Beyond the Grill: Outdoor Kitchens Make the Most of Outdoor Entertaining
Are you looking to transform your backyard into an awesome place for entertaining? An outdoor kitchen is a cool cooking space that keeps the heat out of your house, greatly expands your amount of available entertaining space and raises the overall property value of your home. What’s not to love?
If you want to upgrade your “grilling game,” maybe it’s time for you to create an outdoor kitchen.
What Should Go in My Outdoor Kitchen?
Need some inspirational outdoor kitchen ideas? Not sure what options you have for outdoor kitchen designs that will work best in your backyard? Start with a generic internet search. Gather some ideas, see what is available, then incorporate the items that make sense for your home and lifestyle.
Your outdoor cook area can contain whatever conveniences you most need. Some of your options include:
- Built-in gas grill
- BBQ grill
- Wood pellet grill
- Side burner
- Gas-powered pizza oven
- Drawers and cabinets
- Raised bar top
- Tiered counter space
- Ice maker
- Wine chiller
Your outdoor cook space can be fully stocked with every appliance and convenience you need to whip up a backyard feast. Imagine all the time you will save cooking outside without making multiple trips back into the house. Don’t forget to stock your outdoor kitchen bar with waters and soft drinks!
Cheers to Your Outdoor Bar!
Your backyard bar is critical in creating a true outdoor entertainment zone. You can create a standalone island or add an extension to your outdoor kitchen. You can keep it simple or add a bunch of elaborate touches that represent your customized dream kitchen. Work within your budget, and whatever you choose will enhance your backyard destination.
How Can I Build an Outdoor Kitchen?
Outdoor kitchen designs are as varied as each individual homeowner. The build options are (nearly) endless, so you need to consider the kitchen elements that are most important to you.
Pro tip: Don’t forget your technology! Add cable and/or internet into your plan from the start so you don’t forget to include additional WiFi and network installation line items.
But don’t get overwhelmed in the planning stages. Keep in mind that there are, essentially, only three factors to your outdoor kitchen and dining room:
- A place to cook
- Seating for everyone
- Personal embellishments
Remember, your outdoor kitchen should alleviate the need to run back and forth to your indoor cook space. Arrange your backyard into a functional cooking space that keeps everything available at your fingertips so you can stay right in the middle of all the action. Here are some of the key considerations when building your outdoor space.
- Decide what’s important. Are you the outdoor chef who prefers the top-of-the-line BBQ grill with side burner, or is your family more interested in spending your budget on convenience appliances like warming drawers, ice machines, and a dishwasher?
- Remember the elements. Durable, weather-resistant materials are key, especially when it comes to your outdoor appliances and electrical/plumbing installation. Go for beauty and longevity, with UV protection and corrosion resistance to withstand the elements.
- “Stock” can be customized. Consider a ready-made grill island or bar structure. Nowadays, there are umpteen configurations to fit in any space – you’re bound to find something great without paying for a custom design.
- Keep it all connected. If you have a nice set-up inside, consider attaching your outdoor kitchen to interior kitchen. Run a narrow countertop from inside to outside, connected via a pass-through window.
- Be in the zone. Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you can’t be organized. Set up your outdoor kitchen to mirror the four distinct “functional zones” of a professional kitchen: Each of the cold, hot, wet, and dry zones should be easily accessible to one another and arranged with access to the needed utilities (gas, electric, water).
- Look at all-in-one options. A quick set-up is to select a combo unit that combines a grill, burners, and essential kitchen amenities like drawers, cabinets, wine racks, and even a dishwasher. You can customize these in whatever combination works best for you.
- Combination grills do it all. Can’t decide what type of grill you want but don’t want multiple cookers? A wood pellet grill combines the elements of a smoker, a charcoal/gas grill, and an oven with both direct and indirect heat so you can smoke, barbecue, roast, braise, sear, char, grill, even bake – all in one self-contained unit.
There are outdoor kitchen ideas to fit any budget. The great thing about your outdoor cook space is that you can easily expand. Start small, and you can upgrade your outdoor kitchen after you’ve saved up and have considered the additions you most want. An outdoor cook space allows more freedom and versatility than your indoor kitchen, so run with it.
Where Do I Sit?
Don’t forget about your outdoor dining area! You might not need a formal outdoor dining room but be sure that your guests have comfortable paces to eat.
Sure, a chaise lounge is a lovely spot to relax poolside with a cocktail, but the recliner doesn’t make eating a plateful of BBQ very convenient! And your adorable café tables might lend an air of European sophistication, but don’t ask your dinner guests to bend over awkwardly to reach their meals if you don’t have enough chairs.
Don’t worry if you don’t already have an outdoor dining table that seats 20. Strategically mix and match pieces from your indoor and outdoor sets. A combination of textures, styles, and materials will create a more natural look that gives your outdoor dining area a playful, relaxed feel. Consider stringing up twinkle lights for a romantic ambiance.
Outdoor Heaters for Year-Round Comfort
Want to keep the party going all year? Mounted ceiling heaters or free-standing outdoor furnaces are the perfect solution for outdoor sheltered locations. Propane or natural gas outdoor heaters are compact and safe. They provide efficient heating from above, allowing you to entertain outdoors any time of year.
Perfect Party Provisions
Looking for some grilling ideas? Read on for some awesome outdoor cooking recipes. For more recipes, check out our "Get Grilling in Your Backyard" Pinterest board!
Enjoy your barbeque as much as your guests will by prepping a delicious main course in advance. All you’ll need to do during your party is just heat it up – you’ll hardly miss a moment of fun! Prepare the bath mixture and grill the bratwursts ahead of time (even the night before), then simply combine everything and reheat it before serving.
- 1 aluminum foil baking pan
- 3 to 4 cans of beer[SH1]
- 1 stick of butter
- 2 medium yellow onions, sliced
- 1 pound sauerkraut, drained
- 12 to 16 bratwursts
- 12 to 16 buns or hard rolls
- Place the foil pan on the grill over indirect heat. Add beer, sauerkraut, butter, and onions. Cook until the onions are soft.
- At the same time, grill the brats over low-to-medium direct heat.
- When the bratwursts are done, put them directly into the foil pan “bath.”
- Serve bratwursts on buns with sauerkraut, onions, and mustard on top.
You don’t need an outdoor kitchen with pizza oven capabilities to enjoy this tasty treat. Grilled pizza is a fun alternative to more “traditional” cookout fare. Prepare the crust dough and prep all the toppings in advance. Arrange everything at a fun “work station,” and invite your guests to create their own culinary masterpieces while you fire up the outdoor kitchen grill.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 pinch white sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 2 cups shredded (or sliced) mozzarella cheese
- Toppings of choice (thinly chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, sliced olives, sliced roasted red peppers, pepperoni… use your imagination!)
Make pizza dough from scratch, or buy prepared pizza dough. From-scratch dough needs at least 1 hour prep time. If preparing for a party, make several pizza dough rounds, stack them separated by parchment paper, and keep them in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours before cooking.
- In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water, and mix in sugar. Set aside for about 10 minutes until frothy. Mix in salt, olive oil, and flour until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Lift onto a lightly floured or corn-mealed surface, then knead about 8 minutes until smooth. Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise about 1 hour until doubled in size. Punch down, and knead in garlic and basil. Let rise for 1 more hour until doubled again. (Makes enough for 2 pizzas.)
- Preheat grill to high heat. Heat olive oil with garlic for 30 seconds in the microwave. Set aside. Punch down dough, and divide in half. Form each half into a crust 3/8 - 1/2 inch thick.
- Brush grill grate with garlic olive oil. Carefully place one crust on hot grill – the dough will puff almost immediately. Flip when the bottom of the crust is light brown. Quickly brush oil over crust, and then brush with 2 tablespoons tomato sauce. Sprinkle on cheese, then arrange toppings. Close the grill lid, and cook until the cheese melts and bottom of crust begins to char. Remove from grill, and set aside to cool for a few minutes before serving.