Summer kitchen: keep cool with outdoor cooking from around the world!

It's August and the weather’s too gorgeous to do all your cooking indoors — so get outside with your kids, and enjoy these al fresco recipes from around the globe.

In most world cultures, outdoor cooking is an important part of keeping homes cool, fire-proof, and full of delicious food in hot weather.

You can find mentions of outdoor cooking in surprising places in Canadian history—in the “Emily of New Moon” books, author L.M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame!) writes about how islanders on PEI would haul their wood-fired cookstoves to a small outbuilding called a summer kitchen to keep houses cool and fire-safe. If you’re having trouble picturing this, read about these historic American summer kitchens, or check out the photo illustrating this blog post - that's an outdoor Romanian summer kitchen being put to good use! In fact, in many places around the world, the kitchen is still a separate building from the rest of the house for part or all of the year. Luckily, you don’t need to haul your oven outside to start cooking al fresco—instead, start your outdoor cooking experiment by building this easy solar oven to make S’mores (Bonus: if you like that, there are more kid-friendly solar oven recipes here).

Another kind of outdoor cooking—barbecuing—has an even longer past. How long? Ask your kids how old they think this grill is, just from looking at the picture! (Hint: it’s ancient.) Introduce your kids to barbecue traditions from many countries, and try cooking up your own German grillfest—all you’ll need are sausages or veggies to grill, a nice summer day and friends. Or, this Japanese barbecue party can be adapted for an indoor or outdoor grill. Then, take your barbecuing to the next level and try our tutorial for throwing a barbecue-based block party!

The oldest form of outdoor cooking is over a fire, and in your kids’ opinions it’s probably the best way to cook al fresco. We’ve got a great round-up of fireside recipes and how-to’s in this tutorial, including our reader-contributed bannock recipe (while you munch, read more about the Indigenous history of this dish.) If you’re shut out from fireside cooking by a fire-ban (or rain), take a trip to the South Pacific without leaving your kitchen, via food that’s traditionally prepared in an outdoor pit-oven: lap-lap is a Melanesian taro dish, with a pleasantly bland taste that gets layers of flavour from coconut milk drizzled over top.

Don’t forget to cool off with summery drinks - we've got lots of options in our kid-friendly beverage selection from around the world. Sliced fruit is also an easy way to have fun eating outdoors—try watermelon or mango, and let the grass take care of any drips. To finish up your outdoor feasting, enjoy everyone’s favourite backyard summer food: popsicles!

If you’re looking for more ways to get your family enjoying a meal al fresco, we’ve got recipes for picnicking at the beach or park, and tutorials on starting your own kitchen garden. And if our history of summer kitchens inspired you, consider giving your little ones tools for a mud kitchen (an old bowl and spoon will do nicely) to cook up mud pies outside while you grill. For more recipes and ideas, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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