How to pack the perfect picnic
Whether you're enjoying an alfresco feast or laid-back lunch, eating outdoors requires planning. From choosing kit to transportable treats, we've got your picnic needs covered.
Venturing into the great outdoors with a heaving picnic hamper is one of the great joys of summer. But before you settle into a shady spot to snaffle your sandwiches and Scotch eggs, there's plenty of prep to be done...
See our picnic hub for the ultimate selection of recipes.
Packing your hamper
Read our pick of the best picnic kit and stow away your spread in style. Choose your equipment carefully - nothing dampens spirits more than a leaky cool box. Before you set off, check your Tupperware is shut tight, and wrap any particularly pungent items in a plastic bag. If it's a scorching summer's day, then a cool box will come in super handy for keeping your picnic goods chilled.
Plastic cups or bottles are best for little ones to avoid breakages. If you're bringing wine glasses for the grown-ups, consider packing a lightweight tray to perch them on during pouring and between sips, and if you're sampling cork-sealed wine, don't forget the bottle opener!
There's no need to risk a funny tummy if you plan and pack carefully. Cold boxes and ice packs are essential to make sure that items normally stored in the fridge stay as cool as possible, so keep things like meat pies, fish or dairy dishes stowed away, and don't delay tucking in once you've reached your destination.
While it may look appealing to lay out your fare for all to see, keeping your food on ice for as long as possible will reduce the risk of having to throw out anything that's sat in the baking sun all day. Assistant food editor Miriam suggests cutting dishes such as quiche into wedges, and serving them up directly from the cool box. Finally, carry some hand wipes or anti-bacterial gel, and make sure that everyone's hands are clean before they chow down.
Find out more about how to transport food safely.
Miriam's top tip to avoid soggy salads and sandwiches is to keep components such as dressings, fillings and optional extras stored away in separate containers (chilled if necessary) until they're needed. Add ingredients like goat's cheese or pre-chopped fruit to your dessert at the last minute, and serve up with confidence.
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Make picnic prep more simple by preparing a main dish ahead which can be easily divided. This showstopping chicken, ham and asparagus picnic pie is well worth the effort and will have everyone requesting second slices. For a veggie option, this vibrant, multi-layered rainbow picnic pie is bursting with colourful veg combined with eggs and feta.
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Once you've assembled your apparatus, it's time to plan your picnic provisions. Sandwiches, pies, Scotch eggs, sausage rolls and chicken drumsticks are considered classic picnic treats for a reason - they're all finger foods that travel well. Layer up a picnic baguette with salami, spinach, basil, pesto and mozzarella for a mouthwatering bite with or create a colourful veggie rainbow sandwich. Make a batch of perfectly portioned mini pork pies with piccalilli, or take inspiration from South America, with these delicious fried beef & chorizo empanadas. Bacon-wrapped or spicy Coronation drumsticks are also guaranteed to please a crowd.
Go gourmet with chorizo Scotch quail's eggs and smoked salmon Scotch eggs or whip up a lighter batch of vegetarian falafel Scotch eggs. We suggest taking your chilled dishes out of the fridge and wrapping in foil, then in bubble wrap before putting into your cool box, to keep them at a safe temperature for as long as possible.
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Salads and sides
Pasta and potato salads are perfect for picnics, as the hearty ingredients hold up well, even if they suffer a bit of battering in transit. This super summer allotment salad with English mustard dressing makes the most of any seasonal veg you can find. Crunchy cucumbers, radishes and red onions are featured but why not also throw in some fennel, celery and spring onions. Another picnic staple comes in the form of boiled eggs, which are the centerpiece of this herby parsley and watercress salad.
Dressed, leafy salads can be become lackluster if left too long, so add the final touches just before serving to avoid the dreaded wilt. Get clever by layering heavy ingredients and sauces on the bottom of your container - try our rainbow salad pots, griddled salad jar or houmous, tabbouleh & feta picnic bowl. To mix it up, switch chunky pasta shapes for an orzo and mozzarella salad or swap plain potatoes for their more colourful cousin in this sweet potato salad.
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Picnic puddings can be tricky as most desserts either melt or need careful handling, but there are still loads of picnic-friendly puddings to choose from. Traybakes and loaf cakes are ideal - slice before packing if you're not taking a sharp knife. These seasonal blackberry Bakewell squares can be transported in the tin and will hold up against the heat of a hot, sunny day. Brownies, shortbread and cookies are easy to wrap up and share out. If you're after something more sophisticated, jars make perfectly portioned vessels to transport softer sweets such as these strawberry & cream cheesecakes, Pimm's jelly jars or apricot & creme fraiche Eton mess.
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Whether you go for refreshingly fruity or bold and boozy, pack something to sip on when you're sprawling in the sunshine. Family-friendly options such as our pre-chilled coconut & pineapple cooler, blueberry & mint iced tea and zingy blackberry lemonade are sure to please a crowd. Slightly more sophisticated palates will savour elderflower & cucumber G&Ts, a classic Pimm's or wine based rosy spritzers. On a cooler day, a flask of coffee, tea or hot chocolate is sure to counter chilly fingers.
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Get more inspiration on our picnic hub page.
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