Whether you're enjoying an alfresco feast or a simple, laid-back lunch, eating outdoors requires planning ahead. From choosing your kit to transportable treats, we've got everything you need for the best picnic ever...
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...
Pack with panache
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. 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.
Once you've assembled your apparatus, it's time to plan your picnic provisions. Sandwiches, pies, Scotch eggs and chicken drumsticks are considered classic picnic treats for a reason - they're all finger foods that travel well. Make a batch of perfectly portioned mini pork pies with piccalilli, or bake a big pork and rabbit pie to enjoy as a centrepiece. Bacon-wrapped or spicy Coronation drumsticks are also guaranteed to please a crowd.
Go gourmet with chorizo Scotch quail's eggs or whip up a lighter batch of vegetarian falafel Scotch eggs. Miriam suggests 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.
More portable classics...
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. 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 this 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.
More salads and sides...
There are 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. 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 or apricot & creme fraiche Eton mess.
More sweet treats...
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 blueberry & mint iced tea and zingy blackberry lemonade are sure to please a crowd. Slightly more sophisticated palates will savour elderflower & cucumber G&Ts or wine based rosy spritzers. On a cooler day, a flask of coffee, tea or hot chocolate is sure to counter chilly fingers.
More delicious drinks...
Finish off your picnic with the perfect potato salad, demonstrated in our food hack video.
What are your top tips for a perfect picnic? Let us know in the comments below...