For tens of millions of Americans, spending time outdoors means enjoying the company of loved ones while sharing a meal. If this sounds like you and your family, you’re definitely not alone.
Let’s face it. Americans are obsessed with barbecues. In 2016 alone, we purchased $1.47 billion worth of grills.
But, that investment is worth it.
An outdoor kitchen can add thousands to your home’s value. In fact, owners who add a complete outdoor kitchen see a return on investment ranging from 100-200%.
But there are other benefits for adding an outdoor kitchen to your space.
In this comprehensive guide, we’re discussing what those benefits are. We’ll also go over the best outdoor kitchen plans for your space.
What Is an Outdoor Kitchen?
Over the years, there’s been some confusion surrounding what constitutes an outdoor eatery.
Is it having a grill? A table? Both?
We’re going to set the record straight.
An outdoor grill is exactly how it sounds. It’s like taking your indoor kitchen — equipped with fridge, stove, sink, and other amenities — and taking it outdoors.
Most outside kitchens are spacious with loads of counter space and storage. The complementing outdoor decor also adds to the ambiance.
They’re most commonly found in warmer climates, although northerners enjoy living the indoor-outdoor life just as much.
Keep in mind, the point of an outdoor kitchen is to expand your living space. In other words, it’s an extension of your house — just without four walls!
Benefits of an Outdoor Kitchen
The obvious benefit of an outdoor kitchen grill area is the ability to enjoy more time outside.
But, for most people, this means carrying side dishes, drinks, and desserts from the inside kitchen out to the backyard patio. It can be quite a lot of work to enjoy a simple outdoors meal!
An outside kitchen removes all those hurdles. It also comes with extra perks.
1. Great for Entertaining
Even if a full meal isn’t on the night’s itinerary, an outdoor kitchen still provides a great place for entertaining guests. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
Whenever you have guests over, where do you spend the majority of your time catching up? In the kitchen.
There’s actually a scientific reason for it. Psychologists found that the kitchen table holds significance to people. Yes, even if your kitchen is too small to fit a table!
It’s the psychology of it. The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where your earliest memories of mom and grandmom form.
As we age, we hold on to those dear memories. We revert back to a feeling of safety and security when we’re in a kitchen.
The outdoor kitchen is no different. It offers a comfortable and peaceful spot for you to host get-togethers, parties, or a nice meal.
2. Saves on Utility Bills
Everyone wants to save money on their bills every month. If you had an outside kitchen, you’ll do exactly that.
Your appliances account for 13% of your total electric bill. Six percent of that is oven use alone. If you’re cooking with propane, you’re cutting your utility bill down significantly.
You’re also saving in other ways. You’re using fewer lights, running fewer electronics, and your heating/cooling isn’t running on overdrive.
When you add that all up, that figure should also get considered against the initial outlay of building an outdoor oasis.
3. Keeps the Smells Outside
Your family may love eating seafood but guaranteed they don’t love smelling it. To make matters worse, the odor of cooked fish lingers for days.
Seafood isn’t the only food that emits a foul odor. If you happen to forget about that casserole — it will remind you it’s there by the stench.
Food doesn’t always smell as good as it looks or tastes. If you have an outdoor kitchen, you’re in a better position to never smell tilapia three days after you cooked it ever again.
4. Allows for Healthier Eating
This is a no-brainer. Grilling meat is much healthier than frying it. It also tastes better than baking it in many cases.
You also open up your fresh veggies to the grilling experience as well. Have you ever had grilled corn? When you get your outdoor kitchen, you’ll have to try it!
5. Save Money on Eating Out
Why would you ever eat out when you have the perfect space in your own backyard?
Because you can design your own outside kitchen, you can choose whatever decor fits your tastes. You can choose the comfort level of your seating, how big your table is, and your food will get cooked to perfection every time.
Why would you spend money elsewhere when you’ve got one of the best outdoor kitchens around?
Designing an Outdoor Kitchen
Before we get into the exciting part — the features — there are a few things to take into consideration when you’re designing an outside kitchen.
1. How Much Will You Use It?
Be realistic. If you live in Florida, Texas, Arizona, or Southern California — chances are, you’ll get frequent use out of your kitchen.
But if you live in Minnesota, Maine, Washington, or New York? Not as much.
Factor in how much you’ll actually use when you create your budget.
2. How Will You Use It?
“For cooking and eating” aside, do you plan on having it near a fire pit? Do you own a pool? Will you throw lots of parties?
How you’ll use it is almost as important as how often you’ll use it. This factors in a little later when we discuss the features of your outdoor kitchen.
Again, do you live in a rainy area? Is it dry where you are most of the year? This will determine if you should enclose your outdoor kitchen, add a pergola, or leave it open.
If it does rain often where you live, consider removable walls. This will help keep the rain away from your activities but it will help protect your outdoor appliances and furniture.
