There’s nothing quite like dining outdoors. Fresh air and greenery provide an enchanting backdrop to weeknight meals with family or dinner parties with friends.
Why not take the whole cooking process outdoors? Read on for all the design ideas you need for your perfect outdoor kitchen.
Outdoor kitchen designs come in all shapes and sizes.
If you’re thinking about adding one to your home, the first thing is to figure out how much room you have and how much room you want to use.
Think about how you’re going to use your outdoor kitchen.
Will you host dinner parties with large groups? Or will you mostly be preparing dinner for the family?
The way you use your kitchen will determine which cooking appliances you include in your plans.
Most outdoor kitchens have a grill. Pizza ovens and smokers are also common, as are extra side burners. You can also include a sink, a refrigerator, or even a full bar.
If any part of the process seems like it’s beyond your skill level, consider engaging the expertise of a licensed contractor. Doubly so if you’re planning extensive design and construction work.
Outdoor kitchens are typically located at the rear of the house, on the deck or patio.
Situate your outdoor kitchen close to your indoor kitchen. This setup cuts down on the hassle of ferrying food and equipment between the two.
Your kitchen also needs access to utilities: gas, electricity, and plumbing (if you want a sink). Extending utility hookups over long distances gets expensive. The closer your kitchen is to existing utilities, the better.
Also consider sunlight and wind, though you don’t have much control over them. You can always build additional protection as part of your design – more on that later in the article.
With the location scouted out, the next step is to decide where everything’s going to go.
Start by finding places for the largest items – like the grill, countertops, or pizza oven – and work your way down to the smaller ones.
This is the time to do in-depth research on grills and other major appliances. You need to know which ones you’re buying and how much space they’ll take up. Then, you can design your counter and storage spaces to accommodate them.
With your plan drawn up, you can mark out the future positions of counters and appliances with tape. That will help you visualize what it’ll look like before you start building anything.
Don’t forget to include a dining area as part of your plan. It’d be a shame to invest a bunch of time and money into cooking outdoors and find yourself stuck eating inside.
We’ll get into dining areas a bit further down.
Try to give your outdoor kitchen at least partial shelter. Nothing ruins a cookout like wind and rain. Shelter can come from the adjacent walls of the house or a detached structure like a pergola.
As a minimum, an outdoor kitchen includes a grill and some counter space for prep work. Anything less than that, and it’s not really a kitchen.
You can make your design as lavish or as simple as you wish. Here are a few ideas for your outdoor kitchen plans:
The main thing that turns a patio grill into an outdoor kitchen is counter space.
Much like an indoor kitchens, outdoor kitchens have many countertop options available.
Outdoor countertops are exposed to the elements. Inferior artisanship just isn’t going to cut it here.
Try to buy an outdoor-specific material for your countertops. If you can’t, consult with the manufacturer to be sure your counters will stand up to the outdoor environment.
Here are a few ideas for countertops to consider:
Not all types of stone are made equal. Marble is popular for indoor kitchens, but it doesn’t hold up well outside. Soapstone is a better choice for outdoor counters, as it’s highly resistant to heat and staining. It scratches easily, though.
Granite is the way to go if you want stone countertops outdoors. Granite stands up to the elements and resists food stains well.
Consider concrete countertops if you’re going for a rugged look. They’re tough, and you can pour the concrete yourself if you’re DIY-ing the project. The downside? Concrete is prone to cracking if it’s not installed properly (and sometimes even if it is).
Tile countertops are easy to install and come in an endless variety of styles. If you live in a cold climate, though, be careful. The tiles and grouting are susceptible to cracking during seasonal freeze-thaw cycles. Choose cold-resistant materials or hire an experienced contractor to build your countertop for you.
Porcelain is durable and low maintenance. Plus, it’s UV-resistant, so it won’t get damaged by direct sunlight. It might be hard to find a fabricator for a porcelain slab countertop. You can use porcelain tiles instead, but make sure they’re installed properly.
Wood (aka butcher block) countertops look great, but they’re high maintenance. Wood countertops need to be protected from the weather and refinished often. Think of what happens to a wooden fence as it sits outside; you don’t want a countertop in similar condition.
An unorthodox choice, but stainless steel is among the lowest of the low-maintenance options. The downside is that it conducts a lot of heat and throws glare if it’s sitting in direct sunlight.
Regardless of which type you choose, it’s wise to buy outdoor kitchen covers. You can get custom covers fabricated that match the size and shape of your counters and appliances. Or, you can search for off-the-shelf options to save money.
