Taking it Outside: Why you should be thinking about an outdoor kitchen

Written by Scott Shackleton   

Outdoor kitchens and bars have been a very popular West Coast phenomenon, which are catching on in New England. Now that summer is well under way, friends and families are getting together in the backyard or patio to enjoy their repasts in the comfortable weather. Often a charcoal Weber or free-standing propane-fueled grill will sear the meats and vegetables while the remainder of the food preparation is handled indoors or on a separate table. The outdoor kitchen consolidates these activities into one area, utilizing drop-in stain-less steel grills, side-burners, sinks, refrigerators, and storage units built into brick, stone, or concrete board cabinets.

One can incorporate a raised bar top with seating for easy food and drink service, making it the focal point of any outdoor gathering. This configuration enables the cook to interact with his or her guests rather than standing alone at the grill. Or, one can keep it simple with a built-in natural gas or propane grill alongside some counter space and perhaps some stainless steel drawers to house tongs, knives, and spices.

Not only does this backyard addition provide a comfortable efficient preparation area, it can add value to your home. For this reason, and to ensure you get the most enjoyment from your investment, it is wise to consult an expert to plan the kitchen island.

Things to consider in designing your outdoor kitchen include:

  • Fuel source – Natural gas, propane, or charcoal? Propane is probably the most prevalent choice for outdoor kitchens, but natural gas ensures one never runs out of fuel mid-party.  Charcoal built-in grills are available but choices are fairly limited.
  • Countertop – Granite, tile, concrete, or brick? Granite provides the most even and heat-resistant surface just as it does indoors. It also resists the elements better than tile or brick.
  • Vertical surfaces – Rock, brick, tile, or synthetic coating. It’s generally best to stick with the theme of your home. Rhode Island’s own Dryvit Systems manufactures an incredible variety of quality synthetic surfaces.
  • Electricity – Do you want to include a refrigerator, kegerator, or blender? What about extra outlets for a rotisserie or stereo? Under bar lighting can provide an exotic ambiance for after-dark entertainment.
  • Sink – This can provide a wonderful, complete kitchen experience, but piping water to the structure and drainage from the sink basin must be considered.
  • Space – Ensure you account for movement behind the grill area in addition to any bar seating in front. Don’t build your island right next to your pool, unless of course you’re building in pool-side bar service.

The outdoor kitchen can really create a relaxed environment for outdoor entertainment as well as giving your home that “WOW” factor, whatever your budget. And don’t let the New England winters dissuade you: I’ll be searing rib-eyes on my Newport deck in February, just like I’ve done every year I’ve lived here.