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Choosing Appliances For Your Outdoor Kitchen

The ability to cook a full meal outdoors requires more than just a grill. Sure, there are wonderful things you can do. But wouldn’t be even better to have all the luxuries of your kitchen available outdoors as well? That’s definitely possible! It does take some thought and planning, but you can definitely do more than steaks or hot dogs when you set up a great outdoor kitchen.

Of course, the appliances you choose are going to make or break your backyard cooking space. Sure, the floor, lighting, and seating are important. But if you don’t have everything handy to prepare the food, what’s the point? Your guests are planning to eat, and they might be willing to put up with a few shortcomings in other areas if they get to enjoy a great meal.

But the same rules don’t apply to an outdoor kitchen that would work indoors. So let’s go through what you should look for and how to plan on the appliances to add outdoors!

What to Keep in Mind When Choosing Appliances

Designing any room takes a lot of planning, and that doesn’t change simply because the room is outdoors. There is a lot to consider, and it’s important to be thorough in your planning. You might decide not to do everything at once, but you definitely want to have a long-range vision of the fashioned project.

Space

The first factor to consider is how much space you can allot to your outdoor kitchen. This is going to depend on the size of your yard. You also have to take into account all the other uses you want to use the space for. You need to take into account patio space, gardens, a swimming pool, play areas, and other factors.

You’ll also have to think of where exactly you can position your outdoor kitchen. You might want to avoid property line issues. At the same time, you don’t want to build where the smells are going to drift right into your home’s bedrooms. You might also consider how you negotiate other obstacles like trees – you may want shade, but you also don’t want leaves or sap falling into your meal!

Budget

The space you have available may be the first thing to consider, but you’ll also have to consider your budget. What can you afford to create?

Remember that you’ll have to start from the ground up, literally. You also may have ongoing expenses like electricity and gas associated with your outdoor kitchen

Set a budget before starting your considerations, and make your choices based on that. Even if you decide to build your kitchen in stages, you’ll need to know what your priorities are and organize the stages for completing them.

Cooking Goals

Of course, you’ll also need to decide how ambitious you plan to be in your backyard culinary adventures. You might not even want a kitchen if your goal is only to make hamburgers and hot dogs.

When you want to do more and cook up a storm, though, you’ll need more resources and more tools. You’ll need prep space, storage space, and the right cooking surfaces. That could be a stove or a barbecue grill, depending on your own preference! Maybe even a pizza oven!

what do you plan to cook in your outdoor kitchen?

You’ll also have to consider how many people you think you’ll be entertaining on a regular basis so that you allow yourself enough space to prepare everything you need.

Utilities

To get things going, you’re probably also going to need electricity and gas. There are quite a few options here, but don’t forget to think it through.

You’ll want lighting over your cooking and prep areas as well as the dining space. But you might also need to plug in a refrigerator and other electric appliances.

For cooking, you might have a gas stove or grill. They might run on propane, but you could also consider natural gas.

In any case, you may have to run gas and electric lines to your new space, so you’ll have to check zoning requirements and probably hire a professional for the installation.

Leave Counter Space

It’s important to remember that you need not only cooking space but also prep space. When you plan, don’t pack in so many appliances that you don’t have room for counters.

This ties in closely to your goals – how much do you plan to do? Also, how convenient do you want everything to be? Some things could be done indoors and carried out, but you might prefer to maximize the work you do outdoors so you can appreciate the view, the fresh air, and your guests even more.

There are a lot of great materials and design options for outdoor countertops, and you can find an option that will suit your own space. But the most important issue is to leave yourself enough space to work.

Light Up Your Space

Odds are you’re not going to want to use your outdoor kitchen only during the peak hours of light. No, you’ll make use of it on cloudy days, in the evening, or at other times when there’s less light. You might also have to deal with shade from trees or even from houses. You might even have a roof over the cooking area.

You’ll want to have good, bright lighting over the cooking and prep areas. Over the dining space, it can be more subtle, perhaps. But don’t forget to include lighting in your plans! There are so many wonderful options.

Choosing Your Grill or Stove

The most important part of any kitchen, wherever it is, is the appliance you cook with. Choosing a grill or stove is going to make or break your space.

A lot can be done with a traditional barbecue grill, and there are “specialty” types like smokers that excel at particular tasks. You might find that you even want two or more types of grills, or one grill with various attachments if you want to smoke meats or prepare specialty foods.

But if a grill isn’t what you’re looking for, you could opt for a stovetop or even a full oven-stove combination. That will allow you to go far beyond the traditional “outdoor” foods and really enjoy the fact that you have an alternative kitchen.

However, a firepit is an even simpler alternative than a grill. If all your cooking is going to be limited to foods that can be prepared over an open flame, this can be a great choice. Or consider it as an additional avenue – you might have a stone in the kitchen itself, but a firepit in the center of your patio where you preparing hot dogs – and toast marshmallows!

Don’t Forget to Ventilate

Since you’re working outdoors, you likely won’t have to worry too much about air flow. But still, you might want to consider it to some extent.

For instance, you don’t want smoke from grilling or cooking to be trapped in the area where you and your guests are trying to enjoy yourselves. An exhaust fan to help pull the smoke up and away might be helpful. Try not to aim it too close to any trees, though – the heat and grease can damage them!

Of course, you don’t want the odors drifting into your house or bothering the neighbors. Sometimes a box fan can help keep smoke and odors from drifting the wrong way, but proper ventilation around your cooking area is always a good idea.

