How to: Build an outdoor kitchen
Like everything to do with home entertaining, outdoor dining has moved uptown. You can set up your environment as elaborately as the one indoors—with top-quality appliances, prep and storage areas, and finishes that not only look glamorous but are also designed to withstand the worst a Canadian winter can throw at them.
Modern outdoor kitchens first took off in the southern States. Now, says Rick Bloye of Outdoor Luxury in Aurora, Ont., the concept reflects a trend toward spending more time at home. "The cost of cottages—not only in maintenance, but also in the gas and time it takes to drive to them—makes them less attractive for a lot of people," he says. "Instead, we're building resorts in our own backyards. So along with hot tubs, pools and landscaping, these kitchens are another way to enjoy time outside."
What to consider
Your outdoor kitchen can be as modest as a grill cart on casters or as elaborate as a fully outfitted "room" with built-in seating and storage, electric, gas and water service, multiple food prep surfaces, a sink and specialty appliances. Before you start planning, ask yourself these six questions.
1 Do you want a permanent setup or a portable grill that can be moved around your deck during summer and positioned close to the back door for winter cooking?
2 How self-contained do you want the kitchen to be? If you have the space and budget, you can add a sink, fridge, icemaker, wine cooler or even a beer keg.
3 Will you be cooking multiple dishes for crowds or will a smaller grill with one or two side burners be enough?
4 Does your budget allow for prep, serving and seating areas? You can add modular elements as finances allow.
5 What's the best spot for it? Consider prevailing winds (avoid smoke blowing on guests or into the house), sunlight and proximity to neighbours. In a large yard, you might opt for a separate area with a path leading to the kitchen, a roof structure and perhaps lattice or trellis walls.
6 What about the design? Lawrence Winterburn of gardenstructure.com, a designer and builder of outdoor kitchens, says that you needn't slavishly copy your home's look, but your new kitchen should harmonize in design and materials.
Choosing a grill
The grill is the heart of any outdoor kitchen. These are the most important options to consider when purchasing.
- Stainless-steel construction: Look for tightly sealed seams, high-quality steel.
- Built-in or portable unit? With built-in storage? How big a cooking surface? Surfaces range from 26 to 57 inches wide or more.
- Side burners, either single or double, for convenient cooking of veggies and side dishes.
- Temperature gauges: stand-alone or built-in.
- High BTU output: Some higher-quality grills can furnish as much as 65,000 BTUs.
- Energy source: Natural gas is cheaper and more convenient but requires a built-in line; propane is more portable but requires tanks and regular refilling.