Outdoor Dining: Create the Perfect Ambiance

Prepare the Best Outdoor Dining Experiences

Australians are known for our love of barbeque, and that usually means family dining alfresco, even in the hottest summer months! But food outside in the heat and sun can pose food poisoning dangers, and as accredited practicing dietician Lisa Renn notes, traditional barbeque fare is high in fat and salt. She recommends substituting lean meats, seafood, and vegetables for the usual sausages and hamburgers for outdoor meals. Aussie families can plan the perfect meal despite the summer heat, with safe food handling and by preparing for challenges like bugs, all while eating fresh, healthy food!

Keep your Food Safe to Eat
The challenges of eating outdoors in high temperatures vary depending on things like the weather and location, but regardless of the weather, food poisoning is the fastest way to ruin your outdoor meal plans. The state government of Victoria cautions that food poisoning is more common in summer, and can be life threatening. These are considerations for anyone planning a meal al fresco in warm weather.

  • Use clean utensils and clean your hands and kitchen before handling food.
  • Cook foods thoroughly, especially meats and poultry and use a thermometer to make sure meats are cooked all the way through.
  • Keep food chilled in the fridge or packed in ice in a cooler outside.
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate to avoid any contamination. Don’t use the same utensils on cooked foods that you used on raw foods.
  • If grocery shopping in high temperatures, shop with a cooler bag to keep dairy, meats, and eggs cold between the store and home.

Setting the Scene
It’s a shame when you’ve prepared a tasty, healthy meal and set a beautiful table outside for a summer dinner and it’s ruined because of mosquitoes. Don’t let mozzies keep you inside when you’d rather be out under the blue skies. Use natural repellent like lavender oil mixed with water in a spray bottle to spray your dining area before you bring out any food. Spray yourself and your dinner guests too. Now you’re ready to set up your dining area.

Use a fresh table cloth, paper or cloth, fold napkins to put at every plate or in a basket with utensils, and create a fun or themed centerpiece. Fresh flowers laid in the middle of the table, a fanciful arrangement of twigs from the yard, or a glass bowl with colored stones or marbles are just a few ideas. Look through the online catalog at Wayfair for ideas if you need inspiration. If you’re planning an evening meal, consider lighting like rope or string lights. If you are just planning a table for two, mosquito netting hung over the table creates some intimacy.

Cool Meals for Hot Weather
The best foods to eat when dining outside at the height of the summer are cold foods. Cold fruits including watermelon are refreshing, tasty, and healthy. Some fruits can be frozen, including bananas, strawberries, and melon chunks. Cut them and skewer them on wooden shish kebob sticks to freeze them. Salads are versatile foods for cool meals on hot summer days or evenings. Chop your favourite lettuces and herbs for the backdrop for cold sliced meats such as seasoned beef or chicken, or fish like tuna or salmon. And don’t forget lots of ice for cold drinks and keeping food chilled during meals in the sun.

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