Outdoor cooking is no longer about throwing a few snags or shrimps on a barbie. It’s gone gourmet. And with it, the outdoor kitchen has emerged as the latest space for people to flex their design skills and explore new ways to add value to their home.
With endless options available today, you can build an outdoor kitchen that can not only function just as well as your indoor one, it can look like it too. In fact more and more renovators are incorporating the design elements of their interiors into their alfresco kitchen, creating a useable fifth room that can be enjoyed year-round.
Not only grills but also warming drawers, refrigerators, sinks, ice makers, wet bars and even ventilation are available for a full outdoor kitchen environment. Even Ikea is getting in on the trend with its Aussie inspired outdoor kitchens!
Here are our top tips on how to maximise the value of your outdoor kitchen:
While it comes to an outdoor kitchen, it’s tempting to go a bit crazy and opt for the most luxurious grills and fittings. After all, there’s a treasure chest of outdoor appliances and fittings with the power to mesmerise and hypnotise any renovator. But fear not – there are ways of creating a culinary oasis without breaking the bank. Like every home renovation or home extension, it comes down to good planning.
Before you begin, answer some simple questions:
- How do you cook inside? Outside?
- How often do you entertain?
- How many people do you entertain?
Then decide on a realistic budget by deciding what is most important to you. Do you want the bulk of your money to go into the setting or into equipment? Remember, an outdoor kitchen is a long-term investment so if you’re planning to live in your house for many years to come, Dowling Homes recommend allocating a larger proportion of the budget into the setting – modest equipment can always be upgraded over time.
Location, location, location
First things first. The location of your outdoor kitchen will determine the design, layout and connectivity. Choose a location that is under cover and protected from wind and rain. It should also be on level ground, not too far from existing utilities and of course, large enough for entertaining.
Remember good kitchen design
Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you should throw all the good kitchen design principles out the window. At the very least, your outdoor kitchen should have a place to cook and set food down on and off the grill, a place to eat and socialise, and some storage. We recommend laying out the functional zones of the kitchen: cold areas (refrigeration), hot areas (grills and cooktops), wet areas (sinks) and dry areas (prep counters and storage). These should all work together effectively in proper proximity, each with enough allocated space so you can cook up a storm without breaking a sweat.
Let design flow from the inside out
Your outdoor kitchen should match the rest of your home in quality, style, performance, and attractiveness. When planning your outdoor kitchen, it’s important to consider the relationship between the indoor and outdoor spaces. How will they be used together when cooking or entertaining? What is the traffic pattern between them?
Will you have permanent water, electrical and connections? Direct connections are not only convenient but provide a limitless supply of water and power. Consider connecting the BBQ gas to the mains instead of LPG. This means you’ll never run out of gas half way through cooking – handy for parties! When you’re planning the layout, keep in mind the best practical placement or installation of the necessary gas, water and electrical supply.
A word on safety
Make sure the whole outdoor kitchen – from layout to plumbing – is designed to satisfy the Technical Regulator for safety. For safety’s sake your outdoor kitchen must be installed by qualified technicians. Installation by unqualified individuals may void product warranty. It’s also worth checking with your home insurance company to see if your alfresco kitchen will be covered.
A material world
Materials should not only be low-maintenance and easy to clean, they should be designed to survive the Australian outdoors. Take time to research the best materials in the market for fronts and cabinetry to countertops and flooring. Everything, and we mean everything, should be weatherproof, non-combustible and durable. Counters and patio or decking material should be highly resistant to grease stains and able to withstand high temperatures.
Here are some materials we recommend:
- For the benchtop, stone, stainless steel, and tiles each present their own benefits and drawbacks. High-quality stainless steel provides a sanitary surface that’s easily cleaned and corrosion-resistant. Stone is a good option but natural stone will require sealing on a regular basis. If you go with granite, use cultured granite with UV stabilisers. Avoid highly porous materials such as limestone.
- For drawers and doors, look to aluminium, stainless steel, and glass. Beefeater has a wide selection of stainless steel drawers while Lynx is an option for stainless steel access doors (both available from The Barbecue Store).
