This is an excerpt from our Homeowner's Guide to Outdoor Living. You can read the full outdoor living guide here.
If you do a lot of summer entertaining at home or just enjoy cooking family meals on the grill, an outdoor kitchen is likely high on your wishlist. Outside kitchens can be quite similar to their interior counterparts with the variety and practicality of modern outdoor appliances available to homeowners. To start deciding what you’d like in yours, you’ll need a specific list of the type of kitchen and entertaining activities you would like to be able to do outside. Think about how you like to work in a kitchen. How much food prep space do you need? Would you want your kitchen to include seating for family and friends and for conversation when you work? How would you prefer to manage clean up? How much storage will you need outdoors or would you prefer to do all the prep work indoors and use the grill area strictly for cooking?
While you are not specifically limited only to the standard design concepts and styles used in outdoor kitchen spaces (specifically here in the Midwest), it’s helpful to know what your design professional will have as a basic style template in mind as they work with you and understand your needs.
Exterior kitchen appliances are generally stainless steel. There are specific models manufactured for outside use for most appliances. These are created with the understanding that the appliance will have to withstand exterior elements such as fluctuations in temperature and moisture.
Exterior appliances must be installed inside a structure. Since wooden cabinetry is not an ideal candidate for outside, many times the counter is created using wooden framing covered with a stacked or engineered stone facing. There are many styles of stone available, so locating one that works for your project and the look you want should be no problem. Brick and concrete are other options.
Granite or quartz are the standard for exterior countertops. These materials are hard-wearing, durable, and resistant to water and sun damage. They are also easy to keep clean, and as long as they are properly sealed, they will resist bacterial or mold growth.
Outdoor Kitchen Appliances
A quintessential element, the grill is the central appliance to any outdoor kitchen. Once you find the model you want, your counter can be planned around it. If you are planning to house your grill in a covered shelter away from a large opening, your kitchen design may need to include a ventilation hood to draw off smoke.
Smokers are becoming more and more popular in outdoor kitchens. These cooking appliances use low temperatures and smoke in a controlled chamber for slow cooking. Smokers often require more unique installation than a grill due to their fuel needs so it’s important to get this on the list early in the counter planning if it’s an item you would like to have.
Outdoor refrigerators are also earning the attention of homeowners. Most exterior models are undercounter units that can be protected from the elements and are large enough to store beverages or a few food items. You can also find freezers and icemakers rated for outdoor use to get the full range of refrigeration needs.
Sinks are great to have in a sheltered outdoor kitchen for preparing drinks and meals or for a quick clean up. Plumbing and draining will be installation and budget factors with a sink.
Outdoor Kitchen Seating
Along with an outdoor kitchen, another element to consider is where people will eat. If your ideal outdoor eating situations involve full meals with dishes, then you’ll want to take the time to decide how much and what type of seating you may need, and where that seating might go. Bar height counters installed along the outdoor kitchen are a popular solution, as well as an area for a table with chairs under a covered structure.