How to Build an Outdoor Kitchen
ARE YOU COOKING YOUR FAVORITE outdoor meals on nothing more than a gas grill?
Or maybe you want to build an outdoor kitchen but aren't quite sure where to start?
There is nothing like having an outdoor kitchen equipped with appliances and niceties. What niceties? A wood-fired pizza oven, refrigerator, freezer, ice maker, wine chiller, even a kegerator. This article (including the links in it) will help guide you to the outdoor cooking space of your dreams.
It All Starts with a Concept
Before you get too serious about planning and learning how to build an outdoor kitchen, have you thought about how you plan to use it?
- Are you a barbecue fanatic?
- Do you enjoy creating gastronomic delights?
- Do you want an outdoor kitchen that rivals or exceeds the one in your home?
- Do you want a roof over your kitchen?
All of this and much more has to go into the initial planning stage. Let's take a look at what goes into planning your perfect outdoor kitchen.
Before you get serious about looking for outdoor kitchen plans or kits, you really need to decide how you plan to use your kitchen, what types of food you want to prepare in it, how many people you might feed, and what if any custom or personal touches you want to add. One good way to get a better idea of where to get started is to spend some time looking at the many different outdoor kitchen designs out there and see if any match your needs.
What about Cost?
Part of learning how to build an outdoor kitchen is determining what your construction budget looks like. Not only will this determine the final size of your kitchen and the equipment you add to it, it can also have a major impact on the materials you use to build it. For example, a wood-framed structure will cost far less than one with a steel frame. Corian® countertops are less expensive than natural marble.
Adding a roof to the kitchen is a great way to keep the rain out and give you enough shade to keep you cool while you are slaving over a hot grill. The list goes on and on, the more you want for your kitchen, the more money you need to budget for your project.
How Big Can I Go?
The best way to determine how big to make your outdoor kitchen is to look at how much space you have to work with and what equipment you plan to build into your new kitchen. You also have to figure in how much money you have to work with. You may also want to decide which is more important to you, a larger kitchen with lower cost appliances or a smaller kitchen loaded up with the best equipment available and those little extra luxuries.
Size can also be determined by the number of people you are likely to be providing your culinary creations too. The last thing you want is to build a kitchen that is too small to feed a larger crowd from. At the same time buying an 8 or 12 burner grill to cook burgers for three would be more than a little overkill.
Which is Better DIY Plans or Prefabricated Kit?
When it comes to building an outdoor kitchen, you can choose to build it from scratch starting with a set of plans and a pile of parts or you can buy a prefabricated outdoor kitchen kit. There are a few factors you should take into consideration as you make your decision, including:
Cost: most kits cost more than building the same size kitchen from scratch.
Size: at some point, you may find kits don't go as big as you need or want.
Skill: do you have the skill to follow a set of plans to a successful conclusion?
Tools: do you have the tools needed to build the kitchen from scratch and know how to use them proficiently? Here's a list of tools you should have in your shed if you plan on DIYing regularly.
Time: kits take less time to assemble than scratch building as most kits come with everything cut to size and marked for ease of identification.
There are three common materials in use in today's outdoor kitchen for the basic structure, wood, steel framing, and concrete panels, each of which has their own advantages.
Timber – wood is always very easy to work with and is the least expensive option. However, you need to use pressure treated lumber for the best results, which requires special cutting blades. You must also install a cement backer board around the grill to reduce the risk of fire.
Steel frame – steel framing is very popular, it is more resistant to weather and fire. You can buy steel frame kits that are ready to be assembled. Some anyone can bolt together, others must be welded together, which requires a skilled welder.
Concrete panels – there are several companies who now offers modular outdoor kitchen kits made from concrete panels. The panels are lightweight and come precut for ease of assembly. You put them together using a special cement. These are less expensive than tradition construction, withstand the weather very well and can hold a lot more weight than steel framing.
Cabinets for Your Kitchen
No matter what type of kitchen you build, wood, steel frame, concrete panel, you should consider what type of cabinets to put in and how many you might need. With a wood frame, you can build the cabinets directly into the structure. You may also be able to do so with a metal frame or you may need to have custom cabinets made to fit for you, which can be pretty spendy.