- Fronts can be brick, cement block or cement sheeting with a texture coat, or again stainless steel is a durable option.
- And for splashbacks, you can do beautiful things with glass, tiles or stainless steel.
There are also some great all-round materials on the market, such as Laminex Alfresco compact laminate range. The stylish and durable range has been specifically designed for exterior use and will withstand the elements. You can choose from nine contemporary decors, including woodgrains and solids – which are perfect for outdoor BBQs, benchtops and seating areas. We also love the distinctive black core that negates the need for edging and serves as a striking design feature.
Incorporate heaters, shade and rain shelter into your outdoor kitchen design so you can truly embrace year-round outdoor entertaining. Remember – don’t put a combustible ceiling or awning above an outdoor grill.
Think beyond the BBQ
If you’re serious about designing an alfresco kitchen, you need more than a BBQ – you need a grill. That basically means that you get a much higher burner power and ability to quickly reach intense searing temperatures – far higher than the realm of ordinary BBQs. The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a freestanding grill or a fully integrated built-in unit. We love the Fisher & Paykel DCS outdoor grill range, which has something for everyone. Choose from built-in grills, built-in grills with side burners, freestanding grills, freestanding grills with side burners, a cart and a heavy duty Dedicated Infrared Rotisserie – perfect for outdoor roasting! Electrolux also offers an innovative range of free-standing and integrated styles, featuring premium stainless materials, easy clean grills and electronic ignition.
Of course, there are more budget-friendly outdoor grills and BBQs that also do a great job. The likes of Wholesale Appliances and Matador BBQs are a good place to start – the Matador classic six-burner built-in starts from just $498 rrp.
Whatever barbecue or grill unit you choose, make sure it will fit in with your joinery and can be re-jetted to suit the mains gas.
Clear the air
You wouldn’t have fumes and smoke clogging up your indoor kitchen, so why put up with it in your outdoor kitchen? Masters of indoor rangehoods, Schweigen and Sirius have designed hoods that are perfect for outdoor kitchens. Schweigen’s Professional Range of BBQ hoods includes both external and in-built canopies. These rangehoods are extremely powerful to deal with the extra smoke and odour typical outdoor dining areas produce, while being whisper quiet so you can still enjoy a conversation. It’s no coincidence that the German word ‘Schweigen’ means ‘to be quiet’!
Once you have your cooking area sorted, it’s time to kit it out with appliances. The good news is that for just about every indoor appliance, there’s now a weatherproof counterpart. For example, Matador’s double door bar fridge is made from stainless steel with the convenience of glass doors and LED internal illumination for night-time entertaining. Or the Vintec beer and wine bar sits comfortably under the bench in an alfresco area while being lockable so you can keep the teenagers away from the beer! And when the cooking is done and the party is in full swing, don’t worry about the dishes – the Asko outdoor dishwasher has it covered.
If you’re planning a complete outdoor kitchen, consider buying an integrated line for your cabinetry and benchtops. The advantage is that everything is scaled and designed to go together. You may even be able to get a discount from a dealer on a package of appliances.
Don’t forget the kitchen sink!
No kitchen would be complete without a sink. And the outdoor kitchen is no exception. An outdoor sink means you can wash up, rinse veggies before tossing them onto the grill, clean your hands – all without setting a foot back inside. Outdoor sinks are either fed with a hose or connected to the home’s water supply – we recommend the latter as it gives you access to hot and cold water on demand. Good choices for your outdoor sink are either stainless steel or ceramic. Smeg’s two-bowl topmount sink is ideal for the outdoors thanks to its sliding glass chopping boards.
Take inspiration from the winning apartment on Channel Nine’s The Block by twins Alisa and Lysandra. Every element was designed for year-round entertaining and no detail was spared – from the zip tap to the hanging chairs. And take a sneak peek at Jamie Durie’s outdoor kitchen which features a warming oven, refrigerator, sink, chopping blocks, spice rack, and black stone top.
There’s plenty more inspiration where that came from! Check out our blog for information, design ideas and videos of our work.
Contact Dowling Homes today for a free quote.