The trend of outdoor cooking has come a long way from the days of a small charcoal grill and portable cooler. Today, families are gathering on porches and patios equipped with entire outdoor kitchens, with no need to go inside to use an appliance. While most people tend to have a grill on their deck or patio, many homeowners are now moving towards an entire cook station. Outfitted with everything from mini-refrigerators, sinks, grills and pizza stoves, summer kitchens represent a growing trend that is not only here to stay, but growing more popular with every new home built.
Outdoor barbecues are typically fun for the guests, but a lot of work for the host. As friends munch on freshly prepared appetizers, it’s hard to enjoy the evening knowing all the leftovers must be carried back into the kitchen and stored or thrown away. But the addition of an outdoor kitchen can not only ease the mess and prep time, it can allow the homeowner to actually enjoy him or herself while entertaining friends and family.
Most people seek convenience and luxury when planning for their home, and a summer kitchen is a perfect marriage of both that can be individually customized to fit a family’s needs. Outdoor kitchens can be portable or installed as a built-in. While some prefer the flexibility of a portable summer kitchen, others enjoy the sleek look of the built-in kitchen. The portable outdoor kitchen offers flexibility and provides longevity in harsher climates, as it can be stored easily. More temperate climates allow for built-in summer kitchens that can be used year round.
When designing and choosing products for your outdoor kitchen, first distinguish your family’s cooking style and needs. Would you like to have a place to sauté vegetables or cook sauces along with a grill? How about a prep sink or refrigeration? Will the new kitchen be far enough away from your indoor kitchen that you might need a mini-fridge or ice chest? All of these products are available and can be integrated into your summer kitchen. Pre-assembled kitchens often look nice, but may be wasteful if they contain items that are rarely or never used.
Think in terms of how you plan to use the outdoor area, and the space you have available when designing your summer kitchen.
Also, before you get carried away, consider the essentials of the outdoor kitchen: grill, preparation area and serving bar, as sometimes they are all that is necessary. The latter two amenities allow you to have enough space surrounding the grill to prepare food and entertain friends. Do not overlook the grill however. It is by far the most important element of an outdoor kitchen and if your budget allows, the grill should be one of high quality, especially if you are not including any other items.
When trying to determine what grill to buy, there are a few things to consider. Price is important but is not the most important aspect. Think of how you and your family plan to use the grill. If low-maintenance is important then you will want to carefully examine the grill’s surface. Cooking grills typically are made from either chrome plated steel, porcelain coated steel, cast iron, porcelain coated cast iron and stainless steel. Stainless steel is long lasting but expensive, while cast-iron grills hold heat well but must be highly maintained. Porcelain grills have the benefits of cast iron wrapped in an easy-to-maintain package. Proper maintenance is very important and heavily contributes to the life of the grill.
Other things to consider when purchasing a grill are the size and number of burners. Is it large enough for your family or the people you plan to cook for? How many burners will you need? And lastly, what type of heat to do you prefer? Charcoal, propane gas and electric are the three main types of heat for grills.
If entertaining is your passion, then you’ll appreciate a summer kitchen with an ice chest, beer keg, pizza stove and serving bar. Families might also want to add an ice chest and mini-fridge to keep food cold in between meals. While the grill is the mainstay, outdoor kitchens often include sinks, fireplaces, side burners for sautéing and a range hood for both practical and decorative reasons.
Whatever your preference, outdoor kitchens can be designed to accommodate the same desires as your indoor kitchen. With a little planning and imagination, your next outdoor party will be the envy of the neighborhood.