Keeping your outdoor kitchen covered when you’re not using it will help prolong its lifespan.
Depending on your outdoor kitchen design, you may or may not have a backsplash (the wall behind the stove or countertop).
Often, the backsplash is as simple as extending the countertop material up the wall behind it. It can also be an opportunity to inject some extra style into your design.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Whether glass, porcelain, or ceramic, a tile backsplash is a stylish choice. They’re waterproof, durable, and available in any style you need.
Stone tiles work with many design themes. They’re sturdy and easy to clean, but also a bit pricey. Make sure they’re installed by an expert, or they’re prone to cracking during seasonal freeze cycles.
Bricks are strong, durable, and look great. Many outdoor kitchens use brick structures as the foundation for heavy built-in grills or pizza ovens. It’s easy to extend the bricks upward and turn them into a stylish backsplash.
It won’t mix with just any style, but corrugated metal has its place. It’s cheap, indestructible, and easy to install.
Indoors, the kitchen island is a luxury for people with plenty of space. Not so with the outdoor kitchen, which isn’t constrained by walls.
Some outdoor kitchens only have islands! A grill and a little counter space might all you need.
With the addition of some barstools, an island also makes a great place to seat guests.
Whatever you decide to use your outdoor kitchen island for, make sure you leave enough room around the outside to walk around it comfortably.
If your outdoor kitchen doesn’t have enough room for a permanent island, you can include a portable one.
Barbecues come in two essential forms: stand-alone and built-in.
Most grills used in outdoor kitchens are of the latter type. A grill that’s built into the counter space makes it feel more like an actual kitchen. Otherwise, it’s just a barbecue sitting on a deck (which is still nice, but not what we’re going for here).
There are countless makes and models of built-in grills. Spend some time researching and visiting stores or showrooms before you make the big decision. After all, the grill is the centrepiece of almost any outdoor kitchen.
Keep in mind the size of grill you’ll need. It will depend on how much room your outdoor kitchen has, and how many people you typically barbecue for. People often overbuy their grills; be realistic about how much cooking surface area you need.
Many people struggle with which type of grate they should have on their grill. Stainless steel? Porcelain-coated? Cast iron?
Each has different pros and cons. Many avid grillers prefer heavy cast-iron grates for their heat retention. Stainless-steel grills are effective and low-maintenance. Porcelain-coated grates work well, but the coating can chip if you use metal utensils.
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If you’re going to go to all the trouble of setting up an outdoor kitchen, you need an outdoor dining area.
The dining area isn’t as complicated as the kitchen since there aren’t any fixtures to install.
Instead, you need only set aside some space and find your ideal table and chairs.
Locate your dining area near the outdoor kitchen, but not so close that guests will be subject to clouds of barbecue smoke while they sit. The dining area should be sheltered, especially from the late-afternoon sun. Pergolas or gazebos are fantastic if you want to go all-out, but umbrellas or shade sails work too.
Before choosing a table, mock up the layout of your dining area. You can mark the future table’s outline with tape to help you visualize what it will look like in place.
Don’t forget to include ample room around the outside of the table for people to sit. There’s nothing worse than a cramped dining space with everyone smashing elbows together.
There are plenty of table style options to suit any theme. You can either buy tables and chairs separately or buy a patio dining set, whatever works best for your design scheme and your budget.
Here are a few materials to consider for your outdoor kitchen furniture:
Softwood (like pine, spruce, or cedar) is a thrifty choice. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly durable and requires lots of maintenance. Softwood furniture doesn’t stand up well to the elements, and you’ll need to refinish it often.
Unlike their soft cousins, hardwood tables are quite durable. They still need refinishing now and again, but they’ll survive outdoors if they’re cared for. Just make sure not to leave them outside once the weather gets wintry.
Aluminum outdoor furniture has plenty of advantages: it’s low-maintenance, durable, and lightweight. It’s also available in a variety of styles to suit any theme.
Plastic, especially HDPE (high-density polyethylene), is popular for outdoor furniture. It’s available in any colour and requires almost no maintenance. HDPE is not as cheap as you’d expect for plastic, but quality HDPE patio furniture can last a lifetime.
As you begin your outdoor kitchen design journey, don’t forget to consider your home insurance. Your insurance provider will want to know about any extensive renovations you’re planning, and all your new stuff might require an adjustment to your contents coverage.
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