How to build your outdoor kitchen
The great outdoors is calling
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We all know at least one “it’s never too cold to grill” person, the guy or gal whose winter gloves act as oven mitts when there’s snow on the ground. It’s the same person who is out there in front of the grill on the hottest day of the year, gleefully sizzling the steaks. We get it—the love of grilled meats and vegetables seasoned with fresh air is the reason that outdoor kitchens are becoming a popular addition to American homes. But if you’re coveting an outdoor kitchen in your backyard, know that there are a lot of decisions to make before you’re cooking in the great outdoors.
What is an outdoor kitchen?
Your outdoor kitchen can be anything from a little Weber in the corner of the deck to a fully functional grilling, dining, and entertainment space on a gorgeously landscaped patio. The finest outdoor kitchens feature almost all of the capabilities of an indoor kitchen. There are outdoor versions of cooking and refrigeration appliances, along with sinks and storage pieces, all of which are designed to withstand the elements.
Why are outdoor kitchens popular?
Basil Larkin, vice president of sales at premium appliance brand Hestan, has noticed the growing popularity of outdoor kitchens. “Almost every option you appreciate indoors is now available outdoors. [That] makes things easy and exciting,” he tells us. “Additionally, an outdoor kitchen creates extra living space for the entire home.”
What does an outdoor kitchen cost?
According to research from the National Kitchen and Bath Association, outdoor kitchens typically cost about $13,000, and measure between 100 and 400 sq. ft. to include areas for both meal preparation and sitting. Decide how much you can invest before you start shopping. Outdoor kitchen equipment can be pricey, and once you get started outfitting your new kitchen, it can be hard to stop.
What should my outdoor kitchen include?
Design is an important consideration, and, not surprisingly, the design of your outdoor kitchen depends largely on where you live. If you reside in the sunny Southwest, you might not need much in the way of weatherproofing. If you live in the Northeast or Northwest, precipitation is a major consideration, so factor in an awning or some type of overhead protection to help shield the appliances in inclement weather.
It’s essential to do research into local regulations before you start building your outdoor kitchen. For example, you will probably have to obtain permits to do plumbing and electrical work. Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product for outdoor kitchen manufacturer Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, tells us that there may be other rules you might not have thought about. “Some municipalities require a cover for an outdoor sink,” he says.
Which appliances do I need to buy?
To whet your appetite, here are some of the must-have appliances to help you prepare, cook, and eat your best outdoor meals ever:
The grill is the centerpiece of any outdoor kitchen. You can choose a built-in or freestanding grill. Pricing for freestanding grills ranges between $1,500 and $11,000, depending on accessories, construction, and size. Prices for built-in grills and additional appliances are higher—they can run between $1,500 and $16,000.
Consider the basic design and structural elements, like the quality of the stainless steel and the gauge. Both will be reflected in the price. The grade represents the amount of nickel and chromium used to make the grill. More nickel in the composition means the metal is less likely to be affected by corrosive elements, like weather (rain, snow, salt), and acidic ingredients, like barbeque sauce. Gauge is the standard unit of measure; the lower the number, the thicker the steel and wire. That’s another way of saying that you get what you pay for.
Since the grill is the most important part of your outdoor kitchen, do your research before you buy. Make sure you compare:
• Grilling surface size: When you’re planning to cook for a crowd, more space is better.
• BTU output: Hotter burners give you more cooking power.
• Automatic ignition: You need automatic ignition so you can just turn on the gas and generate a spark.
• Additional warming racks: These racks provide a place to move foods when they're done cooking and they're a convenient way to heat hamburger and hot dog buns.
• Rotisserie: Turning meat on a spit gives it a good char and makes it more succulent.
• Storage for grilling tools: This can keep your tools close to where you need them and protect them from the elements.
• Under-hood lighting: It helps to see what you’re doing when you’re cooking after dark.
• Side burners: These are useful for simmering a sauce or boiling a pot of water for lobsters.
A free-standing grill is an easy way to jump into creating an outdoor kitchen. If you want to start with a free-standing grill, here are a couple to consider:
Lynx Sedona Series
The Lynx L600PSFRNG Sedona Series is a 56-inch freestanding natural gas grill with standard and infrared burners, a rotisserie, an 891-square-inch grilling surface, a warming rack, a side table, and stainless steel grates.
Get the Lynx Sedona Series natural gas grill for $4,059.00 at Appliances Connection
Hestan Outdoor Deluxe Grill
This handsome grill provides virtually everything the home chef needs and it’s ready right out of the box—just plug it into a 110V outlet, connect to gas and get started. A 36-inch, six-burner grill, the Hestan has everything: a rotisserie, LED front control panel lighting, heavy-gauge stainless construction, a porcelain broiling pan, a ceramic infrared sear-burner that offers 25,000 BTUs, and the option for a double side burner. And because looks matter, there are 12 signature color options so you can coordinate the grill with your outdoor decor.
A built-in grill is like a mini-kitchen and provides the home chef with a more spacious, better-looking outdoor cooking and meal prep area. Here are a couple of built-in models to consider:
This stainless steel grill has a generous 830 square inches of cooking surface and solid construction. A customer favorite, the Lion L75625 rocks four burners with a total of 75,000 BTUs, an infra-red rotisserie back burner, and a warming rack.