Concrete panel structures also require custom built cabinets. The nice thing about building your own cabinets or having them built for you, is that you can have any features you want added to them. This can include spice racks, wine glass racks, plate holders, custom sizes, waterproof doors, interior lighting and more.
Since you are planning to install cabinets, they need doors, so do your appliances. The question is what kind of doors should you use. The most common choice for this is stainless steel. The reasons for this are that stainless steel is impervious to the weather and retains its good looks for many years. Other options such as wood or painted steel may save you money, but only on a short-term basis as they are very much susceptible to damage from the weather.
The list of materials used for countertops for your outdoor kitchen is long and glorious, including:
- Corian® – beautiful, long-lasting, durable, expensive
- Marble – beautiful, very durable, breaks, very, very expensive
- Ceramic tile – you get to choose the patterns, takes time to install, must be grouted and resealed frequently, less costly,
- Granite – natural stone, must be sealed and resealed frequently or it will stain, expensive
All of these materials make an excellent choice, some like ceramic tile you may be able to do by yourself. Others like granite, marble, concrete, and Corian® are usually precut by the seller and only require being put in place on your framework and secured.
Sink and Faucets
The possibilities here are endless, the one thing to keep in mind is that no matter what design you choose, it needs to be made from stainless steel. There are single, double, and triple sinks. Deep, shallow, and combination sinks. Do you want a spray attachment, do you have hot and cold running water? How do you plan to drain the water? These are all things you need to keep in mind as you look at the different sinks on the market.
Appliances for Your Kitchen
When it comes to appliances for your outdoor kitchen, it comes down to, “if you can imagine it, someone probably makes it”, quite literally. From grills and refrigerators to ice makers, wine chillers, kegerators, and outdoor hot water heaters. Here again, look for stainless steel appliances and go for quality more than “features” at first then as your budget allows.
Grills and Smokers
There is an endless array of grills and smokers on the market. Choose by the number of burners, how many square inches of grilling surface you need or want for grills. Also consider a rotisserie, infrared heat sources, side burners, gas or electric. Since your kitchen will be built around the size of the grill, choose the grill first and then worry about the rest.
You can add a small smoke box to your grill if all you want to do is add a little smoky flavoring to your meats. But, if you are into smoking your own meats, you can buy a wood and charcoal burning smoker, an electric one, or one that runs on propane. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, be sure to look into each before you make your decision.
Since not only are you going to be doing a lot of cooking in your outdoor kitchen, but entertaining as well, consider adding a fireplace to the design. The extra heat will be nice on chilly evenings and add a touch of romance for those special nights. There are numerous designs to choose from, some that burn wood, others that run on propane. Wood is more aesthetically feasible while gas is more reliable.
If you plan to cook after the sun goes down, you will need some type lighting. The most common form used in outdoor kitchens is LED lighting. You can use directed lights to highlight specific areas, under cabinet lighting to add light to your workspaces, and area lighting for your guests. The type of lighting you choose also depends on whether or not you plan to run electricity out to your new outdoor kitchen, but then if you plan to add a refrigerator, ice maker, wine chiller, and any one of many other appliances to your kitchen, you will need a source of power.
This list is virtually endless, maybe you want a blender for mixing your favorite sauces, cocktails, smoothies, and juices. What about a nice set of stainless-steel grilling tools. In essence, you need to equip your outdoor kitchen with many of the same tools as you have in your main kitchen, they just need to be suited for outdoor use.
Before you start buying equipment for your outdoor kitchen, you need to decide what type of cooking you plan to do, how frequently you plan to cook out there, and of course your budget. You may also want to start out with a small collection and add to it as you go. As always go for quality first and price second and you will be much happier.
Learning how to build an outdoor kitchen is only part of the fun, the rest lies in designing and building it. The most important things to remember are to look at as many different designs as you can. Take pictures of your favorites out to where you want your kitchen to sit and see which one will fit best in the space and suit your needs. You may even find you create your own design using a combination of ideas from several different plans.
The most important thing to remember is that this is supposed to be a fun project. Oh, and don't forget to check with your local authorities for any regulations covering building an outdoor kitchen as well as running water and electricity to it. I hope this gets you started on your way to building the outdoor kitchen of your dreams. Now get out there and build your kitchen, your family and friends are waiting for you to cook them a gourmet meal at the backyard.
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