Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen

outdooPhoto: Imagine Backyard

The first kitchen was really just a fire outside. And ever since cooking was brought indoors, people have been finding numerous reasons to take it back outside. The summer heat has always been a big factor in wanting outdoor kitchen space, especially here in the South. Before air conditioning, summer kitchens made the hottest, most humid months slightly more bearable for southerners everywhere. Keeping away smoke and lingering food smells have also always been popular reasons for wanting to cook outside. Today, the desire to entertain and create a fun space for your family and friends has pushed the outdoor kitchen to the next level.

American actress Jane Wyman with her portable bbq in press photos in the early 1950s.janewymanPhoto: Tumblr

Outdoor kitchens today are so much more than a grill and some patio furniture. Today’s outdoor kitchens extend the living space of your home and are considered a great investment in your property.  The average outdoor kitchen costs between 12,000 and 15,000 dollars. While you definitely don’t have to spend that much, you can easily spend way more. The options are almost limitless. Understandably, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But no worries, we’ve got a few tips to help out, regardless of your budget.

kitchen-in-backyard-e1503366589243.jpgPhoto: Slodive
Determine How You want to Use Your Kitchen

Be honest with yourself. How much space do you have? Are you going to use this outdoor kitchen for serious entertaining or will you be grilling outside occasionally? Will your kitchen be covered, even partially? These questions are important as the list of  possible amenities is long. And when designing your outdoor space you should keep in mind that certain appliances require greater levels of protection from the elements than others. And depending on your budget and plans for usage, it’s important to prioritize what appliances you choose. Some of the most popular outdoor kitchen appliances include grills/smokers, refrigerators/freezers, ice makers, and sinks.

A pergola is a great option for a smaller outdoor kitchen.  It helps define the space and allows for maximum airflow while still providing shade and protection from the harshness of the elements. If you have a green thumb a pergola is a great place to both grow and hang plants on.pergPhoto: Backyard Unlimited
Heaters, a fireplace, curtains and fans make this huge outdoor kitchen space an amazing year-round entertaining space.Beautiful-modern-porch-has-it-allPhoto: Decoist
Layout & Design

When choosing the site for your outdoor kitchen you need to think about how you’re going to hook up the utilities. You will probably want to run electricity and/or gas, and even water out to your space. Designing an outdoor kitchen isn’t that different from designing an indoor kitchen.

You’ll notice that the designs that incorporate the sink and refrigerator all do so in a way that creates the ubiquitous “kitchen triangle”. This is a design principle that says the most efficient kitchen layout is one where the cooktop, sink, and refrigerator form a triangle shape, with no leg of the triangle being longer than 10 feet.
layoutsPhoto: Pinterest

A functional outdoor kitchen should consist of four key areas or zones. First, the hot zone, where you’ll put your grill, smoker, pizza oven, etc. Conversely, the cold zone, where your refrigerator, freezer, beverage centers, etc. will be. Ideally, these zones won’t be right next to each other. Having hot and cold elements next to each other will force those appliances to work harder to function properly, wasting energy and potentially shortening their lifespans. The wet zone is where the sinks, ice-makers, kegerators, dishwashers, etc. are in the space. This is the area that really upgrades an outdoor entertaining area into a fully functioning kitchen. Lastly, you will want prep space. Prep space is not only the counters where you prepare food, but also cabinets and storage options.

This kitchen clearly lays out the four different zones. You can see that the separation between hot, cold, and wet zones naturally creates the “kitchen triangle.”ou.jpgPhoto: Pinterest
Choosing the Proper Materials

There are certainly a few different factors to consider when deciding what materials to use for your outdoor kitchen. Durability has to be considered equally to the style that matches your home and design aesthetic. Natural stone is a great choice for your outdoor kitchen countertops. While not really an issue here in Tennessee, it’s important to note that some stones don’t hold up to the possible expansion that can come with freezing/thawing as well as others. If you live somewhere with more extreme conditions you should always check with your fabricator that the stone you choose will work outside.

This design seamlessly incorporates granite, wood, brick, and stainless steel.presoutPhoto: Prestige M & G

There are other factors to consider when choosing which stone to use. Granite is an extremely popular choice thanks to its overall durability. Granite easily stands up to both regular use and weather. It doesn’t stain, nor does it absorb odors. With granite it’s recommended that you choose mid-range to lighter colors, as darker stones will hold heat and can become hot to the touch under sun.

This granite is absolutely beautiful outside. It blends wonderfully with the landscaping, nearby pool/fountain, and stainless steel appliances. It’s light color ensures it won’t absorb too much heat, nor will it fade in the sun.granite-countertop-outdoor-1Photo: MGSI

Soapstone is another durable option. Although your color options are limited to shades of gray and black, soapstone is stain, heat, and bacteria resistant. Soapstone does scratch more easily than other types of stone, those scratches are fairly easy to repair though.

If you want a darker countertop, soapstone is a great option. It doesn’t hold heat the same way granite does and is still polished and durable.soapstonePhoto: Urban Kitchen Design

Marble is always a beautiful option but is considerably softer than other stones. While it will last a long time, weather will eventually cause noticeable wear. For this reason it isn’t recommended that you use polished marble outside. There are other stone options you can discuss with your fabricator. Concrete and tile are also sometimes used as outdoor countertops.

While planning for hot and cold zones is important, in some smaller spaces your options might be limited. Here, a two-drawer, outdoor refrigerator maximizes space for cold food and drink storage. The brick used in this design is a great insulator between the cold refrigerator and hot grill. The large soapstone countertops are a great choice for a rooftop kitchen with minimal protection from the elements.
small.jpgPhoto: Kalamazoo Gourmet

Whatever outdoor kitchen you can dream up,  Prestige Marble & Granite is here to help you with a vast selection of unique, exotic and rare natural stones from around the world. Our knowledgeable staff will guide you through selection, layout, design and installation. We welcome homeowners, designers, and contractors to browse our showroom any time!

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