Folks, buckle in for the high-octane crazy train that is outdoor ventilation. Is it just outdoor vent hoods and thrilling escapades? Nope! Outdoor kitchens create heat and gas pressure, and ventilation involves anything designed to help move air or ventilate trapped heat and pressure. BBQ island panels? Check. Outdoor fans? Check. Swedish massages? Not yet, but here’s hoping!
For now, we want you thinking vent hoods — they’re integral to any outdoor kitchen ecosystem. They’re also highly confusing! Manufacturer differences and local building codes make the waters murkier than probably necessary. That’s why we put together this buying guide, which absolutely has nothing to do with our constant flood of calls asking, “What’s a vent hood?”, “Do I need one?”, and “It’s been a rough week, pal! What do you mean, ‘not that kind of venting?’” We get it. We get you. And we’re going to get you that vent hood.
Why Buy a Vent Hood?
If you’re crazy about blowing cash, wasting valuable elbow grease, and possibly running afoul of local codes, vent hoods probably aren’t for you. Certainly, pricy restorations and potential hospital bills have their perks… we think? Surely there’s a good reason somewhere for funneling money and time into expensive cleanup and paint retouching. Perhaps it’s buried under all that coughing you’ll do!
Facts are facts. No matter their “smokeless” claims, all grills and smokers output smoke — in this case, an aerosolized concoction of animal fat, carbon, and tricky chemical molecules out to break your sanity. And boy howdy, does it love sticking to things! Favorite targets include kitchen surfaces, walls, ceilings… even your eyes and respiratory system. It blackens! It discolors! And it hates you!
Grease and soot are on a mission to trash your stuff. Furniture, countertops, and cooking appliances? Caked in muck. Burners and ports? Brutally clogged. Electrical equipment? Compromised. Your precious stainless steel? Hope you love corrosion! Luckily, vent hoods are a perfect (and often legally required) grease eviction policy. And they are completely fixated on your outdoor kitchen’s cleanliness.
Do I Need a Vent Hood?
Yes, at least in most cases. Ultimately, this is one for your local laws and legal codes. The only way to know for sure if this rule applies to that beautiful BBQ backyard is to ring your local building code or code inspection office.
While we can’t say for sure without seeing your backyard for ourselves (to be frank, we’d compliment it and then make you call those agencies anyway), we do have some advice — our Golden Rule of Outdoor Ventilation. Does your grill sit under a roofed structure with 2+ adjoining walls or poor cross-ventilation? Then we heavily recommend it.
Vent Hood Mounting Types
Still reading? Chances are, you realize you’ll need that vent hood after all — or we’ve hooked you and you can’t put this article down. Logically, begin hunting for the best vent hood by determining the placement of your showstopper cooking appliance. Because, guess what? One completely depends on the other. Everything beneath your outdoor kitchen roof is a dance floor; whether your grill or smoker (built-in or freestanding) prefers the wallflower treatment or wants to be the life of your party, you’ll need to pair a matching vent hood. Get the hood. Get the music. Get to dancing! (Or grilling.)
Wall-Mounted Vent Hoods
Let’s say you want to free up walkable kitchen area and install your grill against the fringe — perhaps a vertical surface of some sort? Excellent choice! Wall-mounted vent hoods serve above freestanding or built-in grills placed against, hold your breath for this one, a wall. Be sure to pick one wide and deep enough to fully cover your BBQ grill or smoker. Many grills vent heat and gas up the back; anything less than full coverage is akin to begging for unsightly smoke stains and impending sticky messes.
Island-Mounted Vent Hoods
If wall installations are for chumps and your grill wants the entire world revolving around it, spring for an island-mounted vent hood. Boasting skinnier ducting and a distinctive flared head design, these ‘hang’ down from the ceiling directly over a BBQ grill or outdoor kitchen island. Wall-mounting a hood generally incorporates the wall into the ducting options, but for those grills that say, “No man is an island — but a grill just might be,” there’s no way up but, well… up!
Under-Cabinet Vent Hoods and Vent Inserts
Under-cabinet vent hoods whisk smoky air away from your cooking space; outdoor vent inserts employ filters to run a catch-and-release program on the air, sieving out heinous smoke molecules. Inserts are best utilized over low-BTU appliances, which is precisely why you’ll often find them indoors. Under-cabinet vent hoods, though, can move enough CFM to handle an outdoor grill. Just remember that these vent hoods still need to be ducted. That smoke has to go somewhere.
