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How To Build An Outdoor Kitchen: Tips From Design To Maintenance
By Sherry Holmes
Wednesday, May 10th, 2023 @ 4:12pm
Maximizing Your Outdoor Living Space: Building the Perfect Kitchen for Your Backyard
For many people, their backyard is a sanctuary. It is a place where you can relax and have a quiet moment, a place where you can entertain family and friends. It is also a space where your children can safely play and enjoy the outdoors. Our backyard isn’t that big but we do have a decent size deck. However, this year we really want to take it up a notch and add an outdoor kitchen.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the NewAge showroom in Toronto and wow was I impressed. It got me really excited about all the options you can include in an outdoor kitchen. So here’s a guide on what to look for when planning an outdoor kitchen and how to build the perfect kitchen to maximize your outdoor space.
Benefits of Having an Outdoor Kitchen
An outdoor kitchen not only looks great but can add value to your property by extending your living and entertainment space. Plus, it makes cooking meals easier and keeps cooking smells outside. It’s also a great alternative to going out for meals, especially as everything is becoming more expensive.
Types of Outdoor Kitchens
One of the great things about modular design is that your outdoor kitchen can be as straightforward or as high-end as you want. It can also allow for either a more permanent design or portable options to switch up your configuration based on your needs. Plus it allows you to seamlessly incorporate all the equipment and features you want. This can include an outdoor island, fridge, smoker and so much more!
And the great thing is, modular systems allow you to design the best layout for you. Whether that is a galley-style kitchen, a U-shaped or an L-shaped kitchen.
For smaller spaces, single-wall is the most popular choice. In this layout, all the appliances, cabinets, and countertops are placed along one wall. This design is perfect for smaller spaces and can be an efficient use of space.
U-Shaped Kitchen Layout
The U-shaped kitchen design offers plenty of counter space for food prep and cooking. It is perfect for bigger outdoor locations. Not to mention it provides plenty of storage space and seating possibilities for hosting friends and family.
L-Shaped Kitchen Layout
The L-shaped kitchen layout is an adaptable design that can fit a number of outdoor settings. It has two perpendicular counters that offer plenty of surface space for food prep, cooking, and entertaining. This design makes it simple for traffic to move around and makes it an excellent choice for homeowners who like to host larger gatherings.
Planning an Outdoor Kitchen
Planning your outdoor kitchen can be lots of fun! However, you also need to be practical in your plan and create a layout that works best with your space.
You don’t want to lug food and supplies a great distance from your house, so the ideal location should be 15 to 20 feet away from your indoor kitchen. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean you can’t have an outdoor kitchen further away from your house. It just means when it comes to utilities, like water, gas and electricity lines, it may cost more to get the lines installed as they will be further away from the source.
An outdoor kitchen can be any size and ultimately will be determined by the amount of actual space you have and your budget. The ideal size is approximately 10 x 10 feet but can go up from there.
When planning your layout, think about how you will move throughout the space. Just like an indoor kitchen you need to have a clear path as you move through the various areas. Keep the cooking areas free of obstacles.
If there isn’t enough room, a straightforward layout involving a grill with cabinets will be effective. If the sky’s the limit, you’ll have room for an island with a sink, a few cabinets, a built-in grill, a food prep area, bartending, and refrigeration.
NewAge Virtual Design Consultation
If you don’t know where to start planning your outdoor kitchen, I highly recommend connecting with NewAge’s virtual design consultation team. Their experts will walk you through the entire process. They will also help you make the right product choices to create the perfect backyard outdoor kitchen.
Plus, once everything has been chosen, they will send you your custom 3D renderings. I love this process because it really helps me visualize what the final layout will look like. You can even make any adjustments before starting the purchasing process to fit your needs.
Planning on building an outdoor kitchen? You can book a free virtual consultation with the NewAge team to check out all their products and design the best kitchen for you.
What is the Best Material for An Outdoor Kitchen
An outdoor kitchen can be a big commitment and expense so you want it to last. Choosing high-quality durable material that can hold up to heat, cold, wind and sun is essential.
Stainless steel is probably the best and most practical material. It it is durable and resists stains, corrosion, rust and bacteria.
If you’re on a tighter budget, aluminum is also a good choice as it is corrosion-resistant and slightly more economical.
