Why Should I Buy a Vent Hood?
In a cruel twist of fate, grills and smokers can be destroyed by the very thing they create. We’re not talking about a human-size Franken-burger rampaging through your outdoor kitchen — no, smoke is a much more silent killer when left unchecked. Smoke carries grime and grease that cling to every surface of your outdoor space, and in time those sticky substances will wreak havoc: they can peel paint; corrode and “pit” stainless steel; clog grill burner ports, ignitors, and electrical components; and permanently stain ceilings. Yeah, we’ll take our chances with the Franken-burger instead.
A vent hood, however, effortlessly removes smoke and grease from your outdoor kitchen to keep your space protected. And to further illustrate just how important vent hoods are, some local building codes actually require you to install one above outdoor cooking appliances. (Let this also serve as a kind reminder to check with your local code enforcement agency before breaking ground.) Even if you aren’t legally required to include a vent hood in your outdoor kitchen, we strongly encourage it if you’ll be grilling under a roofed structure. You’ve put a lot of time and money into your outdoor space, so shouldn’t you do everything in your power to protect your investment?
Advantages of Outdoor Ventilation
Protect Your Grill
Vent hoods remove smoke that would otherwise transfer grease particles into the nooks and crannies of your grill, ultimately clogging ports, gas lines, and ignitors.
Protect Your Outdoor Kitchen Components
Smoke and stainless steel don’t mix! Overexposure causes steel to “pit,” a process that damages the protective, natural oxidation layer and results in further corrosion.
Protect Your Space
Without a vent hood in place, smoke from your grill will leave behind nasty and difficult-to-remove stains on the ceiling, eventually discoloring or even peeling paint.
Protect Your Family’s Health
Would you rather inhale smoke filled with corrosive salts and hydrocarbons, or give your lungs a break by letting your vent hood suck up all that nasty stuff instead?
What Kind of Vent Hood Fits My Outdoor Kitchen Setup?
Buying an outdoor vent hood isn’t quite like buying a grill — you can’t just pick out your favorite brand and figure out the rest later. The placement of your vent hood, as well as the type you purchase, is generally based on the way your outdoor kitchen is set up or the location of your grill beneath a roofed structure. To determine what’s best for your outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to survey your space and answer a few key questions.
First up: is your grill (or main cooking appliance) positioned against a wall, whether freestanding or built into a BBQ island? If so, are there cabinets mounted above the cooker, or is the wall space empty? Conversely, is the BBQ island or freestanding grill centrally located in your outdoor space, below a roof but not necessarily against a wall? Once you’ve given those questions some thought, read on to see how an outdoor vent hood should be installed in your space.
My Grill is Against a Wall with Free Wall Space Above
In this common setup, your vent hood should be mounted to the wall above your grill. The ducting should go up and out through the ceiling, or in some rare cases, directly through the rear wall. Outdoor vent hoods are even more important in this scenario because smoke tends to linger in corners where walls meet ceilings, especially if cross-ventilation is lacking. Wall-mounted vent hoods come in a variety of widths and depths to cover any grill, and some brands even offer extensions for those deeper-than-standard countertops. Pro tip: invest in a duct cover to hide ductwork and preserve your space’s aesthetic.
My Grill or Range is Against a Wall with Wall-Mounted Cabinetry
Things get a little trickier here. You’ll need a special type of model called an “under-cabinet vent hood,” which is specifically designed to fit in between the grill and cabinetry, much like indoor kitchen vents. Without an under-cabinet vent hood, excess smoke and heat will waste no time damaging the integrity of your cabinets — stains will appear and paint will peel, eventually turning the cabinets black. Under-cabinet vent hoods usually have lower CFM (or rate of airflow) than their full-size counterparts, so be sure to check your grill’s BTU count so you know exactly how much CFM your vent hood needs.
My Grill isn’t Against a Wall
Do you have a centrally located freestanding or built-in grill that you can’t move from under a covering? You need an island-mounted vent hood. These units hang from the ceiling, suspended by a column of ducting. They’re generally shaped like flared, rectangular bells, with a large hood to capture as much smoke as possible. A general rule of thumb to keep in mind with island-mounted vent hoods: you want about 3 feet of space between your grill’s cooking surface and the bottom of the hood. You should still check your owner’s manual to find the exact distance, which determines how high or low your vent hood needs to hang.
Top Outdoor Ventilation Brands
Do I Need to Vent My Outdoor Kitchen Island?
How do we put this mildly? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Though we’ve spent the bulk of this article discussing the effects of smoke on your outdoor kitchen, BBQ islands introduce another major concern — your health and safety, along with that of your family. If you have a BBQ island that contains a gas grill, the structure must be properly outfitted with island vent panels to ensure no propane or natural gas builds up within the island.
Picture this: you step outside to light the grill, then return to your indoor kitchen to finish seasoning those beautiful ribeyes. While you’re inside, a strong gust of wind rolls through your outdoor space and extinguishes the grill burners. The gas, however, is still flowing from your grill, with nowhere else to go but the internal space of your BBQ island. When you re-light the burners, all that gas goes BOOM! At best, your grill island is in pieces scattered across your backyard and no one gets hurt. At worst… we don’t want to even think about that. But you should still be aware of the dangers of unvented grill islands, which are unfortunately more common than you’d think.
We firmly believe that every outdoor kitchen island must be properly ventilated. And it’s not just trapped gas that needs to escape — all cooking appliances, grills, smokers, outdoor refrigeration units, ice makers, wine coolers, and kegerators need proper ventilation and circulation to operate correctly. Yes, even an outdoor bar island with no “hot” appliances needs to breathe so proper evaporation by condenser units can occur. There’s no way around it: if you build a BBQ island, you should install ventilation. Period.
Fortunately, BBQ island vent panels present an easy and headache-free solution to this problem. The only thing to keep in mind is where they should be installed on the island. We recommend 1 panel for every 4 feet of horizontal space. And vertically? Generally speaking, vent panels should be placed as low as possible for propane appliances, and as high as possible for natural gas appliances. For more information, consult our outdoor ventilation planning guide.