Outdoor Kitchen Ideas
What's your desire for cooking al fresco?
Summer is the season for grilling and smoking, canning, and cooking jam. It's
also the hottest part of the year. Who wants to spend the day in the house cooking
and running the AC? On the other hand, do you really have thousands of dollars
to spend on a complete outdoor kitchen arrangement?
One of the many amenities our better-heeled brethren seem to pull off so casually is an outdoor kitchen that can include not only a snazzy grill, but custom tile counters with built-in Subzero refrigerator drawers to store condiments and salad makings,
as well as additional storage for dinnerware, glasses, and flatware. And let us not forget the dishwashing drawers, wine cooler, and deluxe sound system.
Summer kitchens, as they were once called, aren't new. To keep early American homes cool during
the summer, cooking and laundry chores were often moved outdoors or to separate buildings. In fact, the
summer kitchen has been a southern European tradition for thousands of years.
So what do you need to create a pleasant, functional backyard kitchen that works for you? The essential elements include a cooking area usually centered around a grill and a counter on which to organize meal preparation. Below the counter, shelf and drawer space can easily
house tools, dishes, and napkins to prevent unnecessary trips to the kitchen. Add cabinet doors so contents are protected from inclement weather. With a set of locking wheels, the entire unit could be stored over the winter
in the garage. Envision a kitchen island and good quality standalone grill and most of us would be good
to go for the entire summer.
About the grill
Grilled garden-fresh vegetables, meats, and fish may be some of the tastiest fare you'll eat all year.
To accomplish this gastronomic feat, your grill might be natural gas or propane, electric, charcoal,
and wood. Each has its advantages and disadvantages as shown in the table below.
|Gas or propane
- Most energy efficient
- Easy to use
- Quick preheating
- Multiple burners with individual heat control
- Long burning
- Can have a range of devices that can malfunction or break
- Maintenance requires checking for leaks
- Gas is not a sustainable fuel
- Easy to operate
- Heats quickly and maintains an even temperature
- Ideal in restricted areas or condos and apartments where charcoal
and gas are prohibited.
- Very clean
- Solar-powered electric would be "greenest" choice for grilling
- Comparatively expensive
- Requires appropriate electrical wiring
- Meats and veggies have wonderful char-broiled taste especially
if not using lighter fluid (use a charcoal chimney)
- Uses either lump charcoal or briquettes
- Low cost
- Portable depending on size
- Takes time (about 30 minutes) to heat up
- Ties with wood for taxing environment and contributing to air pollution.
- Contributes greenhouse gases to atmosphere.
- Charcoal may contain a variety of additives
- Disposing of ash is messy and inconvenient
- Controlling venting and coal temperature can be tricky
- Best flavor with fish and meats. Different woods (apple, hickory,
maple) impart slightly different flavors.
- Ties with charcoal for taxing environment and contributing to air
pollution unless you use a super-efficient wood grill.
Devising an outdoor workstation
Once you have a grill or two (more than 60% of grilling aficionados have both
gas and charcoal grills), the next step is to set up a work space. Plenty of
us have worked for years using the patio table as our center of operations while
we flipped burgers on the Weber. This is not to say that the old redwood table,
now attaining vintage status, and the Weber are not still perfectly acceptable for
our grilling pleasure. But still ... you have to admit, a functional island
with a drawer for tools, grill baskets, and the wire brush would just be too
cool. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Utility table—Who doesn't want to get the most bang for their buck?
A utility table can double up as a potting bench or buffet as well as a prep
table while you're cooking.
- Kitchen island on wheels—just like the one inside but with a weather-resistant
finish, it can serve you as effectively outdoors as in. Using it undercover improves its longevity
- Fixed masonry or brick counter system—Design and build a counter yourself
using wood, brick, and tile. Get a few friends to help and you'll be in business.
- Purchase a pre-assembled kitchen. Steel-framed systems can be covered
with stucco or other exteriors to coordinate with your home and include room for a good size drop-in grill. Different styles offer
plenty of counter space and storage.
Going whole hog
If you've decided a complete outdoor kitchen is for you, then planning
is the first critical step to realize your dream project. Fully functional outdoor
kitchens are popular home features and often garner a substantial return when owners sell.
Consider the following questions whether you plan a simple workspace or a full-blown
- What type of outdoor cooking will you do? Grilling, smoking, baking? How often?
- How many people do you expect to entertain regularly?
- Do you prefer a casual or formal entertaining style?
- Will you primarily host family and friends, or do you plan to do business entertaining as well?
- Where will you locate your outdoor kitchen?
- Will it be an adjacent complement to your indoor kitchen or a completely standalone second kitchen?
- Will the area be partially enclosed and/or covered?
- What type of appliances do you want?
- Will your project require plumbing for water or gas lines as well as electrical work?
- What types of features and appliances do you want? Multiple grills, hot and cold running water with a farmhouse sink, a brick pizza oven, sound system with disk storage, or plenty of counter space?
- Do you want to add a fireplace so it can be used year around?
- What is your budget?
Regardless of what amenities you select, consider cleaning and
lighting in addition to the more interesting toys and furnishings.
- Ease of cleaning is important. Outdoor counters get pretty dirty just
being exposed to the elements. Smooth, solid, durable surfaces like granite
are expensive but easy to clean.
- Lighting is a concern, particularly if you plan to use the area most of the
year. Adequate lighting makes the area functional and safe.
- Materials that hold up well outside include stone, tile, stucco, teak,
and stainless steel.
- Establish a work triangle similar to your indoor kitchen. It makes
working in your outdoor kitchen easier and more convenient.
- Your outdoor kitchen doesn't have to be close to your indoor kitchen, but
unless you are making it a completely standalone space, plan on traveling
to the kitchen occasionally. Avoid making it a day trip.
- You can't have too much counter space.
- Build a bar with stools for guests or kids to watch you cook.
- Don't forget to orient the area to accommodate the best views.
Are you looking forward to building an outdoor kitchen? Hire a kitchen designer
to help you plan the perfect entertainment space. Licensed professionals are
as close as UpdateRenovate