Outdoor Kitchens

Spicing it up in the open air

We're all familiar with the idea of an outdoor barbecue - it's one of the best ways to enjoy great food and company while soaking up the summer sun. As outdoor rooms become more and more popular, the hub of the household is moving outward to become a stylish al fresco dining room.

Outdoor kitchens are becoming one of the most popular options for an outdoor room, and can include anything from a simple built-in barbecue with an elegant dining table or a full outdoor range, including grill and refrigerator, firepit, island and dishwasher.

A kitchen of that size can cost up to $20,000, but you'll be guaranteed to cook more outside than you will inside, so it will get a lot of use.

Many people create their outdoor kitchens to be weatherproof replicas of their indoor kitchens. An outdoor kitchen can be completely open-air or under a shelter. It's best to have some sort of a shelter, like a pergola, so that you and your family can dine in all kinds of weather. A firepit and outdoor heating will allow you to cook and entertain even when the cooler weather comes. Your outdoor kitchen becomes an extension of your house - and a classy one at that.

Outdoor Kitchen Features

Consider what sort of outdoor space you want to create. Do you want your kitchen to be an extension or a part of an outdoor living room? You will need to break your room up into zones - define the seating and cooking areas not only for safety, but also to leave you enough room to cook.

The space where a grill and other appliances will fit into is called a grill island. This can also include storage drawers, trash compartments and other spaces for kitchen essentials. You may find that you don't want to buy a grill island, since it can eat up over half your kitchen budget (normally $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the features and space that you want). If you don't, then the appliances themselves will need a space to fit into, which you can build or have built by a contractor.

To create a basic outdoor kitchen, you will need:

  • A cooking element. This can be a stove, a built-in barbecue, a grill, a pizza oven… whatever you like. The element can include the grill island or simply stand alone.
  • A dining table. You can include this in your cooking area, as a part of the kitchen surface, or have it as a separate item. It can be casual or elegant, depending on your taste.

Other features may include:

  • A refrigerator - so that you're not running in and out of the house constantly, carrying food or fetching drinks. Most appliances are small and designed to fit in the grill island, but you can find some full-sized fridges.
  • A dishwasher, to circumvent the cycle of carrying dishes to and from the house.
  • Cupboards, to store dishes and other non-perishable food.
  • A smoker, rotisserie or oven - if you're truly a gastronome, you might enjoy having other methods to cook food. You don't have to be limited by a grill.
  • Security features - remember, your outdoor kitchen doesn't have a door you can lock, so you might want to get locks for your cabinets, storage areas and refrigerator to prevent thieves from taking your things.
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