damon

For unknown reasons, food is better outdoors; so if you’re planning a stay, why not add another DIY project to the list in the form of a permanent outdoor kitchen? The design can be as smooth or rudimentary as the budget and skills require.

First, identify your heat source. If you want to cook on fire, consider building an open barbecue (you will need to ensure a safe distance from your shed and any wooden enclosures). Ikea sells a charcoal grill built into a solid acacia frame on wheels for easy maneuvering (£ 189, ikea.com). The hooded grill is surrounded by a narrow stainless steel trim that almost fits a can of something cool on it. You can expand your work surface area by purchasing an additional modular cart or cabinet that fits perfectly next to the grill (from R $ 1,200, including the grill).

For those who have spent the past five months figuring out how to keep yeast intake alive, you are probably more inclined to invest in a portable Ooni pizza oven (£ 229, uk.ooni.com), which works with wooden pellets, warms up in 15 minutes and roasts your yeast crust perfectly in 60 seconds.

Action slice: an Ooni table pizza oven

In its simplest form, an outdoor kitchen can be a fixed counter with storage above and below. The structure can be made of recovered wood (the base of an old workbench, for example) or exposed bricks. White painted breeze blocks also look clean and can be softened with potted herbs and wooden accessories.

If you have a balcony or a smaller outdoor space, there are also options for micro-kitchens. Heston Blumenthal’s Everdure (£ 134.10, bbqworld.co.uk) is a portable charcoal grill that can be placed directly on the surface of your kitchen – like a folding aluminum balcony table (£ 142.99, wayfair.co.uk) that clings smartly to the grills and includes a built-in shelf.

If you have space, an outdoor island will provide a place for people to perch while helping with food preparation. Ideally, it will be manufactured from the same material as its linear configuration and may include a ledge for a pair of bar stools. The outdoor kitchen is often confused; therefore, choose a resistant and non-porous material for your work surface. Reclaimed stone, slate or marble will work well. Alternatively – and if you’re really missing Med – you can tow your brick structure, paint it white and install a terra cotta tile surface. If you know what you’re doing, the molded concrete tops look great and so does the weather. Otherwise, check out the Dutch company WWOO (wwoo.nl), specialized in modular kitchens for outdoor environments, made of molten concrete.

Winning cups: Falcon Enamelware cups

Winning cups: Falcon Enamelware cups

You will not regret making a collector part of your setup. If you have an external faucet, consider raising it to the height of the work surface. The sink of a recovered butler or, better yet, a glass sink with shallow salt (look on eBay) will cost very little, will look good and will help keep your grooming area (and hands) clean. Consider bringing some pattern and / or color to your design, while also creating a side-by-side splashback. If a sink is not an option, a 5 liter Kilner jar (17.40 pounds, amazon.co.uk) is a no-brainer. Fill it with iced tea or infused water (bunches of cucumber, mint and lemon) and let the guests help themselves. Keep a stack of indestructible cups (£ 7 each, falconenamelware.com) Nearby.

Your outdoor kitchen will not need large amounts of storage, but it would be useful if you had a place to store your fuel under the counter. Outdoor shelves are also a great idea, as they will keep your work surface free of cutlery and condiments. Mount a piece of reclaimed wood on the supports along a fence or shed wall. Alternatively, check out the configurable galvanized steel system from the Swedish company String (£ 42.50, utilitydesign.co.uk) “S” hooks are another great storage solution, especially if you are losing your clamps forever.

If you have an electrical outlet outside, your outdoor kitchen should really have a refrigerator under the counter. A pair of stainless steel refrigerator drawers would be ideal, but a fridge is a cheaper alternative (starting at £ 109.99, klarstein.co.uk). No electricity? Then try a wicker drinks cart (£ 445, modafurnishings.co.uk) with a built-in beverage cooler. For a cheaper option, Swedish company Hinza makes bucket bags (£ 26, royaldesign.co.uk) from renewable raw materials since the 1950s.

Try to position your table close to the action. Cheap folding tables are the way to go. Vintage beer party folding table and benches (£ 435, scp.co.uk) or cheap, cheerful tables (£ 12, ikea.com) can be carefully stored in the fall, while shiny, twisted bistro chairs (£ 210, ceraudo.com) look as good indoors as they do outdoors.

Superzosial cutlery

Colorful cutlery from Superzosial

Assuming that your outdoor kitchen is not surrounded by walls and a roof, you will need temporary shade / rain cover. Stretched angled shades are great, UV resistant, breathable and waterproof (from £ 24.99, primrose.co.uk).

Dress your table with a sunny cotton cloth, perhaps with a beauty printed in block (£ 70, mollymahon.com) and a set of life-enhancing napkins (12 pounds each, aerende.co.uk), sewn by women with superior skills in a South London prison. If you go out at dusk, a battery-powered table lamp (£ 49, modafurnishings.co.uk) will create an atmosphere.

The Dutch design brand Zuperzozial produces a variety of colorful cutlery using vegetable fibers (from formahouse.co.uk) and there are some beautiful ecological paper plates, if you know where to look (10 pounds for 8, merimeri.co.uk) When it’s time to clean, you’ll need a box, not a tray. Try stackable and foldable boxes in a bright sweet color (£ 11, hay.dk) Stack them with dirty glasses and crockery and leave them until morning.

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