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Outdoor Kitchen Essentials That Will Get You Cooking

By March 13, 2024March 21st, 2024Outdoor Kitchens
outdoor grill granite counters

Whether you’re already a fan of cooking and dining al fresco, or you enjoy spending time outdoors and are exploring ways to enhance your experience, an outdoor kitchen can open up a whole new world of opportunity.

From grills to pizza ovens, ice makers to wine coolers, there are plenty of ways to make cooking outdoors fun and enjoyable whether it’s a warm summer day or the middle of winter.

If you’re thinking about including a kitchen in your landscape design, there’s a lot to consider. From style to function to convenience, it’s important to create a space that you’ll ultimately want to use. Here are some things to think about as you plan your cooking space so the end result will be the perfect addition to your outdoor lifestyle.

The Cooking Area

Sounds obvious, but there’s a lot to consider! There is so much more to outdoor cooking than simply putting a grill on the patio. And even if all you want is a grill, there are tons of options available for that one appliance alone.

outdoor kitchen beneath pergola

Grills can include everything from side burners to rotisseries, smoker boxes, warming drawers, and multiple cooking tiers. There are gas grills and charcoal grills, and even hybrid grills that use both. Don’t feel compelled to go for all the bells and whistles – choose the features that will suit your cooking style, and if you’re going to splurge, make sure it’s on something that will add to your experience and not just make you feel guilty that it’s sitting there being neglected!

outdoor kitchen appliancesAs you plan your cooking space, consider what you want to cook, and who you’ll be cooking for. If you’re planning to host big parties, for example, then a larger cooking space will keep your guests from lining up for one hot dog at a time! If you love simmering a big pot of chili all day, then a burner is a must.

Beyond grills, you can add other cooking appliances to your space, like a pizza oven, wood smoker, or even a fire pit for casual open-fire cooking. Whatever you choose, be sure that it suits the type of cooking you want to do.

circular patio

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A Place To Prep

If the idea is to cook outdoors – and enjoy it – then you’re not going to want to spend a lot of time running back and forth into the house to chop vegetables, cut meat, or collect ingredients. If using your space is inconvenient, chances are you’re not going to use it.

The best cooking spaces have room to prep, with everything you need at your fingertips. Counter space is as important outdoors as it is indoors, whether you’re chopping, mixing, or plating. There are tons of countertop options, from granite to tile to stainless steel. Be realistic about the type that suits you best. A counter may look great but if it is easily stained or difficult to clean, that can detract from your enjoyment.

outdoor kitchen patio dining areaYour prep area may also include a built-in cutting board, a sink for easy rinsing, a drawer to keep frequently used utensils, or a cabinet or refrigerator with all your favorite condiments and spices.

Finally, don’t overlook task lighting. Unless you’re cooking under the full sun, lighting is essential for helping you perform prep tasks and keeping you safe while you do it.

Serving Diners

Whether it’s a small family dinner or a big neighborhood party, you’ll want to keep your diners comfortable and fed. That means giving yourself elbow room to serve them conveniently. If your space is too crowded or the layout boxes you in, it can be difficult to plate and distribute food, and easy to end up with accidents or injuries.

Counter space can help, or consider adding an island to use as a plating and serving station.

Where possible, include options for guests to serve themselves. A refrigerator and ice maker can be available for guests to grab their own beverages, freeing you up to focus on the food.

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Easy Cleanup

Cooking is the fun part – cleanup not so much! But the easier you make it, the more likely you’ll be to return for another meal. A sink can go a long way to making cleanup easier. Imagine how much simpler it would be to wash plates and utensils, wipe down countertops, and clean up cooking and eating surfaces if you have running water.

outdoor kitchen grill patio seating areaPart of making cleanup easy is including appliances, surfaces and other elements that are easy to clean. Choose durable features that won’t require a lot of fuss to maintain. Stick with features that have clean, simple lines and minimal nooks and crannies.

And think about less-obvious surfaces, like flooring. If you choose a porous or light colored stone for the cooking area, you might end up spending a lot of time battling grease stains and spills. Choose something that can withstand the rigors of cooking and make your cleanup job a whole lot easier now and in the long run.

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Putting It All Away

When you’re done cooking, cleaning, and entertaining, storage space will help you make sure everything is neat and organized for the next time – and you can avoid all that running back and forth to your indoor kitchen.

natural stone grill enclosureCabinets, drawers, chests, and even appliances like refrigerators can add a layer of convenience for keeping everything from plates and utensils to cleaning supplies, serving platters, decorative tableware, condiments, and leftovers.

The more you can simplify and streamline your outdoor cooking experience, the more likely you’ll be to enjoy it and return to do it again and again.

It’s time to live your best outdoor life. 

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