Wondering if it's time to replace your 10 year old grill? Or maybe you've been dreaming about an outdoor kitchen so you don't have to keep running back and forth between the grill and the kitchen? We know you have many ways to enhance your outdoor living space. This article will help you sort through many of the outdoor kitchen ideas you'll find online, on television and in magazines… so you can design the best outdoor kitchen for your lifestyle and budget.
Matching Outdoor Kitchen Ideas to Your Lifestyle
Like your indoor kitchen, an outdoor kitchen can provide you with the tools to enjoy more time outdoors. Of course you'd like this space to look great but it's important to consider how you plan to use it, e.g. for cooking, family meals or entertaining.
- How many times a week/month do you (want to) eat outdoors?
- Who's eating the meals you prepare outdoors? If you're a homebody, then it's you and your family. Alternatively you may entertain a lot, or dream of doing this because an outdoor kitchen will make this easier.
- How much outdoor space do you have for an outdoor kitchen? Make sure you take into consideration the space you need for a table and chairs.
- What's your budget for an outdoor kitchen? Here it's really important to step back and look at the big picture. Do you need to build a deck/patio for your outdoor kitchen? Does your budget need to cover furniture as well as your kitchen features?
Picking Outdoor Kitchen Features for Your Home
Have you been thinking about adding an outdoor kitchen, but don't know where to start? It's fun to dream, so let's get started. You want to with a list of all the things you'd like, and then prioritize them as space and budget are also considerations.
- Outdoor kitchens will always include a grill or two, as some homeowners want the choice of gas or charcoal, depending on what they're cooking.
- Specialty cooking features like rotisseries, pizza ovens and smokers, are perfect for the homeowner chef who doesn't have enough space in their indoor kitchen.
- Enough countertop space for food preparation, and possibly serving if you plan to serve buffet style.
- An outdoor sink (small or large) can make food preparation and cleanup so much easier, requiring a garden hose or plumbing connection.
- Small refrigerators are fairly common in outdoor kitchens, and if you're planning on lots of outdoor entertaining, you might explore added refrigeration like today's wine refrigerators or a beer tap.
- Extra storage for cooking, serving and eating utensils will save trips back-and-forth between your two kitchens.
Once you know what you want to include in your outdoor kitchen, you'll want to consider the location for each feature. For example, you might want to place your grill near a door to your indoor kitchen, and farther away from outdoor seating in case the wind blows in the wrong direction. You'll also want to decide on the best flooring for cooking, lots of foot traffic, safety and year-round weather.
Choices for Creating Your Outdoor Kitchen
Now that you have a list of features you'd like to include in your outdoor kitchen, you need to decide on the best approach to building it. This strategy will need to take into account your handyman skills, family budget and preference for quality and low maintenance versus wanting to finish things quickly. Confused?
My research started with Lowe's mix and match outdoor kitchen appliances shown at the top of this article, because I liked the ability to get what's most important to you. But the reviews for the Master Forge 3-Burner Modular Outdoor Sink and Side Burners raised concers about stainless steel rusting.
So the next step was to research how stainless steel fares in any type of outdoor kitchen, and here's what I've learned so far:
- How long should you expect an outdoor grill to last? Responses show older grills lasting 20 years or more, while newer ones vary based on brand and price. There are lots of comments on replacing burners and heat plates, to extend the life of a grill so yes, there will be some rusting but you can replace worn out parts.
- Why does stainless steel rust? This article explains that stainless steel “is made of iron and carbon, and stainless steel contains iron, carbon, and anywhere from 12-30% chromium. Stainless steel can contain other elements such as nickel and manganese, but chromium is the key element which makes it rust resistant … As long as there is sufficient chromium present, the chromium oxide layer will continue to protect the stainless steel and prevent it from rusting.”
Now the need to pick a strategy for your outdoor kitchen makes more sense. It's a lot like buying cars. Do you buy/lease cars so you can replace them every four years? Prefer a quality car that you can drive for 10 years or more, before replacing it? Or maybe you buy used cars and keep them going for as long as you can.
- All-in-one or prefab outdoor kitchens make perfect sense if you want a quick solution. The best resource I've found for these types of outdoor kitchens is WoodlandDirect.com, with kitchens that are straight (66), L-shaped (18), U-shaped (7), curved (8), outdoor kitchen ideas designed for Kamado grills (15) or custom outdoor kitchens (18).
- Mix and match strategy like the one offered by Master Forge, let's you buy the features you want like a refrigerator, versus accepting the all-in-one approach of a higher end grill, like those offered by Weber. This approach is ideal for those who don't want to spend a lot of money in a single year, as you can design your outdoor kitchen and fill in the features as your budget permits.
- DIY outdoor kitchens for homeowners who like working with their hands, can design and build their own outdoor kitchen using components like this Bullet Built-In Grill Cabinet from Lowe's.
- Custom outdoor kitchens provide the most flexibility, so you can include everything you want, from a refrigerator to a rotisserie. You'll find local landscaping companies that can help you prioritize your outdoor kitchen ideas, then plan and build it for you… or maybe you'll find one you like at WoodlandDirect.com.