The sun is out, the day is warm. It’s time to grill some steaks!
Do you dream of barbecue ribs? Skewers of roasted vegetables? Sizzling hamburgers? If so, then now is the time to have Home Improvements of America build you a customized Outdoor Kitchen. From grills to pizza ovens, your kitchen will be the ultimate outdoor cooking experience.
Planning Your Outdoor Kitchen
The key to the perfect outdoor kitchen is careful planning, personalized design, and skilled craftsmen. Your needs as a homeowner are the number one priority when planning your project. An outdoor cooking area should not only be beautiful, but specifically functional for your requirements as a cook.
It should also fit neatly within your home improvement budget. Your outdoor kitchen is not only an additional living space for your home, but an investment as well. It should be carefully designed so it will add value to your home’s worth, which will pay off in the long run, if and when you decide to sell.
The location of your kitchen is crucial to its success. Before breaking ground, there are two important topics that you should address:
- Are you a full-on chef or a budding grill master? If you are the Mario Patelli of your home, then you will want to consider what appliance options you consider essential. Everything from twelve burner grills, to kegerators are available for your kitchen and can make your life as outdoor chef, easier. You may also want to consider how much time you want to spend going from your indoor kitchen to your outdoor kitchen. If you don’t mind running in for cold drinks, or to heat up vegetables in a sauce pan, then a simpler outdoor kitchen might work for you.
If you want to complete your entire meal outdoors, then adding the ‘extra’ appliances will make your cooking job much easier by eliminating that need to constantly go indoors for items.
- Will you use your outdoor kitchen for several months out of the year, or only in warmer seasons? If you live in an extremely cold climate and plan on using your kitchen only during warmer months, then a full-out kitchen might not be worth the investment. A smaller outdoor kitchen might better suit your needs since you are limited to your time outdoors. However, if cold weather is no problem for you, then by all means, equip your kitchen with every appliance that will help you cook a wonderful outdoor meal. You might also want to consider building your kitchen closer to your outside door, so you don’t have much of a walk, back and forth, during chilly weather.
Warm weather climates give a little more flexibility as to when you can comfortably use your outdoor kitchen, as well as, increases your options on where you can build it. This makes it easier to design a full-out kitchen, with sink and refrigerator, so you can maximize your time outdoors. If extreme heat becomes an issue, then having a pavilion or covered pergola built, can not only extend the life of your kitchen appliances, but also make outdoor cooking a cooler, more enjoyable experience. Ceiling fans and misters can also be added to increase your comfort level.
Your kitchen needs to be a perfect fit for your needs as a cook and homeowner, and the best way to do that, is to build your outdoor kitchen in an optimal place. Here are some important questions you will want to answer in determining the placement of your kitchen:
- Do I need an outdoor sink? If not, you might want to build your kitchen close to your outside door, so you will have easy access to your inside kitchen sink. However, choosing to have an outdoor sink will save you time and trouble in the long run by allowing you to rinse vegetables, as well as wash hands and utensils. Installation of a sink does involve plumbing lines for the water, so that will need to be included in your design plan.
- Do I have a current gas line, or will I need to run one to my grill? If your back patio has a gas line, then placement of your kitchen can be made on your current slab. If you choose to build further out, then your gas line will need to be extended underground, to reach your grill. This is if you choose to have a gas grill or oven, a propane grill doesn’t require a gas line. If your patio doesn’t have a gas line, our installation crew can easily install one for you.
- Who am I accommodating outside? If you have a pool and want easy food access for your swimmers, then you can have your kitchen built closer to your pool, such as in a swim-up area. If you have another outdoor entertaining area that needs to have easy food access, then you can build it closer to that. Just remember that you will need electrical and possibly gas hookups for your kitchen, so that will need to be considered during the planning stage.
- Do I want to be close to my inside eating area and kitchen? If you plan on eating a lot of your food inside, then having quick access to your interior is a good choice. Building your kitchen on top of your current patio, or on a stab poured next to your backdoor will make grilling easier for you. This is also a good option for homeowners who are on a tight budget. This will allow you to forgo extra outdoor appliances like a small refrigerator, warming drawer, or sink.
- What type of clearance for ventilation will my grill have? Placement of your grill is critical if you are building your outdoor kitchen beneath a structure such as a covered patio. There needs to be plenty of clearance between the grill and the roof base for adequate ventilation of heat and smoke. If your desired placement doesn’t have good ventilation, vent hoods are available to vent the heat and smoke, through the roof of your covered patio or pavilion.
The custom design of your outdoor kitchen is virtually unlimited. Not only can the shape and design be personalized to suit your needs, but there are there several materials that can be used to build your kitchen.
Each material adds a different feel and style so choosing your material is strictly an individual preference. Some materials, such as stone or brick, withstand weather better, but each material is excellent for your project.
Appliances and Accessories
Fortunately, there are several fantastic appliances that will complement your outdoor kitchen, as well as add to its functionality.
- Refrigerator – Small refrigerators make life easier for the chef. Keeping meats cold until they are ready to be cooked is the safest method for grilling. Also, keeping drinks chilled for guests, and refrigerating other ‘ready to cook’ foods makes cooking outside a breeze.
- Side Burner – If you love to add side dishes to your meal, then a side burner is a great option. Side burners come in single, double or quadruple burner units and turn a simple grill area into an actual kitchen. Create a culinary masterpiece by sautéing mushrooms, cooking vegetables, or simmering a simple sauce while you grill. Perfect for your meal!
- Ice Bucket – If you love keeping your drinks chilled, then an ice bucket is for you. Ice buckets can be built into your outdoor kitchen counter-top, and have a stainless-steel lid to keep those drinks nice and cold. It also makes it handy for guests to grab a quick drink.
- Kegerator – This isn’t your average beer barrel. Kegerators are hi-tech kegs that not only keep your beer cold, but keep it on tap for a fresh, frothy pour. A great way to enjoy the game and a steak!
- Wine Refrigerator – Wine is the drink of choice for many homeowners, so what wine connoisseur wouldn’t love a chilled glass of wine while they cook and entertain outdoors? Wine refrigerators are designed to keep your wine cooled to the perfect temperature, while also providing a safe place to store it while preserving its smooth taste.
- Warming drawer – As most chefs know, timing is everything when it comes to cooking. However, we are all not Bobby Flay, and timing our food to be ready at the same time can be a challenge. While your steaks sizzle on the grill, keeping those veggies nice and hot in a warming drawer will guarantee your status as ‘master chef’. Warming drawers are also the perfect way to keep the food hot and ready for guests who may not be ready to come out of the pool to eat!
- Pizza Oven – Come and get it, hot and ready pizza! The ultimate in outdoor cooking, having your own pizza oven simply can’t be beat. Whether you want a small, single pizza oven, or one large enough to accommodate pizza for a crowd, your pizza oven can be customized to complement your grilling station and your budget.
- Sink – Having an outdoor sink, is by far, the most convenient way to cook outdoors. Whether its washing vegetables or hands, your outdoor sink will make your cooking adventures far easier. No more running back and forth to the house!
- Griddle – Griddles aren’t just for pancakes anymore (although who doesn’t love a good pancake?). A griddle is a great addition, by allowing you to increase your cooking repertoire. Great for cooking sandwiches, bacon, and a host of other foods, a griddle can enable you to use your outdoor kitchen for virtually every meal.
- Oven – Having an additional oven makes your open-air cooking area a full-service kitchen and reduces the time you spend running back into the house.
- Storage cabinets and bins – Storage components are essential to any kitchen, especially outdoors. Utensils, and other items can be safely stored in weatherproof cabinets and bins. They come in several different configurations, including a propane cabinet to keep your tank hidden.
- Smoker – Smokers give meats a flavor that is undeniably delicious. Used in conjunction with your grill (cold smoking) or as a standalone cooking option (hot smoking), they are well worth the added investment.
There are almost as many grills to choose from as there are foods to cook! However, there is something important to remember – all grills are not created equal! Not only do prices range from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, but their functions can be extremely diverse. Each type of grill produces its own distinctive flavor and influences cooking time. Also, did you know there is a difference between barbecuing and grilling?
- Barbecuing is cooking with your grill lid closed in order to slowly use circumvented hot air to cook the meat.
- Grilling is cooking with the lid open and using searing heat from the bottom of the grill unit.
Fortunately, most outdoor grills allow you to utilize both types of cooking. Understanding your skills as a chef is the most important factor in correctly choosing an outdoor grill. Not only will you want to keep the price within your desired budget, but you also need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each type of grill.
- Propane – Propane grills utilize a canister of propane gas instead of a gas hook-up. This type of grill eliminates the need to run a gas line and can be more economical since it eliminates the need for a plumber. However, it does not offer the convenience of a gas grill. Propane tanks must be replaced at a local dealer when they run dry. This is an added cost each time you make a tank exchange.
- Charcoal – Charcoal grills have been around forever, making them a favorite for those not ready to embrace the current high-tech world of backyard grills. And while they do produce a desirable smoky flavor in meats, many homeowners are put off by the dirty job of expertly stacking the coals to produce the best heat and flavor. Charcoal grills are also harder to clean because of the persnickety nature of soot.
- Gas – Gas grills are extremely popular because of their ease and efficiency. Lighting a gas grill is as simple as pushing a button. These types of grills are great for chefs who like to get their food cooking quickly and easily. Their simplicity of use also makes them easy to do quick, nightly grilling. Cooking temperature is easily controlled and they are also extremely easy to clean. Some chefs, however, do not feel that gas grills give them the flavor of other grills, but that can easily be fixed in how you season and prepare your meats.
- Electric – Electric grills are not as popular as their gas or propane grilling counterparts. Powered only by electricity, they cook using heated grill plates. Some electric grills are designed to reduce the fat in your food, an obvious advantage. Another advantage of the absence of flame or combustible tanks. While these are great features, an electric grill doesn’t necessarily give that ‘grilling’ feeling that many outdoor chefs desire.
Protecting Your Outdoor Kitchen
Protecting your outdoor kitchen is extremely important. You want to have a long shelf life for your investment and placing it beneath an outdoor structure is an excellent way to do that. There are several options to choose from that will comfortably accommodate your budget.
- Pergolas – A pergolas is a beautiful way to complement your outdoor environment while also offering shade for entertaining. Normally built from sturdy cedar, these structures have slatted roofs that add shade while also allowing in the sunlight. Since they do not have a complete roof enclosure, the elements such as rain and snow can still reach your outdoor kitchen. However, there is the option of adding a clear, corrugated hard plastic over the roof slats to give better protection.
- Pavilions – A first cousin to pergolas, pavilions are fantastic for offering complete coverage for your outdoor kitchen. Also composed of rich cedar, pavilions have a full roof, including shingles if the design calls for it. Like pergolas, pavilions can be built to cover any sized structure while also offering plenty of shaded space for your guests to relax. Because they require more materials and manpower, pavilions are priced a little higher than pergolas. However, they are well worth the extra investment because of their functionality and beauty.
- Covered Patio – Many homeowners have their outdoor kitchens built beneath their existing covered patio. This is a very budget friendly option for the budding grill master. Making sure that there is safe clearance for ventilation is critical to the placement of your grill. Another consideration is ensuring that your new kitchen doesn’t impede the flow of your patio or close it in. A solution for that is to extend your patio by either adding on to the existing slab, or extending the roof and slab together. If your current patio slab is not covered, then a pergola or pavilion can be added to cover the area.
So now that you know your grilling dreams can come true, let our outdoor experts work with you to design the ultimate outdoor kitchen. We offer FREE in-home consultations and estimates. What are you waiting for? Time to cook!