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How to Create the Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen Space

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For homeowners with a passion for cooking and entertaining, creating an inviting backyard space with an outdoor kitchen is a great way to take your gatherings to the next level. With endless design options at your fingertips — including grill gazebos, tabletop fire features, outdoor bars, and more — it's never been easier to build an outdoor kitchen that's customized to your specific needs. Here, we'll walk you through the basics of creating the ultimate DIY outdoor kitchen, and how to bring your vision to life.

In This Article:
  1. Outdoor Kitchen Ideas: Initial Considerations
  2. Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen
  3. What to Include in Your Outdoor Kitchen
  4. Maintaining Your Outdoor Kitchen Space

1. Outdoor Kitchen Ideas: Initial Considerations

Creating the perfect outdoor kitchen can be challenging from a practical standpoint. Examples you may see in home renovation shows have professionals on staff to customize their plans to suit the backyard they're designing for — and even then, they often run into unexpected snags.

A little planning beforehand can help you keep your expectations realistic, and save you a lot of problems as you build your dream outdoor space.

Budget

Adding an outdoor kitchen is a big-ticket home improvement project, with cost estimates ranging from $2,000 to $25,000 for the typical backyard kitchen — and up to $100,000 if you go all out on the luxury. 

On the other hand, the return on investment of a new outdoor kitchen is pretty impressive, with estimates of recovering 71% to 200% of your cost when you sell your house. Still, most realty professionals don't recommend investing in this particular upgrade if your sole purpose is to increase your home's selling price. If you're planning to stay put, consider how much enjoyment you'll get from entertaining and using your new addition.

Size

It may sound obvious, but the size of your outdoor kitchen depends on how much space you actually have available. You should also consider how (and how often) you'll use it. A large deck or backyard allows for a bigger outdoor entertaining space, but even the smallest backyard can support an outdoor kitchen.

Location

You'll want to consider a number of factors when you decide where to place your space. Many people find that locating it directly off your indoor kitchen makes sense, since it's much easier to extend existing water, gas and electric lines when your new appliances are closer to the house. In addition, it allows for an easier flow between indoors and out, which you might appreciate if you're cooking in both spaces.

2. Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen

Once you have your budget, size and location solidified, you’re ready to move on to the design portion of your outdoor kitchen planning. Here are some key things to consider as you lay everything out.

Lighting

Unless you plan to do all of your entertaining during the day, good lighting is essential. Put some thought into outdoor lighting fixtures that are both functional and stylish.

Seating

When deciding on seating and dining areas, consider how you usually entertain. Keep in mind that people will need places to put their food and drink as well as somewhere to comfortably sit. There are outdoor furniture options for just about any configuration you can imagine, from simple bistro tables and patio sets to luxurious outdoor living rooms and tiki bars.

Appliances

Your cooking style, needs, and budget will help determine which appliances you need to include. At a bare minimum, you'll need a cooking appliance — usually a grill, but you might also consider an outdoor oven, a pizza oven or even a microwave. Other additions you might include are refrigerators, sinks and beverage coolers.

Food Prep Areas

Depending on how much actual cooking you'll be doing outdoors, you may want to include anything from a prep cart to hold foods for grilling, to a full set of counters where you and your guests can peel, chop, cut and marinate to your heart's content.

Storage

Consider cabinets, drawers and shelves to store items that you use when cooking outdoors. In some cases, your grill's storage is sufficient for holding your barbecue tools, but if your outdoor culinary adventures go beyond throwing another shrimp on the barbecue, you may want to add custom storage to hold grilling racks and other utensils.

Materials

If you're planning to create your kitchen from scratch, you should also consider the materials you'll use to build your floors, counters and seating. Your options range from wooden decks to stone tiles, with special mention to concrete, which can be formed into benches, columns, counters, and bases for your appliances.

3. What to Include in Your Outdoor Kitchen

Once you've got some ideas on budget, location and layout, it's time to get to the fun part — shopping! We've covered a lot of your options for appliances, furnishings and other needs, so let's take a deeper look at choosing the best features to include in your outdoor kitchen.

Choose the Right Grill

It’s important to choose a grill that's the right size for the way you'll use it. The more features you add, the more it will cost, but if you'll use the side burner, warming drawer and rotisserie, go to town. As you shop around for a grill, you’ll need to decide between gas and charcoal. Each fuel has its pros and cons, including cost, ease of use, flavor, and environmental impact, so be sure to do your research.

Don’t rush into getting a grill — shop around, and watch the sales. The worst time to buy a new grill is smack in the middle of grilling season, with a few exceptions: Memorial Day and Independence Day sales usually offer steep discounts, and many retailers sharply discount all of their appliances during Amazon Prime Shopping Days, usually in early July. Other than that, wait until August, or start shopping in early January. As always, pay attention to warranties, and take advantage of maintenance plans or purchase insurance plans.

Tip: Building a small kitchen? Choose a portable countertop grill instead.

 

Get Your Essential Appliances

For most outdoor kitchen spaces, you’ll want to include the following must-have appliances:

  • Outdoor grill (see below for tips on how to choose the best one for your needs)
  • Refrigerator (choose a dorm fridge or compact fridge if you have limited space)
  • Trash bin
  • Ice maker

Amp Up Your Outdoor Kitchen With Accessories

The right accessories can make your outdoor kitchen the ultimate gathering place. Here are four accessories to consider:

  1. A pizza oven (you can even build your own for the ultimate DIY outdoor kitchen experience).
  2. A grill gazebo to add more storage space to your setup and protect your grill — and the griller — from the elements.
  3. A table-top fire pit or fire feature — perfect for toasting marshmallows.
  4. A beverage cooler to keep your wines and other beverages at the perfect temperature.
  5. An outdoor rug to pull the space together and add a splash of color to your kitchen.
  6. A wireless Bluetooth speaker for creating the right ambiance for your event.
  7. A propane patio heater for the cooler autumn months.
  8. Potted herbs for a visual pop as well as convenient ingredients to enhance your menu.
  9. An ice bucket to keep cans and bottles cold and in arms’ reach.

4. Maintaining Your Outdoor Kitchen Space

Your outdoor kitchen represents a significant investment of both money and time, so protection and maintenance are important. When choosing materials and furnishings, consider how much time you'll need to invest to keep them looking good. Protective coatings on surfaces can make it easier, as can appliance and grill covers, and built-in storage for cushions and decor items. If you won't be using your outdoor kitchen year-round, consider moving furniture, grill, and other items to a storage unit during the off-season. SmartStop Self Storage has units of all sizes to accommodate your needs and keep your items protected until you're ready to use them again.

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