Outdoor Kitchen Buying Guide

Outdoor Kitchen
  • Getting Started

  • An outdoor kitchen can be so handy. It gives you an opportunity to prepare meals and spend time outside without wasting time on running back inside your house for beverages, plates or cookware. If you’re looking for something more elegant and sophisticated than a BBQ in a backyard, you should go for an outdoor kitchen.

  • What to Consider

  • Select the location of your outdoor kitchen. If it’s going to be self-efficient with refrigeration, electricity and running water, you can build it anywhere. Otherwise, the outdoor kitchen and indoor kitchen should be as close to each other as possible so that you can run to the fridge or sink quickly.

    Choose a spot that is quiet, offers privacy and doesn’t pose a risk of fire to your house and other buildings. Consider sufficient wind, power lines, and sun protection.

    Get all necessary permits. Depending on your community, you will need a permit if you’re bringing electric, gas or water for a permanent structure. To make sure you follow the local legislations, visit the local building department before starting building an outdoor kitchen. Make sure you don’t cut a gas line and call your utilities company.

    Check that all materials are thaw and freeze resistant. For counter material, try also to pick the one that can handle a hot pot and resist grease. Polished granite or stainless steel is the best options.

    Make sure that you installed a fire extinguisher and your outdoor kitchen isn’t located under hanging trees or flammable walls.

    Beware of sharp edges and corners and install lighting for steps and walkways.

  • Location

  • Close to the house: The biggest advantage of having an outdoor kitchen close to the house is that your walls protect the kitchen from wind.  Consider extension of an extended roof to guard against the sun, rain and other weather conditions. Take the proximity of doors and windows into consideration. If ventilation is poor, you will need to install a vent system to prevent smoke odor in your house.

    Far from the house: An outdoor kitchen that is far from the house creates an autonomous entertainment area in a back yard. Kitchens farther from the house should be equipped with more appliances (fridge, oven, and a sink) and storage. The benefits are that you’re not limited by walls and can arrange any kitchen you want, but the construction of an overhang should be built from the ground up. You have to consider noise, smoke and privacy issues that could arise from a chosen location.

  • Layout

  • Kitchen Triangle: the most common layout, where the cooktop, refrigerator, and sink are the corners and should be less than 100 feet from each other.

    Islands: to make an island, clutter the grill and appliances in a central unit. It allows guests to gather around the cook and creates an entertaining hub.

    Straight Line: Should be installed against a wall, this layout is perfect for one-cook spaces. To protect the siding, choose non-combustible materials. A budget-friendly option that is perfect for small spaces.

    U-shaped: perfect for a large kitchen with a dishwasher, a fridge, a grill, a sink, and bar area. It imitates indoor kitchens and becomes a backyard focal point.

  • Outdoor Cabinet Material

  • Consider these durable materials to ensure that an outdoor kitchen lasts for years to come.

        •  Marine Grade Polymer is a high-density Polyethylene, a 100% waterproof material that will not rot or rust. Marine Grade Polymer resists degradation and stain and is easy to clean.

        •  Stainless Steel is ideal for outdoor kitchens since it integrates well with frills and appliances. The steel should be 18 gauge thickness.

        •  Teak can withstand over 200 degrees Fahrenheit and isn’t affected by snow, rain, sleet or sun. The material is rust and water-proof. Easy to clean with a scrub with water and soap.

  • Choosing Appliances

  • Cooktop:  When choosing a cooktop, consider its efficiency: how much heat can you lose? Using a flat cook top like electric you lose the least amount of heat while with gas you lose about 40% of it. However, fast-heating gas stoves can save a lot of your time.In the shop, ask about British thermal units or BTU, which measures energy content. Serious cook tops ranges start from 9,200 BTU and up. Besides, ask if the cooktop has variable control: how long it can maintain “simmer”. Cast iron or metal burner grates are good at transferring heat from the burner to the pan.

    Oven:  Traditional bake/roast oven can be a good option, but a convection oven will help you to get dinner on the table much faster. It circulates heat with a fan and cooks food quickly.

    Vent:  A cooktop needs a ventilation system. Range hood is a must for an outdoor kitchen, and it’s recommended to avoid noisy options (when you can hear the motor running). If you can’t handle the noise, think of building exterior motors.

    Refrigerator:  Freestanding refrigerators usually stick out 7 inches beyond counter depth. However, there are models that look like built-in units. The performance is the most important factor: single-compressor units work double time to keep a dry, cold fridge. A Dual-compressor unit is more expensive but can keep food longer. If you prefer buying organic or gourmet foods, a fridge with a dual-compressor is a good choice.You can determine the quality of a fridge by recommendations for winter storage and summer heat. If it says that the fridge automatically turns off when the temperature is higher than 90°F, it is not the best choice for an outdoor kitchen. There are models that can handle extreme summer heat and still perform very well.Some fridges are capable of purification of water; others just pass it through a pipe and out of your refrigerator door.

    Microwave:  Microwaves require a lot of space, that’s why it’s convenient to have them above a cook top or built into cabinetry. A convection microwave is a fast-speed option that works twice faster than traditional ones, but also more expensive.

    Dishwasher:  Drawer dishwashers are easier to load and they can be installed at different heights. They’re also more efficient since they can handle smaller loads. However, traditional dishwashers that have doors that pull from the top down are cheaper and can be blended with the cabinetry.

    Sink:  It’s advised to choose a sink along with a cabinetry for a seamless look. They come in different shapes, depths and sizes and can be made of cast iron, steel, quartz or composite acrylic. Stainless steel is the most popular material because of its low cost, mirror finish, and ability to resist heat and stain.

  • Floor Materials

  • When choosing floor materials, durability is the first thing to consider since they’ll be spills and they have to perform well under harsh weather conditions.

        •  Stone is perfect for countertops, as it absorbs heat and is very tough and durable. If you’re on a tight budget, consider limestone, slate, and sandstone. Marble is more expensive but gives the kitchen a stylish look.

        •  Concrete is prone to cracking, so it needs to be sealed upon installation and then released for maintenance. It can fit many styles since it can be colored, imprinted or finished.

        •  A tile is a budget-friendly option that is easy to install without professional help. There are special freeze-proof tiles for cold climates.

  • Seating

  • While planning an outdoor kitchen, consider the width of each seat, knee space and the amount of clearance behind the seats.

        •  The usual seating width is 24 inches per person, but you can plan it up to 36 inches per person.

        •  Depending on the height of the seats, consider knee space. If you have bar height seating, leave at least 12 inch counter overhang for comfortable sitting. If you plan sitting behind the table, sitting should have no less than the 18-inch overhang.

        •  Traffic clearance: if no traffic needs to pass, leave 32 inches between the table edge and the nearest obstruction. People can freely pass behind seats if there are 36 inches left.

  • Budget

  • Before making a purchase, think of all your needs. If you can use an outdoor kitchen just for a couple of months out of the year, keep it simple. Besides, estimate what you’ll be doing in the kitchen and whether you’re going to have large gatherings there. It will help you to be realistic about the budget and purchase only barely essentials.