Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

What's your desire for cooking al fresco?

Outdoor kitchen

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.

Grill Type Advantages Disadvantages
Gas or propane
  • Most energy efficient
  • Convenient
  • 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
Electric
  • 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
Charcoal
  • 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
  • Versatile
  • 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
Wood
  • 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:

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 kitchen:

Other tips

Regardless of what amenities you select, consider cleaning and lighting in addition to the more interesting toys and furnishings.


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 .

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