Designing & Planning An Outdoor Kitchen
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While you're brainstorming outdoor kitchen ideas, think of the kitchen as an extension of your home. Why not have the functionality and comfort of your indoor kitchen? Before you buy your equipment and create a design, consider what you want out of your outdoor kitchen.
If you are handy and feel comfortable doing home improvement projects, you can save a lot of money by building the kitchen yourself. However, for aspects such as plumbing, electrical, and gas, it's best to consult a professional.
Outdoor Kitchen Layout
A good outdoor kitchen layout plan should have zones (i.e., prepping, cooking, entertaining, etc.). Designing this way creates a natural flow for outdoor cooking and entertaining. For more help in designing your zones, check out our Outdoor Kitchen Tips: How to Plan Out Your Zones article.
Be sure to check local building and fire safety codes. Laws may restrict the size and location, and fire codes determine clearance requirements between an open flame and combustible surface. You may also need some permits.
Typical layouts for outdoor kitchens include straight counter, L shape, and U shape. Straight counter layouts are the most simple design, typically about eight feet in length. This may be enough room for your grill and perhaps a side burner or sink. L shape layouts allows for two distinct areas, one for cooking and the other for either prepping or serving. U shape layouts are larger designs, and typically gives you three distinct zones for prepping, cooking, and eating.
Outdoor Kitchen Construction
You'll definitely want to build your outdoor kitchen with all-weather materials to extend its lifespan even further. If you're building it on a deck, make sure the deck is made of treated lumber or another type of wood that will last.
Most outdoor kitchen walls are made with concrete blocks that can be covered with a masonry or faux stone veneer. The most popular choices are brick, stucco, or stone. For countertops good choices include granite, tile, slate & stainless steel.
Modular cabinets are also an option for your outdoor kitchen frame. They connect together, and are easy to assemble. When assembly is complete you can choose the size and shape of your island as well as the veneer and countertop for a customized outdoor kitchen.
Remember if you are building with combustible materials make sure to use an insulated jacket with your grill.
Plumbing & Electrical
You may be thinking of installing a natural gas grill in your outdoor kitchen. They are easy to use and the convenience of never having to refill a propane bottle may be appealing to you. That being said, keep in mind that if you do not have a gas line readily available, you'll need a plumbing professional to run the gas line and connect your grill. Depending on where your source and meter is located will surely affect the price.
If your outdoor kitchen includes a sink, you'll need a water line that's connected to your home water supply or fed through a hose. You typically may just need a cold water line, unless you want to wash dishes outdoors.
Don't forget to include plenty of electrical outlets. Rotisserie systems, grill lighting, refrigerators, etc. all require electricity to operate. Outdoor outlets should be ground fault circuit (GFCI) types. We recommend hiring a licensed electrician since they will know local codes and make sure your wiring is compliant.
Do You Entertain Regularly?
Considering how frequently you entertain family and friends will help you determine how large your kitchen should be. Of course, you'll also need to consider the size of your backyard and the layout of your outdoor area.
If you like to entertain, you'll want to consider a 36" or larger grill. This allows you to cook enough food to feed a crowd without spending all day grilling. Don't forget to add storage to your island. Trash bins, storage drawers and paper towel holders are handy and help to lessen trips inside.
Outdoor Bars and kegerators are also great to have if you entertain often. Without the need to go inside to fix a drink, you'll notice your guests will gather around the island more. A well designed outdoor space will allow guests to socialize and serve themselves. Be sure to include seating in and around the outdoor kitchen. Bar stools around the counter, or a patio dining set next to the kitchen is a must.
How Often Will You Grill?
If you plan on using the grill regularly (several times a week) and enjoy trying new recipes or cooking techniques, you'll need a grill with enough features that can keep up with your grilling style. Basic grills may not have enough power or features to satisfy your grilling needs. Side burners, power burners and built-in griddles are also great additions to have near the grill. With a side burner, you can easily prepare sauces or side dishes while grilling, and built-in griddles can add great versatility to your cooking.
Think about your cooking style and the foods you enjoy. If you love slow-cooked BBQ, you might want to consider a kamado grill or smoker. Many gas grills are equipped with smoker boxes, but they aren't ideal for smoking meats. A pizza oven is ideal for those who love pizza, and they're also great for baking cookies or desserts.
Determine Your Budget
Think about how much money you are willing to spend. If you're building a premium quality outdoor kitchen, remember the equipment will often have a lifetime guarantee and the highest quality stainless steel. Outdoor kitchens make a good investment on your home, and they're a great selling point if you decide to sell your house.
The location of your kitchen will play important roles in determining the size, shape, and number of components the kitchen will likely need. If you're building a kitchen connected to your house - on a patio, for example - you can put fewer components in the kitchen because you can easily run inside for things. However, if it's separated from the home, such as out by the pool, it may be more of an inconvenience if you have to make multiple trips indoors to grab food, dishes, etc.