There’s just something special about dining al fresco. When you eat outside, food just tastes better somehow! Whether you’re at a nice restaurant or hosting a cookout, the atmosphere of fresh air and sunshine (or even better – stars at night!) adds a fun element to just about any meal.
Grilling is great, but you can’t eat hot dogs and hamburgers all the time, though. What if you could cook outside more often? Well, with an outdoor kitchen, you can. If you set yourself up right, you might wind up liking your outdoor kitchen even more than your indoor cookery!
Here are some suggestions for a beautiful, functional kitchen, and a list of must-have items that can take you from shabby backyard hibachi to outdoor cooking paradise. Just be careful – if you build a dream outdoor kitchen like this, you may become the most popular house in the neighborhood…
Guidelines For A Dream Outdoor Kitchen
Make The Most Of Available Space
Not everyone has a sprawling estate with a bountiful backyard area. That’s ok, though, because there are many kitchen styles that are perfect for smaller spaces. Galley style kitchens and L-shaped kitchen layouts can give you all the cookin’ area you need – even if you’re working with a not-so-huge patio area.
Remember The Work Triangle
The work triangle is a design principle that governs the best layout of a kitchen. You might not be able to follow all the guidelines, but you should at least keep them in mind when deciding where to place your fridge, sink, and cooktop or grill. After all, you don’t want to be bumping elbows and tripping over your feet all the time – where’s the fun in that?
Flatter The Exterior Of The Home
Even though your outdoor kitchen will feel like a completely separate piece of paradise, it is still part of your home. Make sure that your new kitchen adds to the overall look of the home. There’s nothing worse than a funky add-on.
Build With The Right Materials
When it comes time to choose the finishes for your outdoor kitchen, you might be tempted to use all natural materials like marble or slate. Remember, though – this kitchen has to withstand whatever the elements can throw at it, so not all materials are suitable. Look for materials that are durable AND beautiful so your outdoor kitchen will look great for years to come.
For example, if you want a solid surface with the look of a white marble (and none of the staining issues!), check out Silestone’s Calacatta Gold. It has the look and feel you’re going for but it will withstand the weather (and a spilled drink or two) much better.
Build It For Fun!
If you’ve ever designed or built your main kitchen, you probably put a lot of thought into what would be best for resale value. Will future buyers like this backsplash? Is it better to add a farmhouse sink or a traditional two bowl?
You don’t have to worry about that with your outdoor kitchen. This kitchen is a happy extra – not a necessity – so you can have fun with your choices and throw in little extras. Build it for you and your family so you can enjoy every minute spent in your own backyard.
Must Haves For Your Dream Outdoor Kitchen (and a few nice-to-haves, too)
There’s no outdoor kitchen without a way to cook, right? You definitely need a built-in gas grill as the focal point of your new outdoor kitchen. These bad boys range in price from $$$ to $$$$ so you can easily find one that suits your wants and your needs. (Pro Tip: Consider installing a gas line to avoid having propane tanks that can run out mid-grilling!)
There’s nothing worse than trying to open the door with sticky hands, so you’ll want to have a sink outside, too. You can go with a traditional stainless steel sink, or spring for something a little nicer like the Blanco Silgranit sinks. They’re heat resistant and scratch resistant and best of all, you couldn’t stain one of them if you tried.
Whether you’ve got friends or family around you, or you’re the lone chef at the grill, it’s fun to watch the game, HGTV, or whatever you’re currently binge watching while you cook, right? Slap a TV in a covered area and you’ll have entertainment through even the longest BBQ-smoking session.
Ok, ok, if you’re not into watching TV, that’s cool, but you’ve gotta have tunes! Install speakers outside or get a portable Bluetooth speaker like this one. With the right app, you can be an outdoor chef AND an instant DJ at the same time.
Summer days spent outside aren’t the same without a bubbly beverage. Keep yourself hydrated with your favorite brew, soft drink, or sparkling water – you can open them quickly and easily with a built-in bottle opener, rather than fumble around one that always seems to disappear.
Sunny days turn into cooler nights, and you still won’t want to go inside and leave the fun of your dream outdoor kitchen. Add a firepit and you’ll have a great place to sit and chat AND best of all, you can roast weenies or make smores over your open fire, too.
While we’re on the topic, you need several comfy places to sit. Build in a bartop to your outdoor kitchen and add a row of barstools so you can make conversation while you cook. Put some Adirondack chairs around your new firepit, and of course, dot some lounge chairs nearby, too. Your guests will want to take an after-meal nap after they’ve had your outdoor cuisine, so make it easy for them to get comfortable. You can put your feet up and relax there, too.
A source of shade is CRUCIAL to the success or failure of your outdoor kitchen. Protect yourself from the beating sun or an unexpected bout of rain with a built in patio cover, or just add a bit of shade with a pergola or heavy duty sunshade. Since this is your dream outdoor kitchen we’re talking about here, you could even go tropical and add a palapa style roof. Whichever route you choose, just make sure you can keep cool out there. Outdoor living is no fun without a little protection.
Counter or Table Tops
Once you’ve got some chairs and a nice shady place, you need a place to set your wine glass or plate of ‘cue. Get one big picnic table and add some smaller tabletops, too. One idea that works really well is ceramic garden stools – they function as tables or chairs depending on your needs, and they’re totally weather resistant, too. (They come in many colors, too, so they’ll look great in just about any environment.)
You don’t want people traipsing in and out of the house with food scraps and half-empty cans, so make life easy for them and you. Place a trash can and a recycling bin outside. Sure, there’s one more bag to empty, but you’ll get a lot fewer flies in the house this way, and a lot less mess, too.
When you’re chillin’ in your new outdoor kitchen, and you need a fresh drink, you’ve got two options. One, send a kid, a well-trained pet, or a robot to get you another drink, or two – reach into the nearby fridge and grab one yourself. It’s just easier and more dependable to get yourself a fridge…
Drinks Cooler Insert
OK, it’s party time and you want to look like the world’s greatest host in your new outdoor kitchen. VOILA – this one little add-on will make a huge impact on all your guests. The best part? It won’t even cost a fortune. Get a cooler insert cut into your countertop during the planning phase, and come party time, you just have to fill it with ice and nestle all the drinks people could want into it. It looks WAY nicer than that blue Igloo you’ve been rolling outside, and it works just as well.
There are many things you might want an outlet for…a margarita machine perhaps?! When you’re building your dream kitchen, get a few outlets at counter height. You (and your guests) will be happy not having to go in and out of the house every time you want another margarita.
There’s something about being outside and lazing about that makes people want to move back and forth. Add some rocking chairs or a porch swing and keep the party moving – literally.
Smoker or Wood Fired Oven
A grill is great for so many things, but if you’re seriously into barbecue, you need a smoker. Period. Leave a spot for a Big Green Egg or go for the gold with a full sized offset smoker. Not into the brisket and sausage thing? Install a wood fired pizza oven instead. Is there anything in life that’s better than fresh pizza? Yup…fresh pizza made in your outdoor kitchen!
Lighting and Mood Lighting
When the sun is setting and you don’t want the party to end, you need lighting. Get practical and install outdoor ceiling fans with light kits, or make the whole place look magical with loads and loads of string lights. For the ultimate outdoor kitchen, do both.
There you have it – all the goods you need for a dream outdoor kitchen. Start planning your kitchen now so you’ll have everything in place for next season! But, before you do, you may want to consider asking me to help you figure out if it what you plan to do will bring you a good return on investment, or whether it may make sense to modify your plans, or even find a house that already has an outdoor kitchen for you to simply move in and enjoy!