Outdoor Kitchens

Summer is the perfect time for outdoor cooking whether it is steaming a pot of crabs or grilling burgers on the 4th of July. Outdoor kitchens range from full kitchens with grills, fryers, smokers, pizza ovens, refrigerators, sinks, and dishwashers to a charcoal grill on the edge of the patio. When planning your outdoor cooking area, begin by determining what will be the end use of the space. Is one person going to go outside to flip the burgers or will you entertain while cooking and eating outside? This will help you decide the size and location of your outdoor kitchen.

The design of a full service outdoor kitchen should follow the same rules as outlined by the National Kitchen and Bath Association for an indoor kitchen. The basic layout is a work triangle measured from the center of the sink, refrigerator, and grill.  Each leg of the triangle should be between four and nine feet and the sum of the legs should not exceed twenty-six feet.  There should be no obstructions in the triangle or through traffic.  Counters should be a minimum of 42” apart for one cook and 48” for two cooks. Kitchens designed for multiple cooks should consider two sinks and therefore two work triangles.

The outdoor rooms should complement the design of the house and create distinctive areas for cooking, eating, and sitting. To extend the use of the space install a roof that both shades the area and blocks the rain. By controlling the temperature with ceiling fans for warm weather and a fireplace or heaters for cool weather, the room is usable almost the entire year. Outdoor fireplaces are a great way anchor the space. Full service outdoor kitchens can be further away from the main house because the prep work can be done outside rather than inside.

The details are critical for longevity, maintenance, and ease of use. For countertops avoid highly porous materials such as limestone or marble. Instead, use cultured granite with UV stabilizers or stainless steel. Select appliances that are designed for outdoor use. Install an outdoor range hood if the grill, smoker, and/or fryer is under a roof. Lighting is critical and should include both task lighting for cooking and cleaning and general lighting for entertaining. Finally, don’t forget to add music to the mix to add some life to the party.

A modest grilling area can be very functional when it is close to the kitchen where all the prep work will happen. A grill, small staging area, and a task light are the essential components to cook up a great dinner.