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An outdoor kitchen eases cooking and entertaining when the weather is nice. There's no one-size-fits-all solution: Think about what features you'd like to include in your outdoor kitchen, such as a grill, sink, or refrigerator. Then decide whether each feature is a must-have or a nice-to-have element. This exercise will help you from going over budget.
The grill is a key element of an outdoor kitchen. If you often entertain large groups, look for a 36-inch or larger gas grill. If you don't cook outside a lot or have space restrictions, consider a portable gas or charcoal unit that can be tucked away when not in use.
Next to the grill give yourself at least 15 inches of landing space to fill plates or serving platters. With built-in grills add a longer run of countertop space for prep work as well as serving space.
If your grill is not built in, outfit a small cart with cooking accessories that can be wheeled outside when cooking. The cart also helps ease cleanup so you can quickly roll dirty dishes back inside.
Avoid running back and forth to the inside kitchen by including a small sink and refrigerator in the outdoor kitchen. This little luxury will ensure easy meal prep and entertaining, but both require extra planning to accommodate running plumbing and electrical lines outside. Also consider your climate before adding permanent plumbing fixtures outdoors.
To create a casual seating area, extend a countertop over a half-wall and add stools. This format is a great option for kid-friendly or grown-up parties. Guests can sit away from the heat of the grill but are still close to the food and drinks. Consider raising the counter height for a more barlike feel.
For comfortable seating, add cushioned outdoor furniture or a dining table and chair set on a patio space nearby. This allows for flexibility when entertaining. An outdoor fireplace extends the use of your patio when temperatures start to drop.
Your kitchen runs on electricity. Provide built-in outlets so you can run additional appliances such as a blender, electric mixer, or a radio. It will make your outdoor kitchen more convenient, and it will look better and be safer than running extension cords.
A pergola or an awning can provide temperature-taming shade, making your outdoor kitchen more enjoyable. If you experience direct sunlight when you use the space most, consider a retractable shade system that adjusts the amount of shade needed for any time of day.
While lighting might not seem like the most important aspect, it's a great asset to an outdoor kitchen. You'll be able to keep an eye on your food after sunset without a flashlight. Also adding a ceiling fan will help move hot, heavy air.
Make sure your outdoor kitchen is easy to access from your indoor kitchen, as you'll probably end up running back and forth between the two. Keep your outdoor kitchen close and make sure it's paved with an even surface. The close proximity to the house also makes it easier to include electricity and water outside.