If you want luxury in your outdoor kitchen, this model has a lot to offer. The DCS BE136RCL has an infrared rotisserie burner, a charcoal smoker for extra flavor, a secondary cooking space for slow cooking and roasting, brilliant lighting, plus extra space to stash your cooking tools.
Get the DCS BE136RCL grill for $4,799 at Appliances Connection
Should I get an outdoor pizza oven?
Since it’s America’s favorite food, you will probably want to be able to bake and serve pizza outside. For that, you’ll need a pizza oven. Prices start at around $1,500. Pizza ovens can be brick, but that requires construction and masonry. A gas pizza oven has many advantages and the major one is time—propane is a consistent heat source so it will cook your Neapolitan pies faster.
These outdoor pizza ovens could make your pizzas the pride of the neighborhood:
Lava Heat LHI 124
This liquid propane commercial outdoor pizza oven rocks a 20,000 BTU burner, three solid steel rock shelves, electronic ignition, heavy-duty wheels, and slide-out drawer. This oven is 58.4 inches wide and 54.2 inches high.
Lynx LPZALP Napoli Pizza Oven
The Lynx is a 30-inch professional series liquid propane pizza oven with a 54-inch cart, 20,000 BTU (40,000 with two burners), a variable infrared heating system, and an LED knob light. It is 69.62 inches wide and 60 inches high.
Does my outdoor kitchen need an outdoor refrigerator?
A major part of alfresco dining is serving up a cold one. But what’s more important is to chill meats, cheeses, and vegetables at safe temperatures before you start the grill. Nobody wants the party to end in food poisoning.
Outdoor refrigerators are becoming more accessible. You can buy an under-counter or standalone model. Most outdoor refrigerators have water-tight drawers to keep precipitation out.
Here are a couple of refrigerators you can purchase for your outdoor kitchen:
Perlick’s 24-inch C-Series Outdoor Refrigerator began its life as a commercial product, which means it is built to last. It’s fully stainless both inside and out. This series is available in either a door or drawer version. Capacity is 5.2 cu. ft., spacious enough for 144 cans of soda or beer.
Get the Perlick C-Series for $3,406.00 at Appliances Connection
U-Line UODR124SS61A Outdoor series
At 5.4 cu. ft., U-Line’s 24-inch refrigerator has a slightly larger capacity that holds up to 98 bottles or 150 cans. You can purchase a built-in counter-depth fridge or a freestanding version. Both rock a two-drawer design.
Get the U-Line 24-inch Outdoor for $3,279.00 at Appliances Connection
What about outdoor kitchen storage?
Your outdoor kitchen needs room to hold all your outdoor kitchen gear, so you may eventually want to add an island to get space for tools, skewers, propane tanks, grilling racks, plates, cups, napkins, and condiments. Ideally, you want to have everything close at hand, so you are not constantly running back inside.
If your budget will allow it, you can purchase island packages like these for your outdoor kitchen:
This six-piece outdoor kitchen island package is full-featured. It includes a 36-inch grill, 12-inch gas double side burners, a 30-inch double access door, 16-inch double storage drawers, a 20-inch trash drawer, and a 24-inch outdoor dual zone refrigerator—all in the highest quality stainless steel. The cabinets are what makes this a stand-out, since storing cooking utensils and accessories is the key to being able to utilize the outdoor scenario as fully as an indoor kitchen.
DCS 987345 Outdoor Kitchen Island Package
A seven-piece outdoor kitchen island package, the DCS includes a 36-inch built-in gas grill, a 15-inch gas side burner, 30-inch built-in access doors, a 20-inch storage drawer, a 20-inch trash bin, a 24-inch compact refrigerator, and a 36-inch grill cover in stainless steel.
Get the DCS 987345 for $11,273.00 at Appliances Connection
Do I need everything plus the kitchen sink?
If you truly want to have everything in your outdoor kitchen that you have in your indoor kitchen, think about installing a kitchen sink. Adding a sink to the mix allows you to rinse a platter, fill a pot for a side burner, and quickly wash glasses, all without having to run back indoors.
Outdoor sinks start at $200 and go up from there. For closer to $1,500, you can purchase a fully-outfitted beverage center that includes a sink, faucet, insulated ice compartment, towel rack, and additional bottle bins. But you may want to use your outdoor kitchen for a while before you decide that’s what you need.
If you plan to hook up a sink and faucet, you have to figure out how to get water to it. You can run a supply line from the house (the most expensive option) or connect to an existing outdoor water source through a hose (the easiest). Kalamazoo's Faulk recommends connecting your sink to your underground sprinkler system. When the irrigation is turned off for your lawn in winter, it will also be turned off for your outdoor sink.
Here's a great moderately-priced sink option for your outdoor kitchen:
Delta Heat DHOS15
A 15-inch seamless stainless steel drop-in sink with a faucet included—you cannot get much simpler than this. The sink has a nice 20-inch depth that can accommodate a lobster pot for the backyard clambake.
Get the Delta Heat sink and faucet for $719.00 at Appliances Connection
Can I personalize my outdoor kitchen?
One of the greatest joys of owning an outdoor kitchen is the freedom to entertain on the patio while avoiding the heat of the indoor kitchen. With all these appliance and design choices, you can customize to make your outdoor kitchen uniquely yours, from the design phase to the point where you can use it every day. As Faulk notes, “When you add an outdoor kitchen, it’s all benefit.” We’ve given you a lot to digest here, so the only question left to ask is, “What’s for dinner?”