Tips for Creating a Fabulous Outdoor Kitchen

As temperatures rise, it’s time to move the party outdoors. Summer is the time for outdoor entertaining—and how we love getting together with family and friends to enjoy the tastes and aromas of the traditional cookout. However, there’s a lot more to outdoor cooking than charring hamburgers and hotdogs on the portable kettle.

These days, the best outdoor kitchens incorporate everything your indoor kitchen has to offer, and much more. Think about the convenience of having a fully integrated kitchen on your patio that includes a sink, storage drawers and cabinets, refrigeration, gas burners, plus a state-of-the-art grill and smoker. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Constructing a basic outdoor entertaining space might be fairly straightforward for a seasoned DIYer, but if you are into all the bells and whistles, you’ll probably want to enlist the services of a licensed professional to help you design and build your dream outdoor kitchen. Contact local retailers and ask for names of trusted contractors or search the web for landscape designers, patio contractors or home remodelers—just make sure you ask to see credentials and customer references.

How Much Will It Cost?
Outdoor kitchens are much like any other kind of home remodeling project. Cost is dependent on your budget and the scope of the project. You can start small and commission a simple kitchen and dining area for as little as $7,500. But if you’re looking to create a full-fledged outdoor room with living, kitchen and dining space, and want to throw in a fireplace, it could cost upwards of $75,000 based on the amount of work involved. Let’s cover the key components you’ll need to consider before you get started.

Your patio provides the foundation for your outdoor kitchen. You will want it to be attractive, durable and safe. When considering surfacing materials you have many options to choose from. It should be durable as well as attractive. Today, popular choices are concrete, pavers, brick, gravel or natural stone. Before settling on a material, think about your budget and what you're looking for in a decking material.

Concrete and gravel are inexpensive options, but concrete can crack and gravel doesn’t provide a stable surface for cooking and dining. If it rains and your patio is not covered, natural stone might be too slick. Pavers are gorgeous, but can be expensive depending on the style and quality. Once you’ve determined your needs and preferences you’ll be able to choose the right material for the job.

The island is just like the counter in your indoor kitchen. It will house storage, appliances and provide a food prep area. In a modest configuration, it can be as small as 7 feet long by 3 feet deep to accommodate everything including a built-in grill. The island is typically constructed with wood  exterior surface of choice.

As with indoor kitchens, granite and quartz countertops are wildly popular with homeowners. Both of these solid surface materials run about the same per square foot. Stainless steel and tile are also good choices for an outdoor island top. Ceramic tile will be the most cost-effective option. While it might be more difficult to keep clean, tile gives you the most bang for your buck with regard to colors and designs.

The Cooker

The cooking equipment is the heart of your outdoor kitchen. The grilling component is usually an insert that drops into an opening in your island. This is where you get what you pay for, so don’t even think about skimping. Go for the highest grade stainless steel--it will hold up to years of use and being out in the elements. Good grills start at about $1,000 and go up from there. In addition to the grill itself, you can also consider including a smoker combo, rotisserie, auxiliary burners and a griddle feature.

Cold Storage and Drinks
If you are the consummate host, you’ll want your guests to have easy access to cold drinks on a hot summer evening. A under counter refrigerator and wine or beverage cooler will be the hit of your outdoor soirees. You can also include an ice-making feature in the unit for a little extra.

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