According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), more than 75% of all U.S. households include an outdoor grill or smoker. Outdoor cooking has been a popular pastime in the U.S. ever since Weber introduced their now classic kettle charcoal grill. Today, more and more families are expanding on that trend by creating true outdoor living areas as part of their home with fully functional outdoor kitchens. The idea of the kitchen being the heart of the home is now expanding to the outdoors. As a result, grill, cabinet and accessories manufacturers are offering more products and add-ons than ever, within a wide range of budgets and styles.
Depending on where you live you may be thinking about designing an outdoor kitchen for the summer months, or perhaps for year round use. You can now customize your outdoor living space to meet your personal interests and extend the look and feel of your indoor décor to the outdoors by incorporating a variety of styles and design elements such as tile, granite, concrete or stone.
Here are some key areas to consider when planning your outdoor kitchen.
One of the most important questions is what kind of cooking appliance(s) do you want? If, like most people, you’re interested in using your outdoor kitchen consistently for entertaining you’ll want to include many of the features of an indoor kitchen so meals can come together seamlessly. Consider appliances that can handle a number of different cooking styles by including options such as side burners, built-in griddles, smokers and even an outdoor pizza oven! Duel-hybrid grills have the convenience of gas grilling and the ability for smoking or charcoal cooking on the other side. To get the most enjoyment out of your outdoor kitchen give yourself the ability to cook in a variety of ways.
Really think of your outdoor kitchen the same as you indoor, because the less running back and forth you have to do, the more you’ll enjoy your new space.
A bar or beverage center is crucial to any outdoor entertaining space. This could include a section of your outdoor countertop to make drinks or a full bar with seating. Nearly every appliance that’s available indoors is now available outdoors: wine coolers, outdoor kegerators, ice makers, undercounter refrigerators and freezers…and even a dishwasher (introduced from ASKO last year). And don’t forget the sink, which is great for both dinner prep and drinks.
A true outdoor living space will include more than just the cooking area. You want it be a communal area for gathering and mingling. Comfortable outdoor furniture, side tables and a dining area help create this extended living area. For chilly nights, a fire pit or heating element is ideal, while a misting system to cool everyone off during hot, humid days will keep guests coming back. The longer you can extend the season, the more value this investment will have. Don’t forget entertainment options such as outdoor televisions for watching the game or movie night…and an audio system for music throughout the day and evening.
As outdoor kitchens become more elaborate and the need for storage space increases, many homeowners are adding higher quality stainless steel exterior cabinets. Stainless steel is ideal for outdoor applications as it resists weather, rot and insects. Further, they are now available in multiple door, drawer and pullout combinations. Viking now makes outdoor cabinetry that is proprietary to their line of outdoor grills, and Danver makes cabinets that sized for their grills and outdoor appliances. They have also recently released a line of stainless outdoor cabinets with a powder-coated finish that closely approximates wood grain.
As you can see, the sky is the limit when designing an outdoor living space.