Outdoor kitchens are fast becoming one of those home improvement projects that a lot of people feel that they cannot live without. Many are curious about them but most people are afraid to delve into building one because it can be a fairly expensive project. If you grill out more than once or twice a week this kind of kitchen can actually save you a lot of grief by putting the grill and all the other things you need when grilling and entertaining right at your fingertips.
This started catching on out west where people can get outside more often than we can here in Northeast Ohio, and they can utilize this kind of cooking environment almost constantly. These outdoor kitchens have been swiftly making their way East. Some basic outdoor kitchen designs incorporate many of the same appliances that an indoor kitchen would have but the fixtures and appliances are all made to be used permanently outdoors. I have seen some with a built in stainless steel gas grill plus every kitchen appliance known to man and they can include electricity for lights blenders and microwaves and others with lamp oil torches for lighting and only a standard gas grill built into a simple island.
Typically the central part of any outdoor kitchen is going to be your propane gas BBQ grill, the main difference in an outdoor kitchen is that this grill would be built into a counter top along a wall or in an island. Typically the Grill is used as the main component where this whole arrangement becomes the focal point of the outdoor social area of your home. The primary location for outdoor kitchens are typically out on the back deck just behind the indoor kitchen which makes it easy to supply and work between the two locations. Some will be situated under a Pergola style structure and others will end up being covered by a gazebo with a shingle roof to protect your outdoor kitchen and your guests from the elements. Some of the more creative designs I have seen are almost all stainless steel surfaces which is really nice outdoors since it should not rust and is easy to keep clean.
These outdoor kitchens can be built as a Do It Yourself project for just a few thousand dollars but if you want to have all the bells and whistles included into your outdoor kitchen they do make outdoor versions of small refrigerators, steaming boxes, fryers, dishwashers sinks and more. You could easily spend $25K on an outdoor kitchen with the flooring and some sort of protective structure. The more basic units consist of a single island where the gas grill is permanently mounted into the counter top. These may also have outdoor sinks and drawers for storage plus many other typical indoor kitchen items.
The idea here is that the cooking area is usually the central meeting place for friends and family whenever there is a get together and a great many people love to grill outdoors so it is only natural that we would end up using the outdoor kitchen more than an indoor one. A friend of mine who has a lot of family and entertains a lot throwing big parties all the time at his place built his own version of an outdoor kitchen which includes a fish fryer a gas grill and a charcoal grill under one big roof with running water and a walk in cooler with a keg tap handle on the outside wall next to the outdoor kitchen. This is an amazing place to be when he fires up the grill to make 75 steaks and the beer is flowing freely!
Your creativity in designing an outdoor kitchen is usually only limited by your resources and that ever elusive cash budget. If you are handy with constructing things then building the basic structure should be only a couple of weekends worth of work for you. Then get your gas grill mounted with the gas bottle set up in a cabinet underneath and get your other appliances installed then once the water is turned on you can have your first party. Years ago I had seen a few of these in homes where I was doing some electrical work and I have always thought it would be a great project for any semi-permanent motor-home camper situation. I have figured out a way to make an island on wheels that could be moved to and from the camp site on a small trailer by two people. This could include the island and appliances in a modular format so that you could take along just the gas grill if you did not want to take the entire island with you.
So where do you begin making your dream outdoor kitchen? After you do some research on the basic options and design styles you would start with a tape measure and a pad of paper. Go to the back yard and figure out the best location which is going to be a central location to the door into the house and or garage. Then figure out the closest location of things like water lines and power. This may lead you to the back wall of your garage where you can run the services through the wall into the garage for connecting them into the house. The gas cylinder will typically remain outside under the grill unit. Water in is one thing, but draining the water is another. This needs to be considered before you go any further since legally connecting something like this to the sewer or to your septic system could be very costly.
Once you think that your location is figured out check with your local zoning department to see exactly what their rules are on this kind of structure. Some will not allow the structure to be attached to the house or garage in any way and water plus electrical services must be run underground to the outdoor kitchen island. If you have natural gas in the home then the grill could be converted to operate properly on that supply but then you would need to connect the grill to that line in a way that is up to local codes. If you already have a patio roof or a gazebo you could look at making modifications to fit your outdoor kitchen into that existing structure as this will save you a bit of cost on setting up this new outdoor kitchen.
If you like to grill out then you owe it to yourself to see one of these outdoor kitchens in action. Find out who is selling and installing them in your area and see if there is any way to get a demonstration from a working system. You will always see some of these at your local home and garden show that comes to your town each year.
It really has become one of those “We have got to get one of these!” kind of home improvement upgrades. I am glad to coach people on basic DIY designs, and if this is something you are interested in talking about please contact me.