A growing trend with families and singles alike, outdoor kitchens offers a unique setting for family time as well as entertaining. Often, they are set in close proximity to other outdoor sources of entertainment such as swimming pools and hot tubs. They range in complexity from a simple charcoal grill to a full kitchen complete with a sink, a refrigerator, freezer, and drink station or bar. Some use a gas grill, rather than charcoal, and most make use of outdoor lighting for cooking or entertaining after dark.
The decision between a charcoal or gas grill is really more a question of personal taste and priorities. Many argue that the taste gained from cooking over charcoal is far superior to the taste of food cooked on a gas grill. However, a gas grill is much easier and quicker to deal with, as there is no waiting for coals to heat up. Whatever decision is made, it is vitally important to ensure safety by always following best practices, and have a fire extinguisher nearby.
Outdoor lighting plays not only a practical role in an outdoor kitchen; it also plays an aesthetic one. The ambiance after dark can rely completely on the quality and type of lighting. Of course, the surrounding area has to be taken into consideration as well. For example, if there is a water source nearby such as a pool, hot tub, or even a pond, lake, or river that will be in use at the same time, it is important to be sure light reaches that area for safety purposes. However, if this is not an issue, a dimmer, more romantic light source may be desired. If mosquitoes are a problem, repellant lights may be a better option.
Other items that can make an outdoor kitchen more enjoyable include refrigeration, an icemaker, a sink area, and a food preparation area. These are not necessary, but they can make for a much easier evening. Having these features allows the cook to remain in the outdoor kitchen for the entire food preparation process, and serve drinks from there also, thus eliminating numerous trips back into the house.
Of course, a dining area is an important part of an outdoor kitchen area. This can range from something as simple as a blanket on the ground, to a few lawn chairs, to a full dining table and chairs made to hold up to the weather outdoors. This allows for the cook to visit with others while preparing the food. Something else that can sometimes make this area more enjoyable is a mesh tent or netting to protect people and food from bugs.
Outdoor electrical outlets are nice to have for numerous reasons. They can be used to plug in small appliances that may be needed, including a blender, electric skillet, or a coffee pot. They can also be used to plug in a radio, CD player, or television to watch the big game on. If the weather is exceptionally hot or cold, a heater or fan could be plugged in as well.
If the kitchen area is not set up around a center of entertainment, entertainment can be created if desired. Preparing food outdoors inspires many to eat and play outside when the weather is nice. If entertaining guests, provide a Frisbee, balls, or even board games that can be played while the food is cooking.
Whatever the occasion, outdoor kitchens are a great asset when it comes to entertaining, or just spending time as a family. The basic needs are either a gas grill or a charcoal grill, and some sort of outdoor lighting for cooking and serving food after dark. Make sure that your outdoor kitchen area is setup on at least a basic stone patio or concrete pad for stabilization and remember to have fun cooking!