Outdoor Kitchens

The Outdoor Kitchen is one of my favorite design features in an outdoor living space. Depending on your style of cooking, a small 3 burner grill with 12 sq.ft. of prep space can do the trick and not break the bank. For the folks that enjoy spending 8 hours roasting a rack of ribs or if you entertain 10 or more people outdoors more than a few times a year, your outdoor kitchen needs are probably a little more sophisticated. Below are some steps to help figure out what your needs are for your new outdoor kitchen.

  1. What size Grill do I need? This should be an easy one. Simply consider how often you entertain, and how many people you can expect to show up and eat your fine food and drink. If the answer is between 5 and 10, you may want to double it. Once you build a sweet new outdoor kitchen, you will be loading up the guest list, take my word for it. A simple outdoor kitchen can start out at around 5k. The grills can start out at $700.00 for an economy model, and go up to $5000 for a Viking or Lynx model. Most folks seem to settle somewhere in the middle with a 30″-36″ grill priced between $1,000-$2,500.00. The 36″ model can easily handle tapas for a 15-20 person wine mixer, or the midnight re-fire of the left over burgers and dogs.
  2. Can I build my outdoor kitchen and get the grill and components later? No, your grill and all of your components should be onsite before construction begins. Worst case, if something is back ordered, you should be able to download the installation manual off the internet.
  3. What materials should I use to build my outdoor kitchen? Outdoor kitchens are no small investment so I advise my customers to build out of natural stone products. It is acceptable to swap out the veneer stones for a concrete retaining wall block or a wood framed structure ( to match a deck for example). But natural stone is simply the most durable and it is not effected by the temperature extremes from the environment or the grill components. The varieties of stone are vast but one tip that can keep the budget at bay is to buy local. Natural stone veneer is heavy and expensive to ship, The closer the quarry, the cheaper the freight. Also, try to resist the “good deal” on stone products. The stone material you buy may be cheap, but it may not be the proper cut for the look you are going for. Stone masonry is very time and labor intensive. The trick is to spend 10-20% more on the proper cut of stone and save 40-50% labor cost in fabrication.
  4. What Should I use for a countertop? Bluestone is most commonly used in New York and many parts of New England. It is indigenous to this area and it saws and chisels relatively easily which makes it cheap to fabricate. The most economical finish is a thermaled top with a rocked face, this style gives you the most natural finish. Limestone and granite tops are also used for outdoor kitchens. If you really want to impress the neighbors, you can get a full bullnose or ogee finished edge. Just remember, the smoother and shinier you want the stone, the more your going to pay.
  5. Do I need access doors? You do not need access doors but they are highly recommended. Access doors below the grill provide a storage area for grill parts, cleaners and tools. Gas shut off valves are commonly placed in this area as well. Inevitably you will need to do maintenance work on the grill, and the access door provides another point of access to the “guts” of the grill. Without it you may need to remove the grill entirely from the counter top for certain maintenance tasks.
  6. What type of grill should I buy? While there are many companies that build grills, there still is not a standard industry specification for the insert size. So if you are going to buy a grill insert for an expensive outdoor kitchen, spend a little extra for a reputable brand because you may need to get parts down the road. Trying to insert a new grill into and old opening may prove to be problematic.
  7. Do I need to seal the countertop? yes, use a silicon based impregnating sealer once a year to help prevent staining. Also have a spot remover on hand and clean grease and wine spills immediately.
  8. What other components should I install with my outdoor kitchen? Skies the limit! Just don’t get carried away, try to be realistic with your intended uses for the space. Side burners, sinks, refrigerators, storage doors, and lights are all great components, but unless your are a very serious outdoor cook, you don’t need them all. One of the cheapest and most practical components that I recommend is a GCFI. Simply it is an outdoor power outlet. You should install at least 1, and if you plan to install a rotisserie on your grill, (many grills come standard with them) you will need a second GCFI. The cords are very short on the rotisserie’s so you may need to strategically place the GCFI or get a small extension cord.
  9. Can I hook the grill up to the gas service on my house? Absolutely! this is one of the major advantages to an outdoor kitchen, no more tank exchanges! Most grill inserts are initially set up for natural gas but include a conversion kit for LP (liquified propane). It is important to know what type of fuel you will be using.
  10. Where should I build my outdoor kitchen? Build your outdoor kitchen close to your indoor kitchen. Much of the food prep and storage will still be indoors, so having your outdoor kitchen in close proximity to an exterior door will make the area much more convenient and more often utilized.

The ability to cook and prepare food outdoors is a great convenience for those who enjoy entertaining and dining al fresco. Outdoor kitchens are a primary focal point and the main functional component of many outdoor spaces. Their location and the surrounding space should be thought out carefully in the design process. If you would like to see more photos of outdoor kitchens or would like to set up a consultation for an upcoming project, please visit my companies website at www.peakec.com

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