Top chefs' tips for cooking outdoors

Louisa Carter gave some of Britain's top chefs a grilling to find out their cooking secrets for entertaining outdoors.

Inspired by a visit to Wilderness festival in Oxfordshire, where top chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi and Valentine Warner served lavish communal feasts from their field kitchens and barbecues, I decided to gather their top tips for outdoor entertaining.

Barbecued leg of lambValentine Warner

Big on seasonality, truffles and foraging for his own food, Valentine Warner's feast at Wilderness saw the barbecues full of succulent shoulders of lamb, grilling to perfection in the smoky heat. 

Valentine says: "I am all for barbecuing large joints such as a butterflied shoulder of lamb, but I would note here that it is important to use the barbecue lid (rather than continuing with the great British tradition of leaving it upside down in the grass full of rainwater). Cook your joint in a tray, to stop the fat igniting, and put on that barbecue lid. Use the vents to get more out of your charcoal and a gentler heat inside. 

"Add lots of flavour: smear the lamb with a paste of anchovies, green olives, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, salt, oil and lemon juice before cooking. Or try ribs with a really kick arse marinade of chipotles, tomato puree, brown sugar, cloves and sherry vinegar. 

"When it's cooked let the meat rest before serving, meanwhile cook some oiled spring onions on the barbecue until charred. 

"I would always use charcoal over gas, as the smoke is an ingredient in itself. 

"Prepare one thing well in advance, such as a large potato salad."

Chicken drumsticksMoro

Husband and wife team Sam and Sam Clark, of award-winning Moro restaurant, brought a taste of their Moorish cuisine to the outdoors, cooking on two large barbecues and serving feasts from the extravagance of an on-site souk tent during Wilderness. 

Sam says: "Keep it simple but go for bold flavours. Try mixed platters of charcoal-grilled sardines, lamb chops and poussin with preserved lemon, red chilli and cumin cooked on a charcoal barbecue." 


Squid, samphire and pea saladJeremy Lee

Arguably the critics' favourite chef, Jeremy Lee heads up the kitchens at London's Quo Vadis restaurant. 

Jeremy says: "Use loads of herbs in whatever you're making, especially lots of mint and lots of parsley. And big, fresh salads are great- mix up different leaves and more fresh herbs. 

"Don't try to do too much or anything too complicated. Something simple like barbecued chicken wings to serve with the salads. 

"Get hold of the best charcoal you can buy- the better the charcoal the better the cooking." 

Roasted aubergines and pomegranateYotam Ottolenghi

Known for bold, fresh flavours, big salads and a colourful approach to cooking, Ottolenghi's festival feast was based around lots of smaller dishes that could be prepared in advance, alongside main dishes of sea bream with harissa and rose and sirloin of beef. 

Yotam says: "Try dishes such as roasted baby aubergines with buttermilk sauce garnished with pomegranate seeds, butterbean puree with dukkah, couscous with lemon and chervil and mixed bean and red pepper salad." 


quinoa tabboulehMartin Morales

A contagiously enthusiastic ambassador for Peruvian food and owner of London's first modern Peruvian restaurant Ceviche, Martin knows a thing or two about cooking outdoors thanks to his Peruvian heritage. 

Martin says: "Prepare as much as you can to ensure you wow your guests as well as have fun. For an easy salad try quinoa with diced avocado, broad beans, diced tomato, red onion and a simple lime vinaigrette. 

"Go Peruvian. In Peru we have anticuchos: 5cm square chunks of meat (steak, chicken, lamb, mushroom or best of all beef heart) marinated for 6 hours in red wine vinegar, cumin, smoked chilli, salt and pepper. Thread them on a skewer and barbecue on the spot. They provide good smells, flavours and action! 

"For an alcoholic dessert, prepare a pisco sour granita. Mix pisco, lime juice and sugar then freeze. Blitz in a food processor before serving." 

Do you have a top barbecue tip or failsafe suggestion for cooking outdoors? Share it below. 

If you're still struggling for inspiration, check out our barbecue recipe collections. For more Valentine-inspired meaty grills, take a look at our barbecue lamb collection. Follow Jeremy's lead with one of our barbecue chicken recipes. Or if you're after a referesher but don't want something quite as hard as Martin's pisco sour, find something to your taste in our summer drinks collection.

Comments, questions and tips

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6th Jun, 2015
This is a great, very useful article. There are also more tips and a step-by-step guide on barbecueing successfully here:
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