Outdoor Kitchens: Turning Gourmet Grilling into Entertainment

Outdoor kitchen projects have exploded along with the entire outdoor leisure lifestyle industry.  This growth in popularity might suggest that the North American trend of eating out less and entertaining at home more has evolved into… eating out at home.  Outdoor kitchens are no longer just a place to barbecue, they have become gathering areas.

Outdoor kitchens are now standard features in many custom homes and optional upgrades in many production homes.  But, outdoor kitchens are not just a second functional cooking area replacing the traditional basement kitchens.  Today’s outdoor kitchens have become artistic studios for our palettes, which include amenities that are difficult to put inside: charcoal grills, pizza ovens, smokers, and lobster boilers.

Gourmet grilling and eating has itself become a great form of entertainment.  Surveys show that 81% of consumers with outdoor kitchens describe their outdoor kitchen as an entertainment space and their indoor kitchen as a functional space.

The Hartman Group suggests two factors that may be influencing this growth. First, the increase in popularity of cooking shows on T.V. which are encouraging people to try new and creative things when cooking and second, the way consumers are altering their dining habits, see below:

• 45% are trying to spend less
• 42% are trying to eat healthier
• 34% are trying to eat out less
• 31% are experimenting with new foods

Whatever is driving this trend is working.  Outdoor appliance purchases increased by 8.4% over the last year.   Outdoor pizza oven sales are up more than 20%Casual Living.com is predicting the trends for 2016 will see outdoor kitchens become the focal point of most backyard projects with even bigger and better products and accessories featuring new storage solutions.

Dream it.

Achieving the outdoor kitchen of your “dreams” starts with inspiration.  This inspiration is the foundation of creating an outdoor kitchen that is uniquely yours. We encourage you to look far, dream big, be different. There are so many different products and great options available today. Don’t limit your choices to past experiences or local availability.

Collect ideas anywhere, anytime… the more the better.  Some common search tags for outdoor kitchens are:  outdoor kitchen kits, grills, outdoor kitchen cabinets, outdoor pizza oven, and outdoor furniture.outdoor kitchens - custom - quinju.com

Visiting the box stores, local retailers, and searching the internet to gather ideas is a good place to start, but inspiration will often occur when you least expect it: flipping through a magazine, watching television, or visiting a friend’s home.  Be prepared to gather these ideas using your mobile device.

Invite your family and friends to help gather inspiration and ideas. Start by sharing your favorite images and having them comment, but remember, this is your project.

Dreaming is a fun and necessary part of your home renovation, shaping that dream takes you one step closer to reality. Not every product is right for your outdoor kitchen project. Not every product will fit your budget. Start defining your dream by identifying the products that are right for you.

9 Things to consider when defining your outdoor kitchen project:

  1. Plan the entire outdoor entertainment area as one “grand plan”:

    Your outdoor kitchen should be an integral part of your entire backyard entertainment area, rather than planned as an individual area. When this is done effectively, all the areas of your backyard will start to become one: your water feature will become part of your outdoor kitchen, which is connected to your outdoor dining area by a shared outdoor fireplace, both with paths leading to the house and side gate. This relationship is effectively demonstrated in a survey, performed by Hoffman York, where people were asked what feature they loved most about their outdoor kitchens. The top two answers were: water features and fireplaces.

  1. Select the location for your outdoor kitchen wisely:

    Sunshine, roof structures, wind, view, access to utilities, and proximity to house windows are all things that can create challenges when planning your outdoor kitchen.  Get to know your backyard well before starting your planning.  There are many different ways to create shade in sunny area, using umbrellas, pergolas, sails, or trees, but it is much more difficult to add sunshine to a shaded area.

    The National Outdoor Kitchen and Fireplace Association suggests that if the location you choose is close to the house or under a roof structure, you may want to consider including a ventilation hood to remove the smoke.  The hood should have a 1000 to 1200 cfm motor.

  1. Clearly define your wants and needs:

    Number of people? Type of meals? How often it will be used? Understanding your wants and needs will help determine the amenities and appliances to include.  Below is a graph created by Hoffman York showing what homeowners consider the most important parts of their outdoor kitchens?  outdoor kitchens - chart - quinju.com

  1. Apply good kitchen designs principals:

    All areas of your outdoor kitchen must work together: cold areas, hot areas, wet areas, dry areas, and storage areas. For complicated designs, hiring a design professional might be a good idea.

  2.  Your outdoor kitchen should complement the design of your home:

    Your indoor and outdoor living spaces should get along—have a relationship. You create this relationship by modeling the design properties and features of the interior of your home when selecting your cabinetry, countertops, appliances and hardware for your outdoor kitchen.

    Luckily, many of the products introduced in 2015 allow for significant personalization of colors, styles, textures, and finishes. When selecting the products for your new outdoor kitchen, remember to focus on low maintenance materials and equipment.

  1. Plan to maximize use:

    Use of your outdoor kitchen can be extended by incorporating outdoor heaters, ventilation, shading systems, rain protection, and wind barriers. Many homeowners with outdoor kitchens say that they enjoy their backyard recreation area so much that they are starting to use it for breakfast, lunch and supper.

  1. Set the mood:

    The bright spot light with the motion detector might not effectively set the mood you want in your outdoor kitchen. Take the time to plan your lighting.  Consider both task light and accent lighting.  The American Lighting Association  suggests that grills and serving areas benefit from bright task lighting, which can be easily accomplished by installing a recessed spot-light on an adjacent roof overhang, mount lights on a railing behind the grill or use a portable fixture approved for outdoor environments.

    The other way to set the mood is through sound: music coming from outdoor speakers, the hockey game on an outdoor television, or bubbling water from the fountain.

  1. Installation:

    Depending on your skill level, some products can easily be installed yourself, while some products are best left to the professionals. DIY may reduce your costs, but it could also increase your frustration. Make an honest assessment of your skills, tools, time, and expectations of the finished product. If you are doing it yourself, many manufacturers are now offering a variety of complete outdoor kitchen kits which come with experience and know how already built-in.

  2.  Cost:

    The more you want from your outdoor kitchen, the more it will want from you: $$. Make sure you know what you are getting into because an outdoor kitchen project can be double the investment of an interior kitchen.

outdoor kitchens - gourmet - quinju.com

Do It!

As you move into the planning and implementation phases of your outdoor kitchen project, there are three key phases which, if applied effectively, will help ensure your project is a success.

Knowledge is power

Whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring a professional, the more you know, the more control you will have. So, do your homework.

Collect as much reliable information as possible: product information, installation procedures, best practices, warranties, maintenance tips. If you are hiring a contractor, share this information before the work starts.

Apply this knowledge when planning your outdoor kitchen project.

The more writing, the less fighting

Detailed contracts and agreements help reduce conflicts and avoid additional costs. The agreement should clearly outline the following:

• The work to be done
• Who is supplying the various materials, tools and equipment
• When the work is to be completed
• Payment terms
• Required worker’s insurance and liability insurance
• Permits and compliance, related documents like installation procedures

Agreements written by contractors tend to be very vague. You may want to prepare a detailed “Scope of Work” prior to getting quotes.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

There is a lot of satisfaction in doing a home renovation project yourself and doing it well.  However, when things don’t go quite right… well, you might have to literally live with that failure for a long time.

And, when things go terribly wrong… well, it might be a costly learning experience. They say we are our own worst critics, make sure your skills can live up to your expectations.

outdoor kitchens - with fireplace - quinju.com


Happy grilling…I like mine, medium rare.


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