In many parts of the country, ‘al fresco’ eating and cooking is a way of life for a good portion of the year. All outdoor kitchens require a few necessities – grill, prep area and a table for people to gather around. But dream outdoor kitchens are expertly crafted spaces that are every bit as convenient as their indoor counterpart.
The secret is to invest in a few lesser-known things that are designed for modern outdoor kitchens.
Kitchen Supplies for Outside
Cooking outdoors requires certain kitchen supplies that are made specifically for outdoor use. Supplies made with rustproof stainless steel offer durability that’s needed out in the elements. It’s also a good idea to find plastic or metal options for glass containers, measuring cups and bowls to avoid breaks.
Grilling tools and a meat thermometer are a definite must for outdoor cooking, but serious outdoor chefs go a step further with extras like a wok, grilling baskets and a cast iron press. No matter what utensils and supplies you choose to stock in your outdoor kitchen, ruggedness is the most important feature to look for.
The smoker is such an overlooked piece of cooking equipment, but to be fair there is a good reason why it gets bypassed by most cooks. They generate a lot of smoke and take hours to cook meats. You have to have an outdoor cooking area with enough space to keep the smoker from being disturbed and smoking out your house.
But the time and effort are worth it. Smokers offer another way to prepare flavorful cuts of meat that can be eaten for days. They can be attached to a grill or a standalone piece of equipment. Along with the smoker, you’ll also need to have a ready supply of wood chunks in your favorite flavor.
The best outdoor kitchens are all about cooking options. A solar cooker is uniquely designed for outdoor use. It’s an eco-friendly way to cook a wide variety of foods, including vegetables and meats, using only the heat of the sun. However, solar cooking does require a bit of space. The set up includes a pan or pot surrounded by a large, reflective material that bounces solar heat onto the cooking equipment.
You can never have enough storage, especially around a kitchen. While homeowners tend to max out the cabinets of an indoor kitchen, storage is usually an afterthought outside. Ideally, you’ll be able to invest in a built-in grill with counter space on either side and cabinets built below. The setup in the cabinets can help maximize functionality and space with pull out drawers, baskets and racks. You can add additional storage with a separate, portable prep station.
A complete kitchen includes space for prep, cooking, serving and cleaning. The last part usually gets moved indoors, but it doesn’t have to. If you are in the process of designing and constructing an outdoor kitchen consider tapping into the plumbing lines so a sink can be added outside. BONUS: You can also put in a water tap for easy refills.
A cement patio is typically where outdoor kitchens are built. Everything gets installed right over the patio surface, which is good at preventing fires. The problem is standing at the grill for an extended period can be uncomfortable, and cement doesn’t show off much style. An area rug or anti-fatigue mat can help ease the stress of standing on a hard surface and add to the décor.
Extend the outdoor grilling season with patio heaters. Natural gas and propane heaters are a very popular option because you can control the level of heat. A portable option is going to offer the most functionality because you can heat space as needed and work with other heating elements like outdoor fireplaces and fire pits.
As the sun sets cooking outdoors becomes more of a challenge if you’re relying on lights attached to the exterior of the house. A BBQ grill light that can be mounted and tilted provides versatile task lighting that allows you to keep cooking after dark.
Bugs are the bane of any outdoor cooks existence. After hours of slaving away over a hot grill making a masterpiece meal for friends and family, flies and ants want to take a bite before anyone else. The quick and easy fix is pop-up food tents.