7 Tips for the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

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Outdoor kitchen

image: David Gaona

Do you love a good steak on the grill but hate running back and forth between the grill and the kitchen? Do you love entertaining outside but hate the fact that going to the refrigerator means leaving the good conversation? What if you had the best of all worlds right there in your backyard?

Outdoor kitchens offer several great benefits. Besides making it much easier to entertain and enjoy an outdoor meal, an outdoor kitchen expands your living space, adds resale value to your home and turns that ho-hum backyard into a happening place. These tips can help you create the ideal outdoor kitchen for your space and needs.

1. Make sure you have the space

If you are lucky enough to have a large deck or pool area, you just might have plenty of space for full outdoor kitchen with all the bells and whistles. Keep in mind that your guests will need room to move, the ventilation must be good enough for smoke from the grill to blow away, and safety requires at least three feet of space on either side of the grill for workย  and prep space.

If you don’t have that much, you can either expand your deck or patio to allow for more space, or work with what you have. That might mean narrowing down your wish list for your outdoor kitchen to those things that matter most.

2. Be realistic about outdoor use

Are you sure you will use this outdoor kitchen on a regular basis — once or twice a week, at least? If so, then it pays to sink more money into the project. You can determine your potential use by looking at how often you eat outside now, even with the hassle of running back and forth to the kitchen.

If dinner outside has become a tradition, then you already know you will make great use of an outdoor kitchen. But if you are planning the project more for resale value or occasional entertaining, go with the bare minimum of options.

3. Consider what you need

Most outdoor kitchens are just like indoor kitchens — they have a nice layout that makes prep easy, all the necessary appliances and plenty of storage space. The only real difference is that an outdoor kitchen must stand up to the elements. If you want a full kitchen with all the bells and whistles — even a dishwasher! — then makes sure it is something you use on a regular basis. Otherwise, choose your options carefully to include only what you consider must-haves.

4. Use low-maintenance materials

You want to enjoy your outdoor kitchen, not worry about it. So look for products that are made to last. Sealed pavers or concrete will be fine for the floor. Countertops made of natural stone can stand up to the elements if you seal them on a regular basis. Granite with a matte finish and UV stabilizers is always a good bet.

Avoid tile if you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing. And of course, look for appliances that are built for outdoor use. If in doubt, go with stainless steel — it works for almost every outdoor kitchen application.

5. Create a good flow

A big mistake with outdoor kitchens is cramming too much into the space, or not organizing the work areas properly. This can lead to traffic jams during entertaining and frustration during everyday cooking. Remember to place the work areas where you will actually use them, such as to either side of the grill, and leave ample space around the sink. Keep the tables and chairs away from the work area to allow for easier flow.

6. Don’t forget the surrounding area

An outdoor kitchen is all about ease and comfort, so make sure that the area around it is filled with those things, too. Choose ample, comfortable seating that keeps your guests comfortable. Try to create the feeling of something overhead, to create more of a room atmosphere — a good idea might be a large pergola that can be opened up during great weather, with a durable canvas cover that can be put into place if the rain rolls in. Patio heaters or ceiling fans might also be helpful to keep the area comfortable no matter what the elements might bring.

7. Remember the details

Finally, keep in mind that you want the outdoor kitchen to have all the comforts of your other kitchen, the one just a few feet away. So make sure that the little details are accounted for. An entertainment system that offers surround sound can be a great addition, as can other amenities, like an outdoor fireplace or a television to watch the big game.

Make sure your furniture is something you can really sink into and enjoy for many long hours. Include outdoor lights, candles for the more intimate moments and even bug repellents for those nights when the mosquitoes want to feast, too.


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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.