Choose Resilient Materials
Outdoor kitchen surfaces must be able to withstand your climate's weather conditions. Select durable materials such as stainless steel, shown here, and stone, slate, tile, or stucco, Make sure all countertop surfaces and hardware are recommended for exterior use. If you want to install a kitchen on an existing deck, verify that it structurally can support the kitchen's additional weight before you build.
Don't Miss the Basics
An outdoor kitchen is as important to plan as an interior one. Along with picking the right grill and countertop, plan for storage and organizational necessities, such as pullout trash and recycling bins, and baskets to hold napkins, glasses, and cleaning supplies.
Put Ingredients Within Reach
Cooking in an outdoor kitchen is a great way to take advantage of the sunshine, fresh air, and your homegrown vegetables and herbs. If you don't have a full-fledged kitchen garden, you can still take advantage of the growing season: Place a few pots of often-used herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and more near your cooking prep space for ready-to-pick ingredients.
Plan for Light & Air
To maximize the hours you can spend using -- and enjoying -- your outdoor kitchen, you'll need to plan for varying levels of light. Overhead lights, such as these recessed cans and trio of pendants, are key to making the most of your grilling and eating spaces. They are also UL-rated Wet, to withstand the weather. An outdoor ceiling fan helps to keep air moving and increase the comfort level in a semienclosed outdoor kitchen space.
Protect Your Investments
Before you build your outdoor kitchen, consider the types of cooking surfaces you will want to use, such as a stand-alone range or a smoking grill. Then design your kitchen with those elements in mind. Here a built-in niche provides a convenient place to tuck a smoking grill when it's not in use and shields it from the rain and snow, extending its life.
Embrace Mini Appliances
Most outdoor kitchens don't have to hold enough food and beverages to feed a crowd for a week -- just a meal. That makes it easy to select affordable, small-space appliances that use less energy and take up a fraction of the square footage.
Make Flooring Easy to Clean
Meal cleanup outside shouldn't require more work than inside. In an outdoor kitchen, choose an easy-to-clean floor, such as this resilient tile, that is easy to sweep up and withstands outdoor messes such as cut grass and garden debris.
If your outdoor kitchen will be freestanding, electricity is essential to power items such as lights and appliances. Placing an outlet near the main cooking area will expand the ways you can use the space into the night.
Furnish Overhead Shelter
Rain, wind, even extra-sunny days can hamper your use -- and enjoyment -- of an outdoor kitchen. Make the most of your grilling-and-dining area by covering your kitchen space overhead. A full roof, as used here, is one option; other ideas include a partial roof, a pergola, or an outdoor umbrella.
Working in an outdoor kitchen can be a challenge if you lack spots to stash everyday necessities. Think through what you want to have on hand to determine what kind of storage you need. If you're not close to your interior kitchen, make sure to include cabinets or a cart to store grilling tools, utensils, plates, and serving pieces. Will you have a fire pit? Then including a place to keep your woodpile dry is key. The handier it is to cook and entertain in your outdoor kitchen, the more you will take advantage of it.
Go for Built-Ins
Even the smallest of outdoor kitchens benefit from amenities to accommodate prep and cleanup. Next to a built-in compact and dishwasher, a cabinet under the sink is the perfect dry place to store fire logs, charcoal, and cleaning supplies.
Look into a Vent
A vent hood is a good option to consider for an outdoor kitchen that's located on an attached or covered patio or deck where good air circulation can be an issue.
Keep Utensils Close By
Keep forks and spatulas off the countertop with a drawer -- or a simple metal bar with hooks hung above or next to the cooking prep area is convenient for easy access to large, frequently used outdoor kitchen items.
Supply a Water Source
There are few things more tiresome than having to traipse back inside from an outdoor kitchen in order to wash your hands or meal items. Try to include even a small bar-size sink, next to the grill.
Allow for Built-In Seating
Particularly for space-challenged outdoor kitchens, clever inclusion of seating can increase countertop space and encourage convivial gatherings. Here, a bar-height space neatly dovetails with the cooking spot and has enough space for a few stools.
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