Charcuterie, chilli oil, pickling and pastry: how to make the world’s best picnic

With picnic season fast approaching, it’s time to elevate your alfresco feast to Michelin-star levels of deliciousness. We ask some of the finest chefs their top tips for portable culinary success.

Don’t sweat the small stuff — Tom Kerridge

‘Beware of residual heat. If you have made sausage rolls, little pies or even toasted sandwiches, remember to let them cool completely before wrapping them up and packing them into your hamper. If you don’t, condensation will form and everything will end up limp and squidgy.’

Tom Kerridge is the chef owner of The Hand And Flowers, Berkshire 

Sachet! Shantay! — George Egg

‘Whenever you see the opportunity to do so, get hold of sachets. Tomato sauce, brown sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, salad cream. Before you know it, you’ll have amassed an arsenal of condiments to enhance any picnic.’

George Egg is a chef, Snack Hacker and influencer 

Talking Italian — Emily Roux

‘I love taking bitesize cacio e pepe arancini to a picnic. These filling appetisers pack a punch and no extra seasoning or sauce is needed on site. The arancini recipe is versatile too, so you can tweak it for the season—asparagus arancini in spring or fresh pea arancini in summer, simply delicious.’

Emily Roux is the owner of Caractère restaurant, London W11 

All the best people love a picnic: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh with their children, Prince Andrew (centre), Princess Anne (left) and the future King Charles III, then Prince of Wales, sitting on a picnic rug outside Balmoral Castle in Scotland, 8th September 1960. Credit: Getty

When life gives you lemons… — Tom Booton

‘My picnic essential is a lemon. Most things can be brought to life with a squeeze of citrus. Also, I love a classic potato salad—mix good waxy potatoes with red onion and loads of chives, then in a separate jar take a nice creamy tangy dressing and mix it all together just before you’re ready to eat.’

Tom Booton is the head chef at The Grill by Tom Booton at The Dorchester, London W1

A cold cut above — Mark Birchall

‘My advice is to theme a picnic around charcuterie. There are so many traditional cured meats to choose from, but I’d recommend a few Spanish ones, such as Ibérico bellota ham, Salchichón and chorizo, alongside some nice aged manchego, with a few walnuts and an ice-cold Estrella Damm. Or head to Italy for inspiration and pick out salami, prosciutto, bresaola and speck, served up with olives and fresh bread.’

Mark Birchall is the chef patron at Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms, Aughton, Lancashire 

Prepare for a heatwave — Rick Toogood

‘Crispy chilli oil is my secret weapon for pimping anything up. Use it as a drizzle, a dip or to add a bit of spice to picnic staples, such as a humble Scotch egg. Homemade is always tastier, but, if you’re tight on time, Lao Gan Ma is a great option, too.’

Rick Toogood, is the chef owner of Prawn On The Lawn, London N1 and Padstow, Cornwall 

Box clever — Paul Ainsworth

‘It’s all about simplicity and a good-quality cool box. My wife, Emma, bought me a Yeti recently and I use it constantly. When it comes to what to pack, I’d suggest a Ploughman’s. It’s perfect for grazing, easily transported and one of my all-time favourites.’

Paul Ainsworth is chef patron at Number 6 in Padstow, Cornwall 

Pork life — Adam Handling

‘I like a really nice jamón Ibérico. It’s always inside my picnic basket because it’s a ham that gets better when it gets warmer, so, if it’s sitting out and you don’t eat it all in one go, you can continue picking at it and it’s not going to dry out.’

Adam Handling is chef owner of the Adam Handling Restaurant Group 

Credit: Getty

Super soup — Adam Smith

‘Rather than default to sandwiches, grab yourself a flask and fill it with either a Spanish gazpacho or a hot soup (depending on the British picnic weather). You can serve either with a loaf of crusty bread or crunchy breadsticks.’

Adam Smith, is executive chef at Coworth Park, Berkshire 

Freezy does it — Sally Abé

‘Always freeze your soft drinks in bottles (water, juice, anything flat), so they act as a cool pack, as well as a drink. I make my sandwiches using baguettes instead of sliced bread, they’re crispier and sturdier on the outside, so the sandwiches don’t go mushy and are less prone to getting squished.’

Sally Abé is chef at The Pem, London SW1 

Save the day-o with homemade mayo — Richard Corrigan

‘When it comes to planning a picnic, don’t be afraid to keep things simple. Supermarkets have really upped their game in recent years, so check out their pork pies and Scotch eggs. One thing that will elevate your spread, however, is homemade aioli or mayonnaise —trust me, it’ll be worth the extra effort.’

Richard Corrigan is chef patron at Corrigan’s and Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, London W1 

Eat your containers — Ayesha Kalaji

‘My top tip is taking food that is in a pastry vessel. Don’t just think sausage rolls. There is a mass of different pastries and pies from around the world. I love to make fatayer, which are seen all over the Levant. I fill mine with the traditional spinach, pomegranate molasses and pine nuts.’

Ayesha Kalaji is chef owner of Queen of Cups, Glastonbury, Somerset 

Get in a pickle — Tommy Banks

‘Definitely go big on anything pickled. Onions, carrots, red onions, beetroot—whatever happens to be in season. That flavour is the essence of a good picnic and they go with anything. Keep your pickles in small Kilner jars, which will keep them fresh and your cool box clean.’

Tommy Banks is owner and head chef of The Black Swan at Oldstead, North Yorkshire 

Credit: Getty

It’s a steel — Emily Scott

‘We all love a seaside picnic, so make sure you pack smart, set a theme and go with enamelware, as it is stylish, light and stackable. The pieces also have a certain vintage charm.’

Emily Scott is author of ‘My Kitchen Journal’ 

The beautiful brine — Olly Oakley

‘Keep your olive brine for dressing. Grab a jar of your favourite olives (mine are the Guindilla chilli-laced ones by Perelló) and use the brine to pour over a niçoise or tomato and shallot salad.’

Olly Oakley is head chef of The Harcourt Arms, Witney, and The Plough at Kelmscott, both Oxfordshire 

You’ve got to roll with it — Joshua Hunter

‘Make your own sausage rolls and get creative with the fillings, such as lamb and harissa or pork and black pudding. They transport well and, if you put a layer of onion chutney at the bottom of the pastry, it keeps them moist.’

Joshua Hunter is chef owner at Hawthorn restaurant, Richmond, London TW9 

Slap that asp — Sam White

‘For an easy win, I always opt for some simple asparagus. You can blanch it briefly and then plunge it into ice water, which keeps it super crisp. I like to mix up a herb vinaigrette in a jar and bring that along to dip the spears into.’

Sam White, executive chef at 45 Jermyn St, London W1 

Just desserts — Antonio ‘Lello’ Favuzzi

‘It’s always nice to finish a picnic with something sweet and you can’t go wrong with a strawberry and meringue pudding. First, put the strawberries in a container and mix with sugar, lemon juice and mint. Allow the mixture to macerate for a few hours to create a delicious syrup. In separate containers, bring meringue and custard. Finally, assemble everything together, with the syrup drizzled on top.’

Antonio ‘Lello’ Favuzzi, head chef at Belvedere Restaurant, London W8