Whether you’re an aspiring outdoor chef or you simply love the joy of cooking under the open sky, having an efficient and beautiful outdoor kitchen can transform everything you grill. This article will help you take your outdoor kitchen to new heights with smart upgrades that marry functionality with style.
Evaluating Your Current Outdoor Kitchen Setup
Before you spend a bunch of money upgrading your kitchen and making major changes, take some time to thoroughly evaluate your current setup. Make notes of what works and what doesn’t. Create a list of must-have upgrades and “nice-to-have” upgrades. (There’s a big difference – especially when you’re on a budget.)
Look beyond the basics, like broken parts and new appliances. Instead, think about the workflow when you’re cooking. Are there areas where you feel cramped? Do you wish you had more storage? Are there accessories that you don’t use at all?
Next, consider your future goals. Are you going to continue operating the same way you do now? Or will you be venturing into a different type of grilling? Maybe you’ll be doing more entertaining? Nothing is worse than renovating your outdoor kitchen, only to have regrets in six months.
Finally, establish a realistic budget (and stick to it)! It’s easy to get carried away when renovating, but with a budget, you can prioritize your upgrades efficiently. Always factor in unexpected costs or overruns – a good rule of thumb is to reserve an extra 10 to 20 percent for unforeseen expenses. If you don’t end up needing it, great! Consider it money saved. But if you do need it, you won’t feel like you’re stretching.
It’s helpful to remember that you don’t have to totally overhaul your backyard right now. It’s okay to upgrade in stages. A well-planned, phased approach can make the whole process less stressful and more manageable. That might look like upgrading appliances this summer and then tackling furniture and decor next summer (or vice versa). Whatever you decide to do is fine – just have a plan!
Choosing the Right Cooking Appliances
When choosing a grill, look for high-quality materials that can withstand the elements, preferably stainless steel.
Consider the grill size based on your cooking needs—do you often cook for a crowd or just for a small family? Also, consider features like a built-in thermometer, side burners, and storage cabinets.
When it comes to side burners, all models are not created equal.
“Though it may elevate cost, outdoor side burners made with 304 stainless steel construction are the best of the bunch,” RTAOutdoorLiving.com explains. “This is because 304 stainless steel is great at holding up to rust and corrosion (unlike cheaper metals, like aluminum, powder-coated steel, cast iron, or lower grades of stainless steel).”
Then you have pizza ovens, which are this year’s hottest outdoor kitchen appliance. When choosing a pizza oven, consider factors like the fuel type (wood, gas, or hybrid), size, materials (like stainless steel or brick), and whether you want a freestanding or built-in model.
(By the way, pizza ovens are for more than just pizzas. They can be used for baking bread, roasting vegetables, and even cooking steaks.)
In addition to standard grills, side burners, and pizza ovens, there are some other appliances that you might consider adding in order to increase the versatility and functionality of your space.
A built-in smoker is awesome if you’re interested in long, slow cooks that impart that rich, smokey flavor. Then there are outdoor deep fryers, which can take your barbecues and parties to the next level by allowing you to fry chicken, make delicious french fries, etc. And there are even teppanyaki grills, if you want something fun and interactive when entertaining guests in your backyard.
Making the Most Out of Your Cook & Prep Spaces
While the grill is arguably the heart of the outdoor kitchen, it’s only one element in the larger equation. If you actually plan to use your kitchen a lot, it needs to be functional and efficient.
The key to a functional kitchen is a logical workflow that’s natural for how you prepare and cook food. If you’ve ever designed or renovated a kitchen, you probably know about the “kitchen triangle” concept, and it can apply to an outdoor kitchen too. This concept says the cooktop, sink, and refrigerator should form a triangle, thereby optimizing your movement around the areas that are most frequently used.
If you have the space, adding a kitchen island will take your outdoor kitchen to the next level. Not only does it give you more space to work, but it can also be used to house more cabinets and storage solutions. (You can even integrate a mini refrigerator or cooler.)
Enhancing Your Outdoor Kitchen Aesthetics
You can cook a mean meal with the right grilling setup, but what about the ambiance? If it doesn’t feel like a great space for entertaining, you won’t use it nearly as often as you should. Think about good lighting – which can be as easy as installing some string lighting and running it around the kitchen. Seating is another factor – make sure it’s comfortable!
Also, don’t forget about shade and shelter. An outdoor umbrella, pergola, or even a full-on gazebo can shield people from sun or light rain, providing an extension of indoor comfort regardless of what the weather does. It’s also smart to consider investing in a fire pit or outdoor heater, which can elevate the design of your outdoor kitchen, but also extend its usability into the chillier months.
For an even better atmosphere, integrate elements of nature into your space. Use potted plants, trellises, or even a vertical garden to infuse life and color. Variety of materials is important, as well. Combining different textures like wood, stone, and stainless steel can create a cozy and inviting environment.
Take Your Outdoor Kitchen to the Next Level
It’s one thing to have an outdoor kitchen. It’s something else entirely to have a magazine cover-worthy space where you spend many afternoons and evenings entertaining your family and friends. Perhaps this is the year that you decide to make those much-needed additions and upgrades?