Just as options for indoor kitchens have expanded over the past many years, so have product options for outdoor kitchens as well. Your outdoor cooking space can be bare bones, allowing more space for sitting and playing or you can create the ultimate outdoor oasis, a space that will make you – and your friends – never want to leave! What options should you consider? Well, the basics are, are of course, how you will cook and cool, and then the less glamorous considerations including water needs.

Cooking Options: Oh, where to start? Perhaps, with what do you like to eat and what do you want to serve? There are seemingly endless options on the market to respond to your inner chef callings. 

If you or your children are big pizza fans, for instance, consider installing a wood-firing grill or even a traditional oven unit if you will want to speed along cooking times. 

If you are Japanese cuisine fans, consider installing your own hibachi grill. Then don the tall chef’s hat, sharpen the knives, and toss shrimp pieces to your guests for the authentic hibachi experience.

If ribs and steaks are more your thing, enhance your options by installing a smoker in the kitchen for the ultimate in slow roasting. 

Or, if your envisioned outdoor entertaining includes traditional New England seafood offerings, consider special ranges designed for lobster boils. 

Of course, traditional cooktops and grills should lay the foundation for your outdoor kitchen but don’t limit yourself. Add a special feature or two to allow for the creation of your signature entertaining legacy.

Cooling Options: Rather than sending guests inside for a cold beverage or having to head indoors to retrieve items for cooking, you should consider installing a small refrigerator in your outdoor kitchen. But your options don’t end there. If you will often host large gatherings of friends, consider a keg tapper or wine refrigerator, and even an ice maker to ensure cold drinks are always at hand. If your kitchen area is large and you will do a lot of outdoor entertaining, perhaps two small cooling units, one for food and the other for beverages, may be appropriate.  

Obviously, in selecting outdoor appliances, choose those that are designed to withstand the temperatures you will experience in your region and those that are safe for outdoor use. In general, many of the most commonly used outdoor products are stainless steel. One of the most often made errors in outdoor kitchen design is the selection of appliances that are not recommended for outdoor use so be sure to consult manufacturers’ instructions or talk with your outdoor kitchen specialist.

It is good practice to place your cooling appliances away from your heating ones. Well-designed kitchens have different zones for ease of use and for safety.

Water considerations.  With all the entertaining you will do, you obviously need some source for water needs. Consider what kinds of sink will serve your purposes best. Do you need a small sink for water use and light hand washing or will you wash dishes there? If you will be doing a large amount of entertaining, an outdoor dishwasher is a must so you don’t find yourself carting plates, pots and pans indoors after each meal. 

For major kitchen work, you will be best served to work with a professional as your investment will be sizable and it is important the work is well considered and well executed. There are indeed a lot of decisions to make in creating an outdoor kitchen but embrace them. Don’t get paralyzed with indecision with so many options available to you. With few exceptions, there are almost no wrong choices that can be made. Have fun with your selections as you create a space reflective of you, for outdoor entertaining.

Photo courtesy of  Botanical Decorators and Jasper Colt Photography, Olney, MD.

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