One of life's great pleasures is cooking outdoors with friends and family. With the smell of grilling food wafting through the air and a cold drink in hand, it is hard not to have a good time. The one thing that can put a damper on it is running in and out of the house for various reasons. Building an outdoor kitchen eliminates this and allows you to relax and be able to spend more time with your guests. An outdoor kitchen can be as basic as just a small grill or a full blown food preparation and cooking area that has every component imaginable. Either way, you will have created another living space that is a natural gathering spot.
The primary component of an outdoor kitchen is the built-in grill. It could be a gas grill, charcoal grill or pellet grill and vary in size from about 24” to 50”+. When determining where to place your grill, try and place it so the it does not interfere with guests who are using the counter space. It is important that your island is large enough to accommodate your guests. A good rule of thumb is that each seat will take up about 30”. The seating area should be in a location that allows individuals to come and go from the island without disturbing the other guests. In addition to the eating area you need to have plenty of open space to prepare and serve food. Don't make the mistake of skimping on counter space. It will come back to haunt you. At a minimum you want at least 24” of open counter space to one side of your grill. This gives you room to prep food and set plates or whatever else you need for your meal. The rest of the components should be built around the grill and close enough that you don't have to move around much. If you include a sink, refrigerator, storage cabinet and trash bin they should all be close to each other.
Choosing your outdoor kitchen grill
The main types of grills are gas, charcoal and pellet. Gas grills start at about $1200 for the most basic models and top out at over $6,000 for top of the line grills. Charcoal grills range from $500 to over $1,000 for quality stainless steel model or ceramic kamado grill. Lastly we have pellet grills. No matter what type of grill you decide on, at a minimum you should make sure it is constructed from stainless steel or ceramic. Those two materials are almost impervious to the elements and will provide a much longer lifespan than grills made of inferior materials.
What else do you need?
The rest of the component you should include in your outdoor kitchen depend entirely on how you are going to use it. Here is a breakdown of the most commonly chosen secondary components.
Storage Drawers and Access Doors | Access doors make storing things like BBQ utensils and charcoal simple. If you have a propane setup an access door makes it easy to swap your tank in and out. Storage drawers are great for storing smaller items like your smoker boxes, wood chunks and seasonings.
Side Burners | Adding a side burner to your outdoor kitchen is must for many people. Not only can your keep sauces warm with one, you can fry turkeys and blacken fish without filling your home with smoke.
Sinks | Having a sink in your island makes cleaning up much easier. No more running in and out of the house to wash dishes or your hands.
Trash Bins | Trash bins come in a variety of styles, there are roll out, tilt out and trash holes. No matter which one you select, keeping your area clean just became a whole lot easier. If you recycle, you can even get ones that have both a regular trash can and a recycle trash can in them.
Refrigerators | Depending on how often you use your BBQ island you may want to consider adding an outdoor rated refrigerator. Being able to stage your food right next to your cooking components makes the whole experience that much more relaxed. As a bonus you can also use it to keep sodas and beers ice cold.
Beverage Coolers | If you think a refrigerator is a bit to much you can always just add a beverage cooler. Load it up with ice and drinks and you can keep that party fuel flowing all night long!
Grill Lights | Many times a grill is not always in the best lit area. A good grill light can really make cooking at night much easier. With one of these you can stop squinting and wondering if you need to flip your food yet.
Paper Towel Dispensers | Once you use a paper towel dispenser you will not know how you cooked without one for so long. From cleaning up spills to drying your hands, this is one component you will use every time you cook.
Smokers | Want to really kick your kitchen up a notch, add a smoker. That's right a grill and a smoker. Your friends minds will be blown. While grills are good for cooking hot and fast, they don't do low and slow very well. If you want to smoke long meats like brisket and pork butts you are going to need to get a smoker or a Kamado Grill, like the Big Green Egg.
Warming Drawers | Not many people get these, but if you really want to pack your island with every available feature a warming drawer should be on your list. These are great for keeping casseroles and other foods warm.
Pizza Ovens | These take up a bit of space, but being able to crank out wood fired pizzas at your get togethers definitely raises the bar. A hot, smokey, cheesy pizza with that super crisp crust will have people talking about the food you served for days.
Fire Pits | There always comes that time in an evening when everyone is stuffed with food and drinks and just wants to relax. Hanging out around your fire pit is great way to end each evening. Fire pits can be designed to blend in seamlessly with any outdoor living space.
Outdoor Sound System | No get together is complete with out some good music playing. With so many options available these days, you are sure to find a system that meets your needs and your budget.
Outdoor TV | One of the most common reasons to get together with your friends is to watch a ball game or a race. With an outdoor TV you can cheer on your favorite team while still tending to your food.
Patio Heaters | Extend your entertainment season by adding some patio heaters. When other people have closed down their kitchen for the season you can still be going strong for another month or two. You also gain a month or two in the spring.