Building the Dream Outdoor Kitchen

Building the dream outdoor kitchen requires a bit of planning and imagination. Whether you’re flipping burgers or boiling a lobster, an outdoor kitchen easily becomes the ‘heart of the home’ during summer months. Of course, space and budget will influence your decisions, but with a little bit of creativity, an outdoor kitchen can provide you with everything you need and want.

Outdoor kitchens range in cost from about $3,000 to more than $30,000 depending on what features you choose. To ensure you get a return on your investment, there are some things you must do before you start building your outdoor kitchen.

Before you begin planning your outdoor kitchen, check your local building and fire safety codes. Zoning laws may restrict the size and location of your kitchen and fire codes will determine clearance requirements between an open flame and combustible surface.

Planning for Utilities

Electricity will be necessary for task lighting, refrigerators, rotisserie systems, ice makers, and other amenities. Hire an experienced, licensed electrician to ensure safety requirements and wiring is compliant with local codes. Be sure to include plenty of electrical outlets.

For those of you planning to include a sink in your outdoor kitchen, once again I’d recommend hiring a professional for the necessary plumbing. Be sure and discuss winterization options with your plumber if you live in a cold climate.

If natural gas is available in your area, you may want to run a gas line to your grill for convenience. If this is not an option, consider investing in a second propane tank.

One of the most overlooked items in an outdoor kitchen is ventilation. If you are planning to place your outdoor kitchen in an enclosed space under a roof or any combustible overhead structure, an outdoor vent hood is required to remove excess smoke and improve airflow.

Laying Out Your Outdoor Kitchen
Paradise Restored
Paradise Restored

The possibilities are endless. However, keep in mind that an outdoor kitchen should be designed to accommodate the ‘act’ of cooking. Moving in and around the space should be convenient and effortless. If your budget allows, consider separate spaces for prepping, cooking and serving.

If possible, plan at least two feet of countertop space close to the grill specifically for food preparation. The most popular materials for countertops are granite, slate, stainless steel, brick, stucco, tile, and stone.

For a relatively small investment, you can add a high bar for your guests to sit off the prep station. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, a freestanding bar with stools can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.

Fun Features
Randy Theume Design Inc.
Randy Theume Design Inc.

Okay, now for the exciting part. Let’s review some of the new and innovative products available today.

Let’s start with the most important item – the cooking equipment. A good quality standard 36-inch grill will work for most families. However, if you’re going to go all out, I love the idea of side burners, built-in infrared burners for searing, and an electric rotisserie. Prices range widely.

For example, the Char-Broil’s 42-inch freestanding grill with infrared technology starts at $270. On the other end of the spectrum, the Rolls Royce of grills is the huge, heavy-duty Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet’s Hybrid Fire Grill. This barbecue gives you the ability to cook with gas, wood, or charcoal. Between the rotisserie, side burners, and a large cooking surface, you can cook dinner for two dozen people at once. This grill with its clean, modern design can cost as “little” as $11,000 and can go up to more than $20,000.

An outdoor sink may seem like a good idea, just keep in mind that the necessary plumbing will set you back $1000 to $2000. A less expensive option is a sink that hooks to a hose such as No-Crank’s Outdoor Sink Station for about $170.

In my opinion, you might be better off splurging on an under-counter outdoor refrigerator to keep those drinks cold and handy. Models from Marvel, GE, and Dacor typically cost $1,800 to $2,300. Outdoor beer dispensers and kegerators are also available. Other popular appliances include wine coolers, ice makers, and warming drawers.

Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Want the ultimate luxurious appliance? Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet introduced an outdoor dishwasher a few years ago featuring a stainless steel exterior and interior for low maintenance and durability along with protected electronics and wiring to withstand the coldest winters and hottest summers for just under $4,000.

Storage space for dishes and cooking equipment is a luxurious feature. Built-in cabinets in stainless steel or marine-grade polymer are durable and weatherproof. In dry climates, rot-resistant woods like teak and cedar may be used for cabinetry. Or you can add freestanding storage for much less.

A fireplace and pizza oven will add warmth and ambience to any outdoor kitchen. Fireplaces typically start at $8000 and a basic pizza oven kit starts at $3000. Add several thousand dollars more to the project if you want to add a custom surround. If your budget doesn’t allow for these splurges, a fire pit can be purchased instead for about $100 and is perfect for roasting marshmallows.

Don’t forget to plan task lighting for outdoor cooking. A budget-friendly clip-on grill light can be purchased for about $25 or you can install more extensive lighting if your outdoor kitchen is located under a shade structure such as a patio cover or pergola. If your outdoor kitchen is located under a pergola or trellis, a retractable roof or shade is an ideal solution.

AKL Designer Kitchens
AKL Designer Kitchens

With summer just around the corner, use these tips to start planning now for your ultimate outdoor kitchen. Everybody loves a cookout! Start collecting grilling recipes and techniques and you can look forward to relaxing get-togethers with family, friends, and neighbors and fun parties in your new outdoor space. Bon appetit!