As the temperature outside warms up, so does our desire to prepare, cook and dine al fresco. We don't just mean a barbecue on wheels – we're talking about an area that's sole purpose is for quality food preparation, an easy cooking experience as well as space for guests to enjoy, whilst the chef is at work.
You never know, installing an outdoor kitchen may ignite your desire to grow your own produce, so it's worth considering creative kitchen garden ideas too. Is there anything more idyllic than growing your own vegetables, chargrilling them in your own garden and serving them out to your friends and family? Bliss.
We asked our the experts for their advice on what makes a perfect outdoor kitchen and the important things you need to consider.
1. Your idea outdoor kitchen kit
‘An outdoor kitchen is not only a way of expanding the rooms in your house, it also provides a space that feels akin to an entirely different destination – transporting you to warmer climes and a different, more relaxed way of life,’ says Oliver Deadman, head of design, Clive Christian Furniture Co.
The first step is to consider the space you have available, the way you like to cook and what you would like to include, from a simple outdoor grill station with preparation space to a fully equipped area with multiple appliances and seating, dining and garden bar ideas to suit large scale entertaining.
2. A great layout
Many outdoor kitchens are built against an external wall of the house, typically from about 3m long. ‘Increasingly, we are seeing more people want to interact with their guests while they are cooking, so horseshoe and L-shape configurations and islands are popular,’ says Neil Stringer, design manager, The Outdoor Kitchen Collective.
In addition to appliances and countertops, you may also wish to include sink, storage and bin space. Try to position refrigerators away from the main cooking zone so that guests can help themselves to drinks without getting in the way of the cook, and angle seating, bar and outdoor dining ideas to enjoy the best views of the garden, if possible.
3. Pick the best appliances for you?
From the best grill, plancha grill, smoker and pizza oven to a refrigerator and an ice machine, there are plenty of options. ‘They all need to be specifically made as outdoor appliances,’ explains Manfredi Conforzi, director, Officine Gullo.
External grade equipment is designed to be safe for use outside and able to withstand weather conditions; always check with your supplier before purchase. ‘Outdoor appliances can be fuelled in the same way as interior ones, with electricity and gas supplies, or, as an alternative, with LPG canisters which can be integrated into the design so that they are kept out of view,’ he adds.
External power supplies are typically extended from the house and up from the ground; they must be graded for outdoor use and professionally installed by qualified fitters.
4. Materials that suit your backyard
‘Be sure you specify for the highest quality furniture for longevity outdoors,’ says Frances Hatton-Brown, head of sales, Gaze Burvill, who favors natural materials, such as oak and other sustainable hardwoods.
‘They work well as they complement the exterior aesthetics,’ she adds. Steel and concrete options, designed for outdoor use, are also available.
5. Great lighting and storage ideas
If you plan to use your outdoor kitchen year-round and in the evenings, you may wish to consider backyard lighting ideas, including LED, solar and mood lighting options, and heating – such as patio heaters, remote controlled electric heaters, backyard fire pits and heated canopies, though be aware that they can be energy hungry.
‘Coverings also require careful consideration, as they need to provide shelter from the rain and wind in the winter, but also be suitable for the sunny summer months - and allow for plenty of fresh air to flow through the space,’ advises Duncan Aird, co-founder and design, Outdoor Kitchen Expert.
‘Pergola ideas and awnings are popular choices, while marquees and retractable canopies can also serve well,’ he adds.
What should the perfect outdoor kitchen include?
These are the top five must-haves for the perfect outdoor kitchen:
- Cooking equipment, whether a barbecue, smoker or pizza oven is obviously a must.
- A sink, vital for washing hands and cleaning up.
- A refrigerator, big enough to store food for the occasion, and drinks, too.
- An outdoor pantry, to store everything from condiments to cutlery and cooking equipment.
- Countertop space that doubles up: whether as prep space, a home bar or dining counter.
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Amelia Thorpe is a specialist interiors and design journalist, covering every topic to do with homes from fabrics, furniture and lighting to surfaces, kitchens and bathrooms.
As the daughter of an antique dealer and a lifelong collector of old cookery books and vintage graphics herself, she also has a particular expertise in antiques, mid-century and decorative arts of all kinds.
Drawn to homes because of their importance in the happiness of our lives and the enjoyment they can bring, Amelia has been writing about the topic for more than fifteen years. She has interviewed some of the most influential designers of our time, from Piero Lissoni, Antonio Citterio, Jaime Hayon and Arik Levy to Nina Campbell and Robert Kime.
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