Budget – How Much Does It Cost To Build An Outdoor Kitchen
Like most big-ticket items, you need to do some prep work and cost comparisons to get an idea of the budget. You can choose to save money, which is what most first-time homeowners do, by choosing an all-in-one grill and cart set that can cost as little as $500.
On the other hand, if you have a bigger budget to invest, you can design a fully outfitted kitchen with a cooking and entertaining area. This could cost as much as $50K or more and would typically include built-in, high-end appliances, stone countertops, and plenty of dining space for guests.
For most of us, we can dream about the ultimate outdoor kitchen. However, what it comes down to is how much space and budget you have to use.
Make A Wishlist for your Outdoor Kitchen
The best thing to do is make a list of necessary and optional items. Next, decide if you need each item now or whether you can wait until the following season or even the one after that. You might be able to get your dream kitchen even if not all of the features are implemented at once by prioritizing and delaying some of the elements.
Style, budget and durability should all be factors when planning your outdoor kitchen. No matter what it’s just smart to purchase a good quality grill because you are going to use it a lot and that means you need a quality product. Remember, it’s expensive to run gas lines, electricity and water so propane grills may just do the trick.
Other high-ticket items might be a sink, a fridge, a pizza oven and a smoker —so keep that in mind!
Installing Appliances and Fixtures
In Ontario, it’s compulsory that you have the appropriate Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) training and certifications in order to service and install gas appliances. If you are planning to run a gas line to your outdoor kitchen you will need a permit and a licensed professional. Professionals have the necessary training and knowledge to ensure your family will be safe and that the work is done correctly.
All outdoor electrical outlets need to be GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter), which includes a watertight cover that protects the outlet, and some appliances will require dedicated circuits, like a fridge. Always remember to hire a licensed electrical contracting business when it comes to your electrical work —this is something you don’t want to risk doing wrong.
Plumbing and Water Connections
If your outdoor kitchen includes a sink, then you will need to determine the plumbing and water source. An outdoor sink can connect to your home’s water line or to an outdoor spigot.
If you need to connect to your home line hire a professional plumber to extend the line and make the proper connections. You will likely also require a permit so check with your local building authority.
Outdoor Kitchen Fridges
I recently learnt there are several different types of outdoor fridges. Who knew, right? There are fridges especially designed for beverages (non-alcohol), wine fridges (wines chilled at the perfect temperature), and fridges that are meant specifically for food. What makes them different is their consistent temperatures.
Most outdoor fridges are for beverages and operate between 4 and 10 C (40-50 F). This is great for soft drinks and wine, for example. However, if you plan to store food inside, it should be colder to ensure bacteria won’t grow on your food. Additionally, outdoor-grade fridges need additional insulation and a powerful compressor to keep everything cold, especially during hot summer days. It’s important to also consider the capacity.
The best material for an outdoor fridge is made from high-grade stainless steel because it is tough enough to handle the elements and won’t rust.
NewAge outdoor fridges offer easy-to-use digital thermostat controls, automatic defrosting, and LED lighting. Some fridges even come with fully lockable doors to safeguard contents when not in use, which is great when you have growing little ones that want to explore and get into everything!
Remember, a bar fridge will require a dedicated outlet, and the circuit must be grounded with GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters). Always hire a licensed electrical contracting business for all your electrical needs to avoid the risk of electrical fires or deadly electrical shocks.
Here’s another important thing to note. Refrigerators need good ventilation to keep the components working correctly. Built-in fridges have vents typically in the front bottom allowing you to build it flush to the cabinet or island.
Placing your appliance under a countertop will provide shade and protect the fridge from extreme heat and cold and wet weather. Your outdoor fridge should also be installed away from direct heat sources such as an outdoor stove or grill.
Should You Include A Sink?
Having a sink is not necessary, but it is so convenient. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just needs to be durable, like a stainless-steel one. Even a small bar sink can be useful and it will help clean up messes outside.
I got to check out the NewAge outdoor kitchen sink when I visited their experience centre —and it’s fantastic. The sink offers an extra deep sink that includes a removable sink strainer, and a fold-down faucet making it easy to use the protective cover when not in use. A roll-up drying rack and integrated knife holder provide added convenience for clean-ups.
Before adding a sink to an outdoor kitchen, research your area’s plumbing requirements and building codes.
Outdoor Kitchen Products
No matter how big or small your outdoor kitchen is, cabinetry is essential for keeping things organized and tidy.
The most important thing is to purchase cabinets that are built for the outdoors. As the weather becomes more intense and extreme, you want to choose cabinetry that is high-quality, durable and can hold up well to the cold and sun as well as moisture.
The best weather-resistant cabinets include stainless steel and aluminum.
My dad, brother and I were recently at the NewAge Experience Centre in Toronto, and it was fantastic. One of the NewAge reps showed me some pretty incredible appliances that can be incorporated into an outdoor kitchen.
I was introduced to an amazing-looking kamado-style bbq. They look like big ceramic eggs. The technology behind the Kamado has been around for a long time, but this new version is impressive and looks great too! The ceramic material can reflect and insulate the heat when the lid is shut and the vent openings create a continuous airflow of heat and moisture – creating the ideal cooking environment.
This kamado bbq can grill, smoke, bake, roast and even cook pizzas with the right accessories. I was super impressed! And the best part is that this kamado-style bbq is available in a stand-alone version with a heavy-duty stainless-steel cart and locking casters that allow you to easily and safely move the Kamado around. The cart also comes with two work surfaces for grilling tools or plates.
Let’s face it there are a lot of grills and BBQs on the market and it can get overwhelming but I think it’s always best to invest in quality products with a good warranty. It just makes sense and it also gives you peace of mind knowing that if you do have issues down the line you are covered. Sometimes that’s worth an extra few dollars, especially if you plan on using your grill a lot!
One of the great things about getting a NewAge outdoor kitchen is that they offer a variety of solutions for you to choose from. They offer gas grills that are high quality and come with a 10-year limited warranty. Plus, they come with built-in capabilities as well as stand-alone cart versions to fit your space needs.
But don’t worry, these grills can also be adjusted to fit within existing cabinetry – so you are covered.
And don’t forget about side burners, they are a great feature you should consider. Side burners, power burners or searing stations can make your cooking area more practical and convenient.
I like the double burner; they are great for keeping things warm or par-boiling corn before you put it on the grill. Again, no more running back and forth to the kitchen. And when not in use, they have stainless-steel covers, providing additional counter space.
I was so excited to discover the NewAge pizza oven. My family loves pizza, and we love making our own pizzas —it is great fun for the little ones and adults too!
This pizza oven comes gas-powered with ceramic stones, a warming drawer and a crumb chute and can fit perfectly into a series of Newage cabinets or it can be used in a tabletop or cart-set up, and with illuminated controls, it’s easy and safe to use as dusk rolls in.
Cart models allow for greater flexibility when you have a smaller space. Plus the heavy-duty wheels (two lockable) let you keep your grill secure when in use and mobile when you want to store your grill out of sight.
I’d love to get the NewAge Platinum Pizza Oven, as it’s large enough to cook two pizzas at a time. And they cook fast! 3 minutes! The girls would love it.
Building the Outdoor Kitchen
The other thing you need to think about is where your outdoor kitchen will be. Do you have an existing deck, like I do? Or are you going to lay down patio stones to create the foundation for the outdoor kitchen or will you need a concrete pad?
Check out How to Build the Best Outdoor Kitchen on a Deck
One of the benefits of NewAge outdoor kitchens is that they come pre-assembled. This makes it really easy to install. Remember to ensure your foundation (deck or patio area) is strong enough to support the additional weight for your kitchen.
Features To Consider In An Outdoor Kitchen
There are small details to consider when getting an outdoor kitchen, that will make a big difference when it comes to the day-to-day. Like having soft-close hardware on the cabinet doors and drawers. Heigh-adjustable shelves and extra deep drawers also give you the storage space to organize all your outdoor entertaining essentials.
Plus drawer dividers allow you to organize all your other bar essentials, like serviettes, corkscrews, stir sticks – anything that can make your outdoor bar area shine. There’s also a beverage chilling drawer that can be filled with ice even if you don’t have a bar fridge.
Another great feature of the NewAge cabinets is the garbage pull-outs. I know it’s an added feature in indoor kitchen cabinets but bringing it to the outdoor kitchen set-up is great, keeping all your garbage and recycling organized and tucked away.
Under Cabinet Propane Tank Tray
The under-cabinet propