Expert tips for cooking up the perfect outdoor kitchen.
When the days get longer and the weather starts to change, everyone wants to take their usual indoor activities outside. And dining is no exception. But when you’re trying to host a barbecue or dinner party outdoors while your kitchen and supplies are indoors, you’ll likely spend more of your time dashing back and forth than enjoying your company. To remedy this problem, consider upgrading your home with an outdoor kitchen.
“An outdoor kitchen expands the living spaces in your home by creating a new spot to enjoy time with family and friends in a relaxed, backyard setting,” says Lee Anne White, author of Outdoor Kitchen Ideas That Work
and Outdoor Living Idea Book
. “I’ve seen outdoor kitchens really pull families together. Plus, there’s just something special about food cooked on the grill. It tastes better, and it’s fun to prepare.” When designing your outdoor kitchen, White suggests planning your kitchen to accommodate the way you live.
“Visualize yourself in that setting,” she suggests. “What are you cooking? Who are you cooking for? How often do you plan on using the space? Where would you be most comfortable eating? The answers will help you decide where to build your outdoor kitchen and what it should include to be functional and comfortable.”
White shares a few design topics to address before you begin your project.
As a starting point, you’ll want a cooking and prep area, a dining area and a space dedicated to casual socializing, such as a bar or a sitting area with a couple of lounge chairs. If you plan to do most of your food prep and cleanup outdoors, you’ll want to include ample counter space, as well as a full-size sink with a hookup for cold and hot water. And if you plan to host large gatherings, consider installing an icemaker, beer tap or refrigerator for keeping beverages cold and convenient.
Set the right mood in your outdoor kitchen setting with outdoor-grade fixtures. Credit: Kichler photo
Although an outdoor kitchen can be located anywhere in the landscape, the farther it is from the house, the farther you’ll have to run gas, water and electrical lines, White warns. Also, if you position the kitchen away from the house, you’ll want to make the space more fully equipped so you won’t have to spend too much time hauling supplies and food back and forth. Outdoor kitchens built just outside your back door can take advantage of the indoor kitchen’s conveniences.
“Lighting should be subtle, not bold — only as bright as necessary for specific areas,” says White. “To accomplish this, several different types of lighting used in combination are most effective. Downlights hung from trees, arbors or walls can provide soft, general lighting, while task lighting installed near the grill or other work areas will make food prep easier. Path and step lighting will increase safety in the walkways, and accent lighting can highlight unique water or landscape features while adding extra ambience to the space.”
Depending on where your timber home is located, portable heaters may be necessary to keep you and your guests comfortable while dining. Credit: UniFlame Corp. photo
“Durability is an important consideration, as outdoor kitchens are exposed year-round to the elements,” White explains. Choose outdoor-grade appliances and heavy-duty cabinets made from durable plastic, and coated in stainless steel or wood shells to house all of your grilling, dining and entertaining essentials. For countertops, opt for weatherproof materials such as brushed granite, stone, stained concrete or flagstone.
If you live in a hot climate, consider summertime conditions, and address ways to stay cool and keep bugs at bay, White advises. Fan and market umbrellas or other shading options are essential in hot regions; misting systems can help, too. In colder regions, providing a windbreak and overhead protection can be critical, White suggests. Patio heaters or an outdoor fireplace can help extend the season, while covered areas such as pavilions and porches can save the day in rain-prone areas. Regardless of climate, choose furniture designed specifically for outdoor use, and select weather-worthy fabrics that won’t stain, fade or mildew.