What CFM Should You Go With?
CFM, or cubic feet per minute, is the air volume that can be moved from a room by a vent hood (or the in-laws). This all depends greatly on the vent hood construction, the blower count, the size of those blowers, the ducting requirements, and maybe your willingness to be able to make an airport dash on a Thursday night. Luckily, the market offers plenty of differing vent hoods, which means a wide range of CFM options. For indoor cooktops with minimal air movement, a vent hood or insert should adhere to 1+ CFM per 100 BTUs of the maximum BTU count. Given that outdoor cooktops are, well, outdoors, there are way more factors in play there. Generally, we recommend outdoor vent hoods to still follow the 1+ CFM per 100 BTU rule, with an important distinction. They should offer 1,200 CFM at bare minimum for any outdoor application. Again, bigger is better. Considering a hood with more CFM? It only makes your outdoor living space healthier.
How Wide Should My Outdoor Vent Hood Be?
We don’t need to cite local codes on this one (and it’s an easy answer). Just cover the entire cooking surface of your grill or cooktop. Now, indoor vent hoods are easy to please: ensure the cooktop surface is covered as much as possible, pick a hood with sufficient CFM, and presto! Happy grilling. Outdoor vent hoods are pickier, expecting you to go the extra mile in covering your grill’s cooking surface — well, less of a mile, more of “3 extra inches on either side.” An outdoor vent hood should also extend as deep as the grill; if it tiptoes past that line, we’ll give extra credit. Bigger is better here, especially if you need to cover multiple adjacent appliances or grills. If you get a wider hood, it’ll put the fear of God into the smoke.
More Ways to Ventilate Your Outdoor Kitchen
We’re big fans of airflow. Proper ventilation to any space is partly guaranteed by that big, beautiful compound word: cross-ventilation. (Spoilers: it’s not getting old anytime soon.) Who wants to deal with all those horrible, sticky grease particles mucking up your life when you can sweep them away faster with — wait for it — outdoor fans? Ceiling or wall-mounted fans are the bouncers to your patio paradise, policing hot air and smoke before any mounting ruckus. Don’t take it from us! Ask literally anyone else from our fair Baton Rouge about these blisteringly hot summer days. Fans are an absolute godsend.
BBQ Island Vent Panels
These little guys are the true unsung heroes of outdoor kitchens across America. Island vent panels dispel heat, gas, and pressure before it could ever build up within your precious BBQ island. Are you installing a built-in grill, smoker, icemaker, refrigerator, freezer, or kegerator? Then, congratulations on your awesome island! Also, any of those makes these a must-have. Otherwise, your incredible investments could be tragically damaged — or even blasted sky-high (no joke, they can explode). For further reading on pre-emptive kitchen bomb defusal and you, check out our handy guide on how to place island vent panels.
Final Considerations for Outdoor Ventilation
Vent Hood Extensions
Recall that the depth of your outdoor vent hood is as equally important as its width — this is critical to the real definition behind “covering the surface of your grill or cooktop.” If your outdoor kitchen countertops are extended depth, or your hood swings wide open like it owns the place, finding a hood that reaches forward enough might be worrisome… until now! Introducing: vent hood extensions! Installed behind your vent hood, they close the gap and prevent you from making a call to whichever contractor is your “wall guy.” While often model-specific manufacturer accessories, they can put written-off vent hoods back in the cards.
Vent Hood Duct Covers
Wall-mounted vent hoods necessitate vertical ducting, which runs up the wall and through the ceiling (or horizontally out through the back wall). Ducting is generically sold at any home supplier worth its salt. What does ducting do extremely well? Venting! What does it utterly fail at? Being even remotely attractive. Extended by some manufacturers to cleverly disguise ducting, vent hood duct covers are a professional courtesy (note: “available for purchase”) that blends it seamlessly with your stainless steel components. If that sounds appealing, then you’re in luck. Oh, did we mention that they’re model-specific manufacturer accessories as well?
We’re BBQGuys, and thanks for coming to our Ted talk. That might be the end of our little presentation, but it’s only the start of your outdoor kitchen dreams. For an extra pair of hands to make those dreams your reality, why not call 1-877-743-2269 and ring our friendly neighborhood professionals? With decades of outdoor living expertise, they know a thing or two (or a hundred) about outdoor ventilation. If you’re eager to move into high gear but need some quality brainstorming help, our brilliant design team can help you conceptualize the perfect design for your outdoor kitchen — ventilation included.