The concept of an outdoor kitchen has evolved to include more than just a grill and a cooler. More than just an area for beers and barbecue, an outdoor kitchen has become a convenience for most homeowners. Aside from practicality, it’s a smart idea to have a backup kitchen to cater to parties with large crowds such as Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings.
While a grill is still the main fixture of an outdoor kitchen, the addition of bars, ovens, and roasting spits are welcome options. As with any other part of the house, building an outdoor kitchen can be a bit overwhelming. Unlike an indoor kitchen, it’s not just a cooking space. An outdoor kitchen is a space for cooking, eating, entertaining, mingling and relaxing. It’s a multi-functional space that needs an extra careful planning.
Function - What is your primary purpose for an outdoor kitchen? Is it just going to be a place for relaxing and eating? If it is, maybe a personal fridge and a small microwave for reheating are enough. Maybe, you want it to be a space for drinks while lounging at the pool so perhaps a mini bar is in order. Or perhaps, you’re the type of person who holds large dinner parties weekly and want this to be an extension of your main kitchen, so you might need an outdoor kitchen complete with all the necessities.
Location - Yes, it’s going to be outside your house but you’ll need to work with a professional to see the most convenient location. Electrical and plumbing concerns will be factored in. Easy access to lounging areas such as pools, tennis lawns, and basketball courts should also be taken into consideration. One idea is to build it somewhere near your vegetable or herb garden. That way, you can get freshly picked vegetables or herbs easily while you’re cooking.
Layout and Furniture - For huge gatherings, you’ll surely be using your outdoor kitchen more often than not. Choose furniture that is durable and easy to move around like synthetic resin or aluminum furniture. Clearances that allow guests to freely move in and out of the area can make it more comfortable. Foldable tables and furniture with casters that are easy to move around and stow away can make cleaning a breeze. Built-in seating like benches makes a practical seating option. Another alternative is to have these benches with built-in storage for keeping things like cushions, pillows, linens and so on.
For small spaces, adding a long bar table extension from the grill and coupled with seats allowing your guests to get dibs on a hot-off-the-fire barbecue. Don't forget to designate a space for speakers. Also, if your budget allows it, consider getting a roof over the cooking area and the lounge area for better protection against the sun and rain. If cost is an issue, adding an umbrella or awning can be an option.
Consider places to hide eyesores like gas tanks or firewood. A good cabinet plan can help provide an adequate amount of storage. Place your kitchen appliances in appropriate areas for easy access whether to grill, wash or get something from the fridge. Plan it accordingly where the cook can still be a part of the party. There should be an adequate space between the cooking area and the entertaining area but not so much where the cook can’t get to chime in any conversation.
Lighting - Setting the mood with dimmers or adding tea lights can help set the ambiance. However, for cooking and meal preparation areas, appropriate bright lights are still needed to avoid accidents. Pathways should not be forgotten. If you have enough space, a fireplace as the main focal point can bring in light and warmth on those chilly nights.
Kitchen Appliances - Invest in good quality appliances that are meant for outdoors. Because these appliances will be exposed to weather elements, quality is a very important factor to consider. Only get what you need. It’s great to have a grill, a pizza oven, a rotisserie and so on, but will you be needing everything? Remember this is your personal outdoor kitchen and not a restaurant’s kitchen. Also, consider a separate outdoor fridge instead of a cooler if you’re planning to hold large parties often. This is to free up space in your regular fridge.
Prep Surfaces and Cabinets - Counter space is just as important in an outdoor kitchen. There should be designated areas for wet and dry areas as well as enough space for prepping meals. Cabinets will be limited unlike in an indoor kitchen so try to plan the essentials you need to store.
Materials - Like outdoor furniture, all the materials that are going to be used for an outdoor kitchen should be weatherproof. Stone, teak, aluminum and stainless steel are just some of the options that you can choose from. Concrete countertops are easy to clean and are durable against wear and tear. Teak can be used for the cabinets. Bricks are also a good option to consider and can match your off-the-rack brick pizza oven.
Personality - In terms of looks, an outdoor kitchen may seem boring to some because of the neutral colors of its finishes and materials. You can easily take your style inside to the outside of the house by adding some pops of colors through accessorizing or via lighting. Add some glass vases with fresh flowers, or consider adding a pergola or trellis wherein you can hang intertwining vines or cover it with climbing plants.
If you have a sturdy tree or post, hang a hammock or a bench swing for a completely relaxing experience. Also, consider hiring a landscape designer to make your yard more inviting for your guests and birds.
Planning the perfect outdoor kitchen can be a bit of a hard work but the pains and lengths you have to go through are worth for a fun and relaxing place everyone will surely enjoy.