There’s no better way to mark the beginning of warm weather and outdoor entertaining than with a new outdoor kitchen. It’s the perfect outdoor feature for those backyard barbeques or family pool parties in northern New Jersey. With proper planning, you can create an outdoor kitchen that your family will enjoy for years to come. Take a look at nine important outdoor kitchen tips to help you get started.
1. Choose the Best Location
If you have an existing patio or deck that’s attached to the house, you’ll probably want to locate the outdoor kitchen in that area. It’s advantageous to locate your outdoor kitchen within close proximity to your indoor kitchen. There may be occasions when you need to use both kitchens simultaneously. Parties and family events can include large numbers of guests. To feed large groups, you may need more cooking equipment than you have outside. Keeping the outdoor kitchen close to the house will create an easier and more convenient path for the cook and the guests. It will make food preparation and service faster and keep the food hot longer.
If you don’t have an existing patio or deck, you’ll need to build one for your outdoor kitchen. Assess the layout of your back yard and select a location with easy access to the house. You can join the areas with decorative walkways or pathways that creates safe traffic paths.
2. Determine How You Will Use Your Kitchen
When planning your outdoor kitchen, determine how you will use it and how often. Do you like to entertain large groups of friends or do you prefer small family dinners? How you plan to use your outdoor kitchen will determine necessary kitchen equipment and space requirements.
A typical outdoor kitchen usually includes a gas grill, side burner, compact refrigerator, roll out trash bin, storage drawer and grill cover. If you plan to cook for large groups, you can add more equipment such as extra burners, double door pantries, storage drawers, warming drawers, a drop-on griddle, a sink, an ice maker, a bar with a wine cooler or beer kegerator, an outdoor vent hood and various cooking utensils and accessories.
Outdoor kitchens range from $2,000 to $25,000 in available equipment options. Determine how you plan to use your outdoor kitchen first. You don’t want to invest in equipment you may never use.
3. Create Kitchen Zones
To create a functional design for your outdoor kitchen, you need to break it down into specific zones.
- Cutting boards.
- Trash bins.
- Storage pantry.
- Grills and ovens.
- Griddles and fryers.
- Side burners.
- Storage drawers and cabinets.
- Propane tank storage.
Plate and Serve Zone
- Warming drawers.
- Food warmers.
- Garnish center.
- Compact refrigerator.
- Ice bins and ice coolers.
- Ice machine.
- Wine cooler or beer kegerator.
- Bar area.
Plan a layout that creates a natural flow between cooking and entertaining. A professional outdoor kitchen contractor or designer can help you with outdoor kitchen tips for the best design layout.
4. Choose Low-Maintenance Materials
It’s important to choose low-maintenance materials that will stand up to northern NJ weather. Materials that are easy to clean and maintain will make using your outdoor kitchen more enjoyable.
- Flooring – Patio or deck flooring should be wood, stone, tile or concrete that’s easy to wash down with the hose. Wood decking, stone pavers and tumbled or honed tiles should be sealed for protection. Flooring should be resistant to grease and stains.
- Countertops – Natural stone countertops like granite and slate hold up well outdoors, but they require regular sealers. Cultured stone also works well and needs little maintenance. Avoid porous materials like limestone and marble that absorb stains faster. In Bergen County and Passaic County where materials are subject to freezing and thawing, tile countertops should be avoided because they can crack from the cold.
5. Choose Complimentary Materials and Colors
The materials you select for your outdoor kitchen should compliment your home’s architecture and landscape. If your house is contemporary, use materials like stainless steel, granite, wood or concrete. For a more traditional home, warm materials like wood, brick and stone will be more complimentary.
You can repeat existing materials that are already on your home’s exterior. When selecting colors, textures and patterns for flooring, countertops and accessories, make sure they compliment your home and landscape.
6. Plan for Utilities
An outdoor kitchen needs adequate utility sources. You will need to provide electrical outlets for a rotisserie system, refrigerator, ice machine, blender and grill lighting. Extra outlets can be installed for convenience and other small appliances. All outdoor outlets should be grounded (GFCI), the ground fault circuit type. If you have a sink, you’ll need a water line that connects to your home water supply. Most outdoor kitchens only include a line for cold water, but a hot water line can be installed if you think you will need one. Most outdoor kitchen grills are gas which require a gas line that connects to your main gas supply for the house. If your kitchen is located further away from the house, the gas line will have to be trenched and installed.
Proper planning of all utility connections and outlets is very important for outdoor kitchen use. It’s best to hire a licensed contractor do this work. They are familiar with local codes and regulations to make sure all of your wiring and utility hook-ups are code compliant.
7. Plan for Shelter
When planning your outdoor kitchen, plan for adequate shelter from the elements such as cold, heat, rain, snow and wind. You can extend the use of your outdoor kitchen and entertaining area with proper shelter. If possible, provide a non-combustible awning above your outdoor kitchen. Make sure not to use a combustible cover above an outdoor grill.
If you include a separate dining area near the outdoor kitchen, incorporate outdoor umbrellas for shelter from the sun, rain and wind. On cool fall and winter evenings, natural gas patio heaters are a great way to keep guests warm and cozy.
8. Provide Good Lighting
For cooking and entertaining guests at night, you need to install good lighting for your outdoor kitchen and surrounding areas. Provide task lighting directly over the outdoor kitchen in all four zones. Your kitchen will not be enjoyable if you are trying to prepare and cook food in the dark. Select small halogen fixtures that provide clear, bright light without taking up much space. If you have an overhead patio or deck cover, suspended pendants and track lighting systems offer good light and stylish fixtures for outdoor lighting.
9. Install an Outdoor Sound System
Since one of the main reasons to have an outdoor kitchen is outdoor entertaining, installing a sound system in the area is a great way to keep guests entertained. It will add atmosphere to your patio or deck and your guests will love the music. You can include electrical outlets and wiring needs in your layout and design plan.