When you’re deciding on the functionality of your outdoor kitchen, look to the one indoors.
Do you like the layout? What don’t you like? How would you design it differently?
Gather all those details and make notes. When it’s time for the final design stage, you can weigh out what from your list can stay and what can go.
You need to know how much space you have to work with. Try to draw up a base plan so you can see if everything you want to include.
Take into consideration how much space you need for countertops and all of your appliances. Think of seating arrangements, table size and shape, and where the ideal place to build is.
Speaking of want you want to include…
After you’ve answered all the questions above and decide to build an outside kitchen, it’s time to get to the fun part — the details!
If you already have suitable outdoor flooring, now is the time to reseal it.
If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll want to consider all the flooring material available to you:
Speak with an outdoor design specialist or landscape designer to decide which material suits your needs. You’ll want something durable that’s waterproof, too.
It’s also important to install it properly. If you’re going at it DIY, make sure you level the ground before laying down your flooring materials.
If you’re hiring a specialist, make sure you vet them thoroughly. You don’t want to start installing heavy appliances only to find out the contractor used cheap materials that can’t handle the weight.
We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth bringing it up again. You’ll have a few different options for your space, depending on what you’re trying to achieve.
Do you want a roof? Half-walls? Think about your climate and figure out if you’ll need to enclose your kitchen or if you can get away with leaving it open.
Electricity for Lighting/Entertainment
You’ll likely be able to run most of your appliances off of gas. Which means you’ll also need to consider having large tanks installed.
But propane doesn’t run your lights. It also won’t run any media you choose for your outdoor space.
If you already have electricity outside, you should still consider having an electrician come out and do an inspection. If the wiring is older, you want to make sure it can handle the added load.
You should also decide where you want your lighting. You’ll want to have some in your eating area along with where you prepare and cook the food. You can even have under cabinet lighting if you’ll add tons of storage space.
A sink is a staple of outdoor kitchens and even spaces that only have a grill. Many homes with pools or a small grill area will already have a sink. But, if you’re not using the original space for this, you’ll need to add one.
If this is the case, you’ll need to contact a plumbing contractor.
Consider which amenities you want your outdoor kitchen to have. Compare what you want to install to what you can reasonably afford. It’s very easy to let your budget get away from you when you start shopping.
You’ll have a few options when it comes to your fridge. The obvious is gas vs. electric.
But you’ll also have different sizing options. Don’t get talked into too much fridge!
Remember, you won’t use your outside kitchen as much as your main one. That means you won’t need to store as much inside of it. You won’t need a 31 cubic foot refrigerator — no matter what the salesperson tells you.
A stove top is a must for outdoor kitchens. After all, one of the reasons you’re installing one is to cut out carrying food items from the house to your backyard.
Unlike the fridge, you don’t have to worry about going smaller. You’ll likely need at least four burners.
This is an option a lot of homeowners are going with today. Whether you’re making pizza or baking a nice lasagna, an oven is now coming in handy for outdoor chefs.
You can also heat up bread and keep desserts warm.
If you can make it work in your budget, consider installing a dishwasher. Sure, you can hand wash everything in your outdoor sink, but if ease of living is what you’re going for, why put that burden on yourself?
The standard size of a dishwasher is 35″h x 24″w x 24″d. Like the refrigerator, you won’t need anything too big. If you can find a smaller dishwasher — go for it!
Having a deep freezer and a wine cooler is nice, but not a necessity. Well, unless you buy frozen foods in bulk or are a wine connoisseur!
You’ll need storage space so you shopping for cabinets is a must. Like the fridge, you’ll store fewer items here than your main kitchen, so don’t panic over the cost of new cabinets.
If you’re working with a design specialist, they’ll help you plan how many cabinets you’ll need. They’ll also go over which materials work best outside.
This might seem like a no-brainer. You’re going to want to go with quartz or granite, right?
Not so fast! There are actually plenty of choices for outdoor countertops. It’s important that you review each of these options and how they fit your needs.
Consider the weather, climate, and waterproofing.
As much as we all love granite, it’s a porous material. This means liquids will seep inside over time. Because quartz is non-porous, it’s slightly more durable.
Keep maintenance in mind as well. This plays a major factor if you’re choosing quartz or granite. You don’t need to seal quartz, while you do need to seal granite.
Finally, it’s time for you to decide how your backyard will transform into a comfortable living space. You’ll, of course, have an outdoor dining table and chairs.
But will you add an outdoor couch and loveseat? What about rockers or chaise lounges?
Think about how much seating you’ll need and what type you prefer.
Are You Ready for a Kitchen Transformation?
Adding an outdoor kitchen to your home will make your Florida living even more of a tropical paradise.
Don’t forget the extras, either!
Mobile carts, fire pits, and electronics will all add the finishing touches to your backyard oasis.