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outdoor kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen (installed by Exscape Designs)

Outdoor kitchens can define an outdoor space all year long. Here’s how you can define your own outdoor kitchen to transform your life at home.

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When most people think of outdoor kitchens, they imagine a massive pizza oven, a huge fireplace, gleaming stainless steel everywhere — in short, they think of something expensive. Decadent. Over-the-top. But the good news is that anyone can have an outdoor kitchen with a bit of ingenuity, some do-it-yourself skills, and a keen eye for what is really necessary in the beautiful and useful outdoor space.

What does an outdoor kitchen really need?

Let’s start by getting down the basics. What do you really need in your outdoor kitchen? A cooking space is a given, as well as a place to clean up; so now we have a grill or outdoor stove, as well as a sink, to add to our wish-list. But what else? That depends upon how you use the space.

If you like to enjoy cocktails on the deck, a handsome sink and bar is where it’s at. If you prefer to have some oven-fired pizza, that brick pizza oven is a must. Do you entertain friends and family every chance you get? Expanded seating is necessary.

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BroilChef Stainless Steel Refrigerators Stainless Steel Built-In Mini Refrigerator from BuildDirect.

Browse for outdoor refrigerators.

Once you have the basics down, then you can begin to look at the little details. A refrigerator built into your kitchen can work wonders for ease of food preparation. A drop-in ice chest in the counter can make for easy sharing brews with your buds.

Natural gas or propane burners — separate from that of the grill — mean you can boil water for pasta, make quick sauces and otherwise have all the conveniences of your indoor kitchen without having to run back and forth.

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BroilChef Natural Gas Grills LP/Gas Grill with Searing Burner from BuildDirect.

Browse for outdoor grills.

How to make it happen for less money

Now comes another vitally important part: Budgeting triage!

If you’re like most of us, you simply can’t have it all. A gorgeous outdoor kitchen with all the bells and whistles just isn’t in most budgets. That’s why you must choose which parts of the kitchen you are willing to spend the majority of money on, and which areas you want to save a bit.

For instance, do you need an ice chest and a refrigerator, or can one of them do double-duty? Rather than creating a new pergola or other shelter, perhaps you can make a go of it with a covered porch. If you use your outdoor kitchen solely in the summer, you won’t need heating — but if you intend to use it year-round, a small heater will be a priority.

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Heritage Deluxe Outdoor Heater (Copper Finish) from BuildDirect.

Browse for outdoor heaters.

The whole point of a kitchen is to cook, so you will probably want a larger chunk of your budget for an outdoor oven, grilling stove, or an old-fashioned gas grill with plenty of room to cook. When it comes to the rest of the kitchen, you might be able to work things for a cheaper result. Here are a few options:

  • If you are going with the covered porch option, create your kitchen at the back of it, against the existing wall. This means that plumbing and electrical work will be cheaper, and you will also have the advantage of choosing a cheaper countertop option, since it might not be directly exposed to the elements.
  • Rather than go with heaters, look into a fire table or fire pit that is suitable for use on your deck. For summertime, consider using inexpensive yet attractive ceiling fans.
  • If money is too tight, go with an ice chest instead of a refrigerator. The chest keeps things chilled just as well, and you don’t have to worry about electricity to power it. Really tight on the budget? Skip the ice chest altogether and use a simple, attractive cooler.
  • Reconsider your furniture. Rather than spend a great deal of money on a matching set, switch things up with a variety of options found on clearance. Save even more cash by creating DIY couches, seating and tables.

Outdoor kitchen becomes your own

There is another bonus to creating an outdoor kitchen on a shoestring budget: the kitchen truly becomes your own. No, it isn’t the sleek kitchen of your dreams, where everything matches and you have all the bells and whistles your heart desires.

But, you can choose the items that are most important to you and get creative with the rest. The result is a comfortable, homey outdoor kitchen that your friends and family will love.

 

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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.