It’s Friday and brilliant beautiful sunshine has been forecast for the weekend! There’s nothing better than eating, dining and socialising outdoors, especially at the end of a long week. But it has to be done properly…
Here at Warnes McGarr & Co, we create very high-end outdoor kitchens as our niche speciality, complete with wood-fired pizza ovens, outdoor heaters, full working kitchen equipment and even luxuries like televisions and hot tubs. You can see examples of our work such as our Eat & Shelter outdoor kitchen garden, which we won a gold medal for last year.
However, not everyone has a budget to get the full on luxury outdoor kitchen. But whatever your budget, it’s easy to create an outdoor cooking area to wow friends or just spend a bit of me-time in relaxing.
Here’s our garden designer Michael John McGarr’s top tips to create your own outdoor kitchen:
- Allocate a distinct area for outdoor cooking
There is a huge trend at the moment for creating standalone outdoor kitchen and dining areas away from the house, at the bottom of the garden. This allows homeowners to escape the house and spend some downtime relaxing.
Even if you don’t have a huge garden, it’s possible to create a separate cooking area within your garden. The most important thing is to ensure you have all your equipment and tools, as well as food and drink, to hand to avoid running back and forth into the house.
We frequently install fridges and storage areas within covered kitchen areas, but on a budget, we would recommend filling a couple of ice buckets – one with your food in and one with your drinks in.
- Create an edible planting area
There’s nothing quite like grabbing a handful of your own home-grown asparagus from your raised beds and throwing them on the grill. If you create a couple of small raised beds around your outdoor cooking area, you can grow very small scale crops of asparagus, fennel, chives and mesclun salad crops to chop and serve, as you cook.
Keeping the vegetable and salad beds off the ground will make it harder for slugs to demolish them, so incorporating them into a green roof or green wall will make it even harder. You don’t even need dedicated vegetable beds to grow edible crops in – you can simply plant them in your borders or pots if you’re short of space and have them grow among your plants and flowers.
- Consider a woodfired oven and grill
We install incredibly high end woodfired ovens and grills but you can find budget versions to add to your outdoor cooking repertoire. The beauty of this flexible cooking equipment is that you can have friends round for woodfired pizzas and enjoy long, lazy evenings chatting and socialising. At the end of the night, you can throw in a shoulder of pork to cook slowly in the embers overnight for an outdoor Sunday roast the next day.
- Why not include a cocktail herb garden?
If you’re a budding mixologist, it’s the perfect opportunity to grow a mini herb garden to create fresh cocktails for you and your guests. There’s no excuse to serve up boring old lager when you can snip fresh herbs into your cocktails, mixed to order.
Borage is a beautiful-looking blue flower (pictured above), but add the star-shaped petals to a Pimm’s and you have a professional looking garnish. Importantly, borage will self-seed every year, so once you have a couple of healthy plants, you can snip away and it will replenish itself the year after.
Rosemary is a very hardy herb, which will happily grow in our climate in a herb bed or alongside other plants. It sits nicely in a tart gin and tonic, so clip a large chunky sprig off and use as a garnish, with ice.
Mint grows and spreads so fast, that any gardener will recommend growing it in pots to avoid it taking over your garden. Once you have some healthy looking plants, take a glass full of leaves and muddle them with soda, lime and white rum for a fresh mojito. What could be better?
- Look at outdoor heating
Once you have food and drink sorted, we always look next to creating a heating solution, which means you can sit outside and enjoy the evenings for far longer. For a high end budget, infrared slimline heaters are the latest technology and look amazing.
For a smaller budget, look to a firepit to huddle around once the barbecue has died down. You don’t even need to buy a firepit if budget doesn’t extend that far – a collection of rocks and stones in a circle to contain a fire, with some cushions placed around it, is enough to keep warm and toast a few marshmallows.
Hopefully, this is just the start of our barbecue weather, and we can all enjoy eating and drinking outside right through into late summer.