Interest in outdoor living continues to expand, as homeowners seek to make use of the space they have – both inside and out. Screened porches, outside fireplaces and entertainment areas, and even outdoor kitchens are additions to existing home, and part of the plan for new homes under construction.
When it comes to outdoor kitchens, it usually starts with the grill, but it certainly doesn’t end there. Hybrid grills are available that can be operated by charcoal or gas, and outdoor chefs are adding smokers, roasting pits and even warming drawers to their outdoor kitchen configuration. Cooking isn’t relegated soley to the grill, however. An outside fireplace can easily be transformed into an outside cooking area. Even a fire pit can be used to cook – with skewers or a grill over the open flame.
A fully-functional outdoor kitchen may also include a sink, bar or storage area, as well as durable countertops – including concrete countertops prized for their functionality and durability. Other materials frequently used for countertops include stainless steel, stone and slate. These materials will tolerate outside weather well and clean up easily. When it comes to cabinets, grills, and refrigerators, one thing that is not negotiable – everything has to be waterproofed. there are many wood selections that are resistant to rot – such as redwood. Stainless steel is another good option for outdoor cabinets.
Some families prefer the option of a prefabricated outdoor kitchen which requires very little construction in comparison to custom-built kitchens. Modules can be ordered and delivered complete with countertops and appliances. (These units must be set on a level surface, preferably a concrete slab, and attached to utilities such as electricity, water and gas.) This style of outdoor kitchen is preferred because of fast installation and it can be removed and taken if the family moves.
Homeowners site the desire to enjoy the outdoors and expand their living space as two reasons for utilizing outdoor kitchens. Others suggest that entertaining is easier in a more casual setting. With more attention turned outside, families are also adding garden areas adjacent to their outdoor kitchens. Cooking can then include herbs and ingredients fresh from the garden and picked just steps away.
What are some elements to consider when planning and outdoor garden? Site lines and views are important, and can be adjusted using trees, hedges and shrubbery to add both beauty and privacy.
Another consideration is sun and shade. Natural shade is preferable because ventilation is automatic. If the outdoor kitchen area is placed in a setting which receives afternoon sun, a shade trellis, umbrella or other awning may be added. It also makes sense to locate an outdoor kitchen in close proximity to the indoor kitchen, for ease of food preparation and quick and convenient trips in and out for food and drink and other supplies. The location of gas and electric lines may also play a factor in the location of a grilling center. A water source is also an ideal option when planning an outdoor kitchen, even if it is only from a small, bar-sized sink.
Last but not least, once the food has been cooked, there is still the question of where to sit down to eat. Patio sets and other seating options are endless. A built-in counter area may provide the perfect spot for a casual, comfortable dinner. Patio dining furniture designed to withstand the elements is also available, including tables with slots to allow rain to drain through and benches or chairs with thick, removable cushions and straps to keep them from blowing away.