6 Questions to Ask When Considering an Outdoor Kitchen

Considering adding an outdoor kitchen to your backyard? You’re not alone. Recent trends indicate that installing an outdoor kitchen is one of the most popular projects among homeowners in the past several years. With many people staying home more often, making outdoor living spaces fun, inviting, and pleasant tops the list of wants in many remodels. 

Outdoor kitchens are a great investment, too. Many experts believe that homeowners can expect to see an ROI (return on investment) of 100% or more. Everyone loves a great outdoor kitchen. So what types of things should you consider if you’re thinking about adding one to your home?

#1. What Types of Gatherings Will I Host?

If you’re an introvert and you love being with your family and maybe a few close friends, your outdoor kitchen needs will be different from someone who plans gatherings for the whole neighborhood. Not only will the size of your outdoor kitchen be affected by how many people you want to host at once, but the cook space needed and seating required will also change. Do you prefer

  • cozy gatherings, with your family and a friend or two? Think about creating a smaller space with comfortable seating around an outdoor fireplace. Choose a grill that meets your needs, and consider including side burners for an extra touch of luxury.
  • mid-sized parties with your family and friends? Maybe an outdoor kitchen with an island for seating and extra prep space might fit the bill. Remember to make room for couches and think about upgrading your grill to a two-sided grill for extra cooking space.
  • big bashes for a crowd? You will need lots of seating options–an island or bar, couches and chairs, a table with benches, etc. You will want a big grill with extra cooking space like a range or side burners, and you’ll need plenty of counter space for food prep and serving.

#2. What Do I Need?

Needs are different from wants, which we will discuss below. For a functioning outdoor kitchen, you need something to cook your food on, a place to prepare and serve, somewhere to sit, and storage. You need lighting, and a way to keep food and beverages cold.

  • Cooking: Here, you want to consider what type of grill you want. Built-in gas grills are very popular, and you can choose a very basic one, or upgrade for all the bells and whistles. Consider a two-sided grill for the ability to cook meat on one side and veggies or sides on the other. Grills with side burners are popular, making it easy to heat up baked beans or a pot of chili.
  • Prep space: You’ll need some counter space to prepare food and set it out to serve. Many outdoor kitchens have counters on both sides of the grill, and some include an island as well. Countertops can be made of concrete, ceramic tile, stainless steel, wood, granite, or soapstone. The design options are endless and you’re sure to find a look you love. 
  • Seating: Do you want to sit at a table? On barstools around an island or at a bar? On couches with a coffee table holding your plates? Consider having several seating options, and make them all as comfortable as you can, to encourage friends and family to linger.
  • Storage: Every kitchen needs good storage, and an outside kitchen is no exception. Consider storage space with access doors made of stainless steel or wood to protect your tools and dishes. You might enjoy the convenience of drawers, too. Having the tools you need close at hand and protected from the elements will go a long way toward making your outdoor kitchen a place you love to cook in.
  • Lighting: Remember that you’ll need both task lighting and ambient lighting. You want to accentuate the fact that you’re outside, so string lights or lanterns, or fun chandeliers are good options. If you want a ceiling fan, choosing one with lights is a great way to go.
  • Cooling: If you want to keep drinks cold, chill a dessert, or keep salads or sides cool until you’re ready to serve, consider an outdoor refrigerator or cooler. Think about what size you’ll need and enjoy the convenience of not having to run inside any time someone wants a cold drink.

#3. What Do I Want?

Now that you’ve thought through the outdoor kitchen necessities, it’s time to consider the extras. The sky is the limit when it comes to what you can add to your kitchen. Some ideas include

  • incorporating fire. There’s nothing like sitting around a fire. You can include a beautiful outdoor fireplace to your kitchen design, and enjoy it all year long. Or you can add a fire pit of any shape or size. You won’t regret this feature of your outdoor kitchen.
  • a wood-fired pizza oven. Available in many styles and materials, this addition to an outdoor kitchen is sure to be fun. They’re not just for pizza either–you can cook casseroles, vegetables, breads, desserts, and more.
  • a smoker. You can build one into your kitchen design and enjoy the taste–and smell!–of smoked meat any time.
  • An outdoor sink. Although you may think the extra effort of plumbing an outdoor sink isn’t worth it, consider the convenience of being able to wash vegetables, rinse your hands, wash dishes, and fill pitchers without having to run inside each time you need water. A sink may end up being one of your favorite features of your outdoor kitchen.
  • A griddle. Does a weekend brunch outside sounds delightful? Consider a griddle to allow you to make pancakes or French toast. You can use it to cook hamburgers and sides as well.
  • Indoor appliances–outside! You can install a dishwasher, an icemaker, a warming or cooling drawer, even a garbage disposal in your outdoor kitchen. You may end up preferring it to your indoor one!

#4. How Will I Cover My Outdoor Kitchen?

After investing time, energy, and money into planning and installing an outdoor kitchen, you want it to last. You’ll need to cover it, preferably with a permanent cover like a porch roof, pergola, canopy, or awning. If you don’t want it under shelter, you will need to invest in a grill cover and furniture covers. While outdoor appliances, countertops, fixtures, and furniture are made to be durable, they won’t last as long if they aren’t protected from the elements.

#5. How Will I Make Sure It’s Safe?

It’s important to think about safety in your outdoor kitchen, both to protect the people who use it and your property. Make sure you include

  • proper ventilation for your built-in grill.
  • insulated jackets around the grill to contain heat.
  • enough clearance above and on the sides of the grill to keep heat from damaging other structures.

#6. When Can I Get Started?

With the weather warming up and grilling season around the corner, it’s the perfect time to begin planning for your outdoor kitchen. If you’re ready to make your backyard your favorite place to entertain, BOLT Builders can help! Contact us today and get ready to enjoy your DC, Virginia, or Maryland home more than you ever have before.