There is something incredibly satisfying about cooking up produce that you have grown yourself from seed. Of course, it is not only satisfying, it is good for you too. The sooner you can get your food from your polytunnel to your plate, the more nutrients will be retained. Of course, you could just grab that produce and head straight indoors – but cooking up a storm in an outdoor kitchen can be a lot more fun. These DIY outdoors kitchen ideas for polytunnel gardeners should make it easier than ever to feel inspired to create and cook a range of delicious recipes using all the wonderful ingredients that you grow. They could also encourage you to spend more time this summer outside, enjoying your garden:
DIY Outdoors Kitchen Fire Pits
For millennia, human beings have gathered around the hearth. The campfire is often seen as a symbol of togetherness. A simple fire pit in your garden can give hours of fun and entertainment for the family. It can be a space for romantic evenings for two in your garden, a place to laugh and chat with family or friends, and more. But it can also be a place to cook.
Campfire cooking does not need to be restricted to sausages or marshmallows on forks. By placing a simple fire grill over the fire pit in your garden, you can create a space to cook up a range of interesting recipes. You can also consider investing in a cast iron skillet, and/or a Dutch oven, to increase the range of things that you can cook with just a simple wood fire. Of course, you can also cook things in foil in the ashes to further expand your repertoire.
Making your own DIY fire pit could not be any easier. You can make a sunken fire pit by digging your hole and then lining it with reclaimed bricks, stones or similar. Be sure to leave gaps and think about airflow, however, when creating a fire pit set down into ground level.
Another super easy option is to use an old car wheel rim to create your fire pit. Set slightly into the ground, a large wheel rim can be the perfect size for a garden fire pit.
DIY Barbecue Ideas
If you like a barbecue, you are likely to already own a barbecue. These are, of course, relatively cheap and easy to obtain – though of course you could spend a fortune on the costlier, fancier models. If you’ve been making do with the disposable kind, you could consider making your own simple barbecue – it is possible to so so using a variety of reclaimed materials.
Even if you do not need, or want, to make your own DIY barbecue, you could still consider cutting the cost involved in those summer cook-outs by making your own charcoal using wood from your garden or surroundings.
You can make a charcoal burner using an old metal drum, or using primitive, simple techniques to mou`ld a firing dome from clay/mud. However you choose to proceed, making your own charcoal could be a fun DIY project for the summer months, and a way to get more from your outdoors kitchen.
DIY Pizza Ovens
Who doesn’t like pizza? This family favourite always tastes better if you make it yourself, and top it with ingredients that you have grown yourself in your polytunnel. It can taste even better still if you bake it in your very own outdoors pizza oven!
Making the base of your pizza oven is a simple process – it can involve using reclaimed bricks or stones. Above the base section you can make a dome of clay, which will harden and become your oven. The process is relatively simple, and if you are lucky, you might even be able to find almost everything that you need right there in your very own garden.
An outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven also has the capacity to create a wide range of other recipes. Your pizza oven won’t just cook pizzas, of course. Use your imagination and you will find plenty of new and exciting ways to cook outdoors and new recipes that you can try to create using the things you have grown.
DIY Outdoors Kitchen Smokers
Another wood-fired option for cooking (or preserving) that you could consider in your outdoors kitchen is a smoker. A DIY smoker can be an interesting addition as it can allow you to add interesting depth of flavour to a wide range of ingredients including not only meats, fish, cheeses and nuts, but also, you may be surprised to learn, a range of produce from your polytunnel.
Pop potatoes from your polytunnel in a DIY smoker, for example, to get a whole new take on bakes spuds. Tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables also gain something from being smoked. Smoked peppers and tomatoes are especially delicious when smoked and then mushed down to make a sauce or dip. You can also try corn on the cob in a smoker, basting it regularly with a buttery sauce of your choice.
You can also use your DIY smoker to make smoked spices – add pepper or paprika to the smoker to get the delicious smoked versions. The same can also be achieved with other spices.
To make a DIY smoker you will need a container which has space for a wood fire at the bottom, and racks or shelves for the items to be smoked above that. Smokers come in a range of shapes and sizes – the designs can differ, but the idea that the smoke is kept within a contained area is, of course, key. Your own DIY smoker might even be something as simple and straightforward as a couple of metal biscuit tins, or could be a full wardrobe-sized smoke house.
DIY Outdoors Kitchen Solar Ovens
If you really want to enjoy a wide range of recipes outdoors, and wish to branch out beyond the barbecue for summer cook-outs, you could also consider building a DIY solar oven. If you are serious about your outdoor cooking then you might wish to buy your own – there are a range of options on the market that allow you to cook your food with the power of the sun, even right here in the British Isles.
Even if you are not up for investing in a solar oven for your outdoors kitchen, you could still consider having a little fun and creating your own cheap and cheerful DIY solar oven. It may not be quite as effective as the better bought options on the market, but should still allow you to expand your repertoire of meals that you can cook outdoors in your outdoors kitchen.
The key thing is to focus the sun’s light into a certain area using reflective surfaces, and the second important thing is to insulate well, so the heat that is gathered does not escape. The more sunlight you can get to enter the oven, and the less heat is allowed to get back out, the more effective your solar oven will be. There are a range of different ways to create solar ovens, some of which use only simply items – sometimes even as simple a a cardboard box, insulative material and aluminium foil.
While, obviously, we do not have the ideal climate for solar ovens here in the UK, solar ovens can still work well here, especially over the summer months. A solar oven can heat to around 120 degrees Celsius in good conditions (up to 240 C for bought, vacuum tube models) and most can work just as effectively as a traditional slow cooker. If you want to try something new in your outdoors kitchen, with no emissions and no fuel required, solar cooking could be an excellent, eco-friendly option to try.
All of the elements above can easily find a place in many outdoors kitchens. Outdoors kitchens can be expensive and luxurious, but they do not need to cost the earth. The DIY ideas above should show you how easy it can be to create what you need yourself to cook a huge range of recipes and meals outdoors. A polytunnel might even become a prep area for your outdoors kitchen, or a covered dining area where you can relax and enjoy your meal if the weather turns or temperatures drop unexpectedly. Polytunnels and outdoors cooking and dining do go hand in hand. So why not branch out from the barbecue, create a perfect outdoors kitchen for you, and try something a little bit different this summer.
Do you have an outdoors kitchen? How do you find cooking outside? Feel free to share your own tips, suggestions, and perhaps some outdoor cooking recipes for polytunnel produce, in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.