Summer is on its way, so why get stuck cooking inside? Outdoor kitchens are excellent backyard features because everyone can enjoy the beautiful weather and everyone stays together. New to outdoor kitchens? No problem. Keep reading to discover eight key elements to designing a functional, beautiful, outdoor kitchen for cooking and entertaining.
1. Pony walls: not just for ponies.
When planning an outdoor kitchen design, consider how the kitchen will interact with the rest of your outdoor space. You can create an open concept kitchen or you can create a space that is uniquely set apart from the rest of your outdoor areas. Using pony walls (or half walls) is a great way to combine these two concepts, as they can make a kitchen feel separate, but keep the space visually open. Pony walls also offer storage space and bar tops can be easily added on top of them.
2. Choose flooring that enhances your outdoor kitchen.
You might not realize it, but one of the most important decisions you can make about your kitchen design is the floor. Why? Because it's the one element of your kitchen that you and your guests will always use. The common choices for outdoor kitchen flooring are stone and concrete, but both can get extremely hot in direct sunlight and slippery in rain, which limits the number of days it can be comfortably used.
New products like Life Floor make outdoor kitchens usable in any weather condition. Life Floor is a soft, slip-resistant tile that looks like natural stone or wood and has the added benefits of slip resistance and impact absorption. (It's almost impossible to break anything on this floor. Watch this video of an egg bouncing on Life Floor from 16ft above. You’ll definitely save on glassware!)
3. Choose a grill fit for royalty.
A grill is perhaps the most versatile of all kitchen tools and a must-have centerpiece for outdoor kitchens. Stuck in the age-old charcoal vs. gas debate? We are going to leave that discussion to the experts at Amazing Ribs. However, there are still two very important things to consider when choosing a grill: the number of people you typically cook for, and the type of food you typically prepare. Temperature range, ease of use, safety features, and ease of cleaning should all factor into your decision.
4. Score shade with your own pergola.
Even on beautiful summer days, shade should be an option for you and your guests. Rather than completely enclosing the space -- you're outdoors, after all -- consider using a pergola as a false ceiling. Pergolas maintain an open, airy concept and are beautiful to look at. Best of all, you can DIY to help save on costs!
Wind lights up the pillars and the lattice for romance, or train vines to provide additional shade. If you’re a wine connoisseur, use grape vines to add rustic elegance -- even if you don’t harvest the grapes for your own use. Beer drinkers can use the pillars to train hops to grow in most climates.
5. Use stylish, safety-conscious lighting.
Lighting is a fun and functional way to add design to an outdoor kitchen. Use strings of lights for romance and whimsy. Hang antique lanterns or DIY light globes for interest in a nearby garden, or use a string of Edison bulbs to add a flair of modern minimalism.
If there isn’t an overhead space available, you can use undermount lighting beneath a bar or the slight overhang of a countertop. This is a convenient way to both hide lighting elements and still provide illumination. Use LED bulbs, which can last up to 20 years!
6. Reinvent your oven.
Getting restaurant-quality pizza at home is hard to do indoors, but add a wood-fired brick oven to your outdoor kitchen and let the good times roll. (Seriously though, brick ovens are excellent for baking rolls). Get inspired by these easy, delicious recipes for wood-fired brick ovens.
As with grills, these ovens can be fueled by gas or materials like wood or coal. Unlike grills, you can customize a wood-fired brick oven. Use decorative stone or choose something that contrasts with the existing space to make a statement.
7. Keep everything you need in one place.
There’s no need for the same level of cabinet space you’d consider for an indoor kitchen -- after all, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to store things like a toaster-- but having enough room for things like grill equipment, a pizza stone, a few favorite spices, and other small cooking tools will keep your countertops clear for food preparation and you clear from having to do repeated shuttle runs back to the house.
When designing your prep space, choose a surface that won't harbor bacteria when preparing raw meat. We recommend Quartz surfaces like Cambria that offer the same elegant look as granite, but are non-porous, won’t scratch or stain easily, and are easy to clean.
8. Stay cool.
Invest in an integrated mini-fridge so you and your guests have access to drinks, snacks, and condiments as needed. A mini-fridge will also keep raw meat and produce fresh during meal prep. Keeping a fridge stocked with food allows people to eat at their leisure instead of regimented meal times, which is great for longer parties and large gatherings. For longer storage, it's advisable to use a fridge that stays quite cold or even a freezer if necessary.