Planning an outdoor kitchen can be a little daunting, but with so many options to choose from, it can also be a lot of fun. Whether you are creating an outdoor space as part of new construction or you are enhancing an existing building, an outdoor kitchen extends the living areas of your home and increases the time your family will spend outside together.
One of the first decisions to make when designing your outdoor kitchen will be how you want to use your kitchen and what elements need to be included to make the space function well. Do you need a simple space to throw a few burgers and hotdogs on the grill during the summer, or a place with a fully equipped bar for the guys to watch the big game? Do you aspire to be the next Steven Raichlen and utilize a different cooking method for every meal of the week? Nailing down your ‘why’ for building an outdoor kitchen will help you decide on what type of cooking appliances and layout work best for your space.
Being able to visualize the design style you are looking for in an outdoor kitchen will allow you to focus on what you really want, but also identify what you do not want in your space. Tony Paredes, owner of Parco General Construction, Inc. in Midland, Texas, suggested looking at completed projects or photos online either from a design firm or a photo platform such as Pinterest or Instagram. “If you can bring in photo references showing how you want your project to look, it will give your builder a place to start, so you are both on the same page,” he said.
Think back to every vacation you have taken and think about the ambiance of those outdoor spaces where you enjoyed spending time. Take your time and collect as many ideas as possible so that you are well armed for your first building consultation.
Incorporating an outdoor kitchen with an existing structure is a great way to expand your living space out into the landscape of your home. Adding a kitchen area allows you to entertain family and friends while being steps away from the interior of the house. Building onto the side of your home will allow you to work with an area where only three sides need to be considered. With the house acting as a backdrop for the outdoor kitchen, you can focus more on the interior layout instead of a four-sided exterior.
Building onto the existing house is a great option for anyone who is looking for an outdoor entertaining area, but still does most of the heavy cooking inside the main kitchen. For these instances, a simple grill setup and sink area for cleaning are perfect.
Creating a barbeque oasis that is set away from the main part of the house and incorporated into the natural landscape allows things like the roof covering and support materials to vary from what is already used in the house. Stacked stone and timber beams will blend with the natural setting and complement the façade of the home. A standalone outdoor kitchen would be a perfect choice for anyone looking to make their entertaining experience revolve around the art of cooking. With room to spread out, you can utilize several different cooking options.
Some of the more popular outdoor kitchen setups include open-pit roasters, wood-fired pizza ovens, and flat-top griddles. Also widely popular are pellet smokers that are easy to set up and can be monitored using your phone. Because the temperature is on a remote sensor, the smoker will automatically feed in more of the pellets to maintain the cooking temperature.
A popular design style is to bring the inside kitchen out and utilize a venting system similar to the vent hood above your inside cooktop. Setting up a large table in front of a grill that has an oversized vent hood will extend the living space visually and create a warm and comforting environment for your family and guests.
“You not only need to think about the materials used on the interior of the cooking area, but also what you want to cover the outside of the building with,” Paredes said. Open and airy sides with retractable bug screens let the views of the yard into the cooking space while keeping the mosquitos and flies away.
Something your contractor will be conscious of while helping you create a design is the building codes, and more specifically the fire codes. With so many options available for cooking outside, you want to make sure your new space does not go up in literal smoke. Retired Fire Marshal David Hickman emphasized creating heat barriers and using non-combustible flooring. “Watch for things like low overhangs where heat can become trapped, and just like a fireplace, you want to leave some clearance space around your heat source,” Hickman said. And as any fireman would recommend, “Always keep a fire extinguisher handy!”
If you have decided to build an outdoor kitchen and have done the research, planned, gathered all your photo examples, but found that maybe you have exceeded your budget, do not worry! Take all your designs, examples, hopes, and dreams of your outdoor kitchen to a designer or contractor who can help you work out a budget-friendly concept from your plans.
“If we create a grilling area and you don’t have the space in your budget for that high-end grill you wanted, we can replace that part of the design with a more cost-effective option,” Paredes said, adding that people can adjust their kitchen idea by letting go of some of the costly appliances that are overlooked. “Your reverse osmosis system for the ice machine is running 24-7 and eating away at your cash flow without you even thinking about it.”
Any good designer or contractor will be able to take your vision and create a space that works for you and stays on track with expenses.