Imagine inviting your family friends over to spend Labor Day with you. The kids are playing in the backyard. Where are you? The last thing you want is to spend the last day of summer in your kitchen, preparing a meal for a dozen people. Build an outdoor kitchen that lets you keep an eye on your kids while preparing the salad—one that brings indoor comfort outside.
Building the perfect outdoor kitchen may be easier than you think, if you break it down into four basic sections: wash, prep, cook, and cool.
Whether you need it for quick hand washing or for cleaning food, having an outdoor sink is a must for building the perfect outdoor kitchen. The sink can be as simple or elaborate as you like, and depending on its use, you can save some money by running only a cold water line—or even by attaching it to the garden hose.
Safety tip: With all these wet elements, including natural ones, install a non-slip floor for extra traction.
The prep section is one that’s often overlooked in outdoor kitchens, but it’s absolutely necessary for your sanity and convenience. Again, you can splurge or save on countertops, but make sure whatever you choose that you’re installing easy to clean, weatherproof cabinets and counters. Use materials like stone or steel or, our favorite, a combination of stone and stainless steel that’s both resilient and stylish.
In addition to countertops and cabinets, another element to consider in your prep section is lighting. Installing outdoor lighting will extend the hours you’re able to use your outdoor kitchen. A common practice is to add lighting under or over your countertops.
Safety tip: Round all countertop outside corners so you don’t accidentally impale yourself while cooking or walking through your patio.
An outdoor kitchen is the perfect place to add a cooking appliance you don’t have in your indoor kitchen. Here are some examples:
- BBQ grill (gas or charcoal)
- Cooking range
- Fire pit
- Hibachi grill
- Outdoor brick pizza oven
- Warming drawer
Remember to install appliances that are weather-worthy. Where you live will determine what kind. And put some real forethought into the placement of your cooking elements. You don’t want the pizza oven to catch a Frisbee or for the smoke from the grill to waft right back into your house.
Safety tip: If you have a gas-burning appliance, ensure the gas shutoff valve is easily accessible but at a good distance from the appliance.
Since we’re in Maine, you may not think adding a refrigeration element is necessary, but on a hot day in July when you’d rather cook outside than in, you’ll be glad you added a mini fridge to your outdoor kitchen. Your outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to include a full-size refrigerator. A mini fridge or freezer is fine. Just like your cooking appliances, consider special cooling elements you don’t have in your regular kitchen, like a wine cooler, beer tap, ice machine, or soda fountain. Fair warning, though: Your friends may never leave your backyard.
One way to determine whether a refrigeration unit will work for your outdoor kitchen is by looking at the manufacturer temperature recommendations. Look for units that are designed to withstand extreme temperatures.
Safety tip: Like in any indoor kitchen, a fire extinguisher should be stored nearby.
Planning enough space for all four of these zones is vital to building a great outdoor kitchen. All four of these areas work together to create an outdoor kitchen that will take your entertaining game to the next level and let you spend as much time as possible outdoors. After you build your dream outdoor kitchen, send us pictures for inspiration!