Picking a Refrigerator

Another key part of any kitchen is the refrigerator. Keep foods at the proper temperature is important – and beverages can be a lot more welcome when chilled, too.

Of course, you’ll want a unit that can stand up to the outdoors. Stainless steel is always a good option, although you might want to consider how hot its surface can get under the sun. And it might reflect a lot of sunlight off its shiny surface. However, there are many alternatives as well.

The main factor to consider is the size of the refrigerator. You’re unlikely to need as much space as your main fridge. You might simply need a space to keep meat chilled until you’re ready to cook, or maybe to hold your salads. In some cases, you might simply want to keep your beer or soft drinks cold.

a quality outdoor refrigerator will make it easier to prepare your food

If you want to have an outdoor bar, you might want a unit that has a freezer, even if it’s a small one. That will allow you to make your own ice or even keep bags of ice longer.

In many cases, a mini-fridge might be enough, if your plans are simple. A full-height unit could serve you better if you’re doing a lot of cooking or barbecuing so that your foods stay at the right temperature. That could include a top-bottom freezer-refrigerator unit, too. We don’t think many people will need a side-by-side unit, but if you’ll want to go all out, it definitely gives you a more luxurious kitchen!

An ice chest/cooler can be a supplement to your refrigerator or replace it entirely. It’s always great to keep cold beverages as well as meats and cold salads at the right temperature.

Adding Storage Space

Another important element, although not really an “appliance”, is having storage space. You’ll want to be able to store at least a few things, and maybe quite a bit, in your outdoor kitchen.

Having cabinets and maybe a closet will let you keep plates, bowls, and drinkware on hand. You’ll also be able to any pots and pans that are intended exclusively for this area. And a drawer or two wouldn’t hurt either so you can have your accessories and flatware at your fingertips. A closet can hold cleaning supplies and maybe even your bag of charcoal.

Undercounter cabinets are great. Upper cabinets can be a bit tougher since you don’t have a wall to hang them from. A clever DIYer or a carpenter could come up with great alternatives, though. You could also consider freestanding units that incorporate both cabinet and closet space.

adequate storage space is key to any outdoor kitchen

Of course, your need for space is dictated by what you want to keep in the outdoor kitchen. If you don’t mind carrying everything in and out each time you cook, then you don’t need much. But you could consider a smaller, wheeled unit that you can move back and forth for use indoors and out.

Don’t forget to take into account the materials you choose for outdoor cabinets and closets. Compressed board is not a good idea because it will absorb moisture and quickly fall apart. You’ll want to be sure any woods or metals are properly treated for ongoing outdoor use. Stainless steel is, as always a good choice. If you prefer wood, teak is probably your best bet. But polymers or concrete are also great ideas.

Keeping It Clean

Of course, you’ll want access to water as well – for both cooking and cleaning. And a place to dispose of trash is another key.

The Sink

Lugging water from inside can be a pain. So can transporting all your utensils, plates, and other items back inside. The convenience of having a sink can’t be underestimated.

Of course, that means you’ll also need to add a water line. And if you live in a zone where the temperature reaches freezing, you’ll have to be sure the water lines are adequately insulated.

But having a sink at hand means you can get water for cooking as you need it. It also means you can wash down your surfaces without needing to carry a bucket and without the lack of control of using a hose. And if you’re storing utensils here, it definitely makes sense not to have to take them to the kitchen to wash them.

The Trash Receptacles

Getting rid of trash is another key to keeping your whole yard clean. And you don’t want to just toss a plastic bag on the floor and start filling it. Nor do you want to have a huge trash can that’s more appropriate for leaving at the curb.

Instead, you could go with a slide-out section of your cabinets where a regular kitchen trash can is kept. That keeps it out of the way and looking great while also being convenient.

Other Appliances to Add to Your Outdoor Kitchen

While we’ve discussed some of the most important elements to have in your backyard kitchen, there are many more you can consider. Almost anything you could have indoors, you can have outdoors. But these are some popular choices.

Pizza Oven

A pizza oven is a rather specialized piece of equipment, but it prepares one of the world’s favorite dishes. You could buy one, but it’s even better to build a brick oven and enjoy the fantastic taste of pizza pie!

Fernbrake pizza oven, an example of a great outdoor pizza oven

Warming Drawers

Sometimes you might have a lot of food to cook or a lot of people to feed. Or you want to give people a chance to eat at their convenience during your get-together. Warming drawers can help make sure that food stays at its most delicious flavor even if you’ve already prepared it.

Blender

Yes, a blender makes another great addition to your outdoor kitchen. There are all kinds of great drinks you can make for both children and adults! Having one on your counter is definitely handy, and if you go for a full outdoor bar, it’s even more essential.

Kegerator

Here’s another appliance that’s almost essential, especially for some people! Having a kegerator is going to be a great way to keep a certain popular adult beverage chilled while also making it easier to dispense! This will definitely help make your yard a popular spot for gatherings.

Smoker

We’ve mentioned smokers above, so this is a reminder. You could get a grill that’s totally designed as a smoker, or have on that’s an addon to a standard grill. If you love dishes like smoked pork, brisket, or even smoked wings, this will be a great addition.

Remember, this is the short list of our favorite additions to an outdoor kitchen – the sky’s the limit!

Conclusion

An outdoor kitchen can be as complete as you want it and have basically anything an indoor kitchen does. Plan with your available space and budget in mind, but don’t be afraid to dream big. You, your family, and your friends will definitely get years of enjoyment out of it!