As temperatures rise, it’s time to move the party outdoors. Summer is the time for outdoor entertaining and getting together with family and friends to enjoy the tastes and aromas of a traditional cookout. However, there’s a lot more to outdoor cooking than charred hamburgers and hot dogs on a portable charcoal kettle grill.
These days, the best outdoor kitchens include virtually everything your indoor kitchen has to offer, and much more. Think about the convenience of having a fully integrated kitchen on your patio that includes a sink, storage drawers and cabinets, refrigeration, gas burners, plus a state-of-the-art grill and smoker. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Constructing a basic outdoor entertaining space might be fairly straightforward for a seasoned DIYer. But if you are into all the bells and whistles you’ll probably want to enlist the services of a licensed professional to help you design and build your dream outdoor kitchen.
Contact local retailers and get references of trusted contractors. Or search the web for landscape designers, patio contractors, or home remodelers—just make sure you ask for their credentials and customer references.
Outdoor kitchens are much like any other kind of home remodeling project. Cost is dependent on your budget and the scope of the project. You can start small and commission a simple kitchen and dining area for as little as $7,500.
But if you’re looking to create a full-fledged outdoor room with living, kitchen, and dining space and want to throw in a fireplace, it could cost upwards of $75,000 based on the amount of work involved. Let’s cover the key components you’ll need to consider before you get started.
Your patio creates the foundation for your outdoor kitchen. It should be durable, safe, and attractive for entertaining your family and guests. When considering surface materials, you can choose from a range of options. Today, popular choices are concrete, composite wood, pavers, brick, pea gravel, or natural stone.
Concrete and gravel are the least expensive options, but concrete can crack and gravel isn't a stable surface for cooking and dining. If your patio doesn't have an overhead cover, natural stone can be slick when it rains. Elegant pavers are gorgeous and expensive, depending on the style and quality. Once you’ve determined your needs and preferences, you’ll be able to choose the right material for the job.
The island is just like the counter in your indoor kitchen. It can house storage, appliances, a bar sink, and provide a food prep area. In a modest configuration, it can be as small as 7 feet long by 3 feet deep to accommodate everything, including a built-in grill.
The island frame is typically constructed with 2 x 4 lumber and plywood. Depending on the style, you can cover the island's exterior with veneer cultured stone, stucco, wood cladding, or tiles based on your outdoor kitchen budget.
Granite, concrete, soapstone, and quartz countertops are wildly popular with homeowners. These solid surface materials run about the same price per square foot. Stainless steel and tile are also good choices for your outdoor island top. Ceramic tile is the most cost-effective option. While it might be more difficult to keep clean, tile gives you the most bang for your buck with regard to colors and designs.
Cooking equipment is the heart of your outdoor kitchen. The grilling component is usually an insert that drops into an opening in your island. This is where you get what you pay for, so don’t even think about skimping.
Go for the highest grade stainless steel. It will hold up for years of use out in the elements. Good grills start at about $1,000 and go up from there. In addition to the grill itself, you can also consider including a smoker combo, rotisserie, auxiliary burners, and a griddle feature.
If you are the consummate host, you’ll want your guests to have easy access to cold drinks on a hot summer gathering. An under-counter refrigerator and wine or beverage cooler will be the hit for your outdoor soirées. You can also include a margarita machine, chilled beverage dispenser, and an automatic ice maker for an additional budget.
Install task lighting for cooking and food prep. Incorporate a decorative overhead light or light kit for your outdoor ceiling fan. Add soft accent lighting so your guests can sit back and relax after dinner.
You can place solar accent lights around the seating area and bistro string lights or a pole mounted fixture to add an ambient glow. Don’t forget to use citronella candles or tiki torches for mood lighting and a beneficial bug repellent during summer evenings.
© 2019 Linda Chechar
Liz Westwood from UK on July 05, 2019:
Thanks for the advice. That's useful to know.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 04, 2019:
Liz, there are many products like citronella, bug zappers, sticky bug strips and all sorts of bug catchers for outdoor entertaining. We just bought a Dynatrap that has a UV bulb that creates CO2 plus an attractant and a fan that sucks them into a catch basket. So far it works pretty good.
Liz Westwood from UK on July 04, 2019:
These kitchens look great. In the UK we have insect problems over the summer with flies and wasps. So I am wary of outdoor food preparation. But we have relatives who have a pizza oven at the end of the garden.