Five ways to cook outside

When the weather is warm and balmy there’s nothing nicer than cooking outdoors. While a barbecue is the perfect way to cook alfresco it’s not the only way to burn a few burgers, says Jean Vernon.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a fancy barbecue, you can even buy a disposable barbecue tray, but why not try some of these alternatives and make your choice of heat source a garden focal point and the art of cooking alfresco a little bit more communal and fun? Anyone can spend a fortune on a barbecue, but actually you don’t have to. Here’s five alternative ways to cook outside.

Lithic Firepit

Firepit: Lithic Firepit

As long as you are not in a smoke free zone, a garden bonfire is a great way to toast marshmallows, bake some foil wrapped potatoes (round the edges) or brown some toast. Take this concept a stage further and make your own firepit. It can be as simple as a ring of stones around a hollow in the earth, or you could invest in a self-contained firepit or chiminea from one of the many companies that make them. Alternatively for something permanent and sculptural, consider a Lithic Firepit with an oxidized steel fire chamber and a beautiful York stone surround, complete with a sturdy cover and folding barbecue grill that can be built as a focal point in the garden. You can buy it with the cut stone from £759 or just buy the fire chamber and accessories for around £255 and build your own.

Cobb Barbecue Cooking System

Barbecue alternative: Cobb barbecue cooking system

I’ve used dozens of barbecues over the years and this is a great alternative. If you want an easy, compact garden cooker consider the Cobb barbecue cooking system, available from Lakeland. It’s ingenuous, using the briquettes to heat a non-stick grill pan. Food is separate from the charcoal, so you don’t get flare-ups of flame or charred food. It’s really easy to use and great for urban gardens and small spaces. You don’t need a lot of fuel and the outer stays cool so you can use it on a table as a centrepiece and it’s very fuel-efficient. There are plenty of optional extras that will transform your Cobb even more, including a griddle tray, a frying pan and an extender so you can cook a whole chicken or roast a joint.

Steel tripod from Bon-Fire

Tripod: Bon-Fire

You can craft your own tripod to hang a kettle or cauldron over the embers of a fire, using stout, strong straight branches. You need three posts that must be securely strapped together so that the feet of the legs are outside the edge of the fire and the strapping needs to be fireproof. Alternatively invest in a special purpose built steel tripod from Bon-Fire with barbecue grill, pan, stewpot and kettle for around £240.

Horizon Rocket Stove
Martin Mulchinock

Rocket stove: Horizon Rocket Stove

I made my very first rocket stove out of old baked bean cans. It was a pretty dangerous endeavor but it did work. Here’s a much safer way to harness the power of sticks. Yes sticks. This outdoor stove doesn’t need gas, charcoal or other expensive fuel, it runs on dry, seasoned sticks and fir cones. Something that pretty much every gardener has copious amounts of. Meet the Horizon Rocket Stove don’t be fooled, the heat created by this ingenious device is incredible. It uses the chimney effect to draw air up through the fuel and once alight it goes like a rocket, hence the name. It’s one of my all time favourite gadgets. Ideal for picnics, beach parties and camping as well as garden gatherings. Put it in the garden shed with an old kettle and you can brew up whenever you fancy a cuppa, or fry up some veg for an alfresco stir-fry. Price around £90.

Barbecue buckets
Clive Nichols

Make your own: Barbecue buckets

Transform a simple metal bucket into an instant barbecue. Take a tip from Clare Matthews and use a few of them lined up on a garden wall to create a versatile bank of al fresco cookers. You can have them at different stages of heat to accommodate early partygoers and the latecomers too, and a special separate bucket barbecue for vegetarians so their food is not tainted by meat. Punch holes around the bottom edge of the buckets using a hammer and nails, this facilitates airflow. Add a layer of charcoal and a barbecue lighter. Light and allow the flames to subside. Position the buckets on a sturdy, heat proof surface, add a grill rack and start cooking.

Lithic Firepit
Cobb Barbecue Cooking System
Steel tripod from Bon-Fire
Horizon Rocket Stove
Barbecue buckets