Since the invention of fire, humans have been cooking outdoors, using everything from rocks and sticks to create makeshift cooking stations to grills fully equipped with absolutely everything you could ever imagine…even the kitchen sink! Thankfully, we live in times when we don’t have to rely on our ability to rub sticks together, and we can just press a button and stand back with unjustifiable pride as flames spurt to life under the grates of our state-of-the-art grills. All while holding a glass of wine, by the Plunge Pool!
That said, the grill is now only part of what has become the trend of fully realized outdoor kitchens. In fact, as the trend grows, so does the selection available in products and materials as well as features that go into an Outdoor Kitchen. Case in point: Once upon a time, Weber grill held the industry title as the go-to for cooking out, but times they are a-changing, and the options are now virtually endless when it comes to outdoor cooking appliances. From standard ovens and ranges to pizza ovens, smokers and griddles, if you can imagine it, chances are good that you can find an outdoor version of it. Think we’re blowing smoke that the whole outdoor kitchen thing is even a trend? Weber’s Grill Watch Survey, an annual third-party study of outdoor home cooking, shows an uptick in spending on outdoor appliances more than 10 percent this year over last season.
Part of that may be, in part, due to changes in living during COVID. “I believe that since the pandemic started and people were forced to stay home and go out less, the desire to still indulge, albeit at home, has prompted many to build outdoor kitchens so that they can entertain outdoors and dine ‘al fresco,’” says Bill Monroy, LEED AP and Certified General Contractor for Acassa Construction Corp., a certified member of National Kitchen and Bath Association. “Being able to cook and dine outside also provides a completely different dining experience.”
Thanks to the ways that technology has evolved, there are a wide variety of great outdoor kitchen ideas, all of which have been engineered to weather the weather and tolerate harsh outdoor environments. “Outdoor kitchens can almost have all the amenities of an interior kitchen, but because they are exposed to the elements, the materials, finishes, and appliances have to be rated for outdoors,” explains Monroy. The plans can be as simple as a small area with a great grill and some refrigeration or as complicated as a fully equipped kitchen with outdoor lighting. Naturally, your choices will differ according your personal needs and your budget.
So, what makes the ultimate outdoor kitchen? Depending on your own cooking skills, there are a variety of everyday appliances that can be the stuff of a chef’s dream. In fact, if you’re working with a significant amount of space, around your plunge pool, you can actually have more at your fingertips than you would inside, simply because some of those accouterments require ventilation not generally found indoors.
Whatever your plans, no outdoor kitchen is complete without a built-in grill. Look for high-end options that include features like a rotisserie, side burners and multiple fuel types, so that you don’t have to spend all that time Googling the pros and cons of charcoal versus gas. Modern grills are much more powerful than they were in days of yore and now feature as many as 12 42,000 BTU burners with temperature control and built-in infrared searing capability—all of which ensure your ability to get the perfect sear on your steak and defend your title as grill master.
After you’ve decided on what features you want on your grill, you’ll need to plan out the rest of your space. Companies like Techo-Bloc and Belgard offer concrete block options that are built to weather the elements while still providing you with beautiful finish options ranging in style from rustic and weathered to sleek and modern. You’ll also need storage space that keeps your tools secure, dry, and clean.
Grill, check. Storage, check. Appliances, check. Plunge Pool check! But you’re not done. While you’re doing all that space planning, incorporate a beverage station with an ice maker, kegerator, wine fridge or can cooler paired with a small sink and plenty of storage for an acrylic glassware collection.
From grilling burgers for your family to hosting a full-on backyard party around the pool, your outdoor kitchen may well become the hub of your home—and make your place THE place to be.