Building an Outdoor Kitchen: Appliances, Backsplashes, Cabinets, and Flooring
By Terri Shields
For the past few years, outdoor kitchens have grown in popularity. In fact, they are quickly becoming the must-have outdoor renovation of homeowners everywhere.
Outdoor kitchens are ever-evolving, transforming into mirror replicas of their indoor counterparts. As homeowners increasingly prep more of their menus outdoors, the appliances they use to create their gourmet meals have become progressively more sophisticated and highly efficient. Today’s outdoor kitchens supply everything the backyard chef needs to assemble a soup-to-nut feast without stepping back indoors.
Like any project, you need to consider your options before you begin. First question: what kinds of amenities do you want in your outdoor kitchen? How you answer this question is the key to success because your wish list will act as the road map for whoever designs and builds your kitchen.
Above: This outdoor room includes a fully-equipped outdoor kitchen that features a barbecue cook center with a sink and storage amenities. A Cougar Stone veneer elegantly finishes both the barbecue and the precast concrete fireplace while the flooring is done in beautiful limestone paving.
Photo courtesy of AMS Landscape Design Studios, Inc., Newport Beach, Calif.; photography by David Guettler Photography, Long Beach, Calif.; designed by AMS Landscape Design Studios, Inc.; installed by Ryan Suarez of Urban Landscape & Design, Newport Beach, Calif.
Outdoor Kitchen Appliances: Grills, Pizza Ovens, Rotisseries
The nucleus of every kitchen is the cooking area, and like their indoor equivalents, the appliances you choose to include should be based on your cooking style and budget. Plus, if you plan to regularly cook large amounts of food, then you must take into consideration how well your chosen appliances can endure day in and day out activity (and the weather).
“I believe you get what you pay for,” says Chris Cipriano, founder and president of Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools & Landscaping, Mahwah, New Jersey. “You should always select name brand items that have a good reputation in the industry. They are usually the most reliable.”
There are a variety of ways to create a heat that is hot enough (or low and slow enough) to cook every portion of a meal--from grills, barbecues, and smokers to stoves, conventional ovens, and flattop grills. Many homeowners see the value of using a combination of units so they can have a variety of heat sources at their fingertips. Other options include warming drawers, teppanyaki grills, side burners, and rotisseries. And don’t forget a ventilation system—especially if your kitchen is covered. Plus, by diffusing the aromas around the backyard, you will draw your hungry guests from wide and far…no dinner bell required!
When the meal is being prepared and served outdoors, the chilling part is also crucial. The best way to keep food safe outdoors but also easily accessible is to include refrigerators, beverage chillers, ice machines, and cocktail stations in your plans.
When the party is over, who wants to wash dishes or haul the dirty dinnerware back to the house? After celebrating your first big soiree, you will pat yourself on the back—for the party and for including a dishwasher and a sink. “Keep in mind that a sink and dishwasher must be carefully planned before construction begins,” says Cipriano. “Water needs to come from somewhere and it must drain into a septic system or public sewer. Plus, the plumbing for both can add more than you think to the overall cost of the kitchen.”
Above: One of the most requested outdoor kitchen appliances is the pizza oven. There are a variety of styles and types, including stainless steel versions and this custom-designed pizza oven finished in natural stone.
Photo courtesy of Westside Watershapes, Fort Worth, Texas; photography by Adam Wood
Countertops and Backsplashes
Good workspace is worth its weight in gold, and when planning your outdoor kitchen, keep in mind that you need plenty of free space to prep, serve, and assemble all types of food, cookware, and serving pieces. Don’t skimp: you will thank yourself later.
There is an array of durable yet beautiful materials that are best suited for crafting kitchen countertops and backsplashes for outdoor use. While many designers recommend granite, ceramic or glass tile, numerous outdoor kitchen planners also suggest cast-in-place concrete because of its resilience to the elements, durability, low maintenance, and the handsome look.
“I like to incorporate a lot of recycled materials in my countertops, which I can do easily with concrete,” says Scott Cohen, owner of The Green Scene Landscaping & Pools, Los Angeles, California. “Plus, concrete is environmentally friendly because there is no waste when casting onsite.”
Above: Backsplashes add a touch of sophistication to outdoor kitchens, both stand-alone stations and those that are in a covered outdoor room. This backsplash features mountain range granite and doubles as a piece of art.
Photo courtesy of Gyori Development Corporation, Loomis, California; photography by Lorenzo Bartone
See more outdoor kitchen photos in our Luxury Outdoor Kitchens book available in print and digital download from our bookstore.
You never have enough storage space, so plan to include more cabinets than you think you will need. With a variety of weather-resistant materials on the market, which type you choose should be based on your property’s location, your personal taste, and your home’s style. Again, let your professional guide you towards the appropriate option.
A few of the more popular cabinet materials are heavy-gauge stainless steel, solid marine-grade polymer, teak, cedar, and powder-coated metal made to appear like real wood.
“Make sure you choose a floor that is safe and difficult to stain such as stone pavers with a low sheen sealer to protect them,” says Cohen. Concrete is another option that outdoor kitchen designers recommend. “You can get any pattern, color, and texture you like,” explains Cohen. “Just keep in mind that if your property is in an extreme climate, the installer must use the proper mix in order to ensure that the floor survives a freeze/thaw.”
Once all the details are in play and all of the amenities are in place, your kitchen will be open for business. Don’t be surprised if it becomes your family’s new favorite room.