Outdoor kitchens are a growing trend, and for good reason. If you’re big on summer barbecues but tired of running back and forth from your kitchen to your grill, an outdoor kitchen is the perfect way to put prep, cooking and cleanup all in one place while keeping you close to the party.
Sold on the idea? Thinking through the following factors will help guide your quest to create an outdoor kitchen that will really work for you. Ask yourself what kind of cooking you will do, how often you will do it, what furniture you currently have or need to get for the space, and what times of year you will use the space. Also consider whether you will need to be able to move the kitchen components inside for the winter, or whether they can be permanently installed.
So, what are the ingredients of a well-equipped outdoor kitchen? The basic building blocks are no different from an indoor kitchen – you’ll need a work surface to prepare your food, a surface to cook on and a place to clean up after you’re done cooking.
There a couple of things you can do to add a prep area. You can get a rolling kitchen table and put it next to the grill. Think about the materials: you want something that will withstand the weather. Protected wood or stainless steel would be great. If you have good carpentry skills, you can build your own. A frame made out of wood with a weather-resistant stone top would work well.
Another option for the prep area is to build it up with pavers. There are a lot of DIY kits where you can build them out of masonry products. With this option, you can create a grill surround to give your outdoor kitchen a more sophisticated look.
If you’ve got power out there, you can also have a small refrigerator. Look for one that is rated for the outdoors. It’s a great place to keep your drinks cold and any leftovers from going bad during the party, and, of course, a place to store things you’re about to put on the grill.
Speaking of the grill, if you’re happy with the one you have now, it will work just fine. If you’re looking to upgrade your grill, you can get one with some useful add-ons. These days, a lot of grills come with a little side area where you can actually do some prep work or put down some bowls or platters while you’re grilling. They’re not necessarily big or sturdy enough to do intensive prep work, like chopping, but they’re good for lighter, simpler tasks.
That leaves us with the third element of an outdoor kitchen: the cleanup area. A sink is the obvious solution, but if you live in a part of the country where it’s not temperate year-round, you’ll want to carefully consider whether to add plumbing to your outdoor kitchen, as you’ll have to shut it down during the off-season.
However, if you want to go for it, chances are you’ve already got an outdoor hose spigot in the backyard that can be modified to bring some water over to the grilling area for cleanup. There are actually some manually powered sinks available. They hook up via hose, and then you can use a pump with your foot for water flow. The sink drain can also be diverted away with a hose to avoid any puddles at your feet.
Another option are the old-fashioned potting sinks you would use for gardening. You can get those at a garden-supply center.
By assembling all of the components outlined above, you can create a space that lets you enjoy the beautiful weather and spend more time with friends and family while preparing delicious grilled meals. And if you love the idea of an outdoor kitchen but don’t have the budget to go all-in, don’t fret. All of these items are available in a modular format, so you can buy one piece at a time and gradually build the outdoor kitchen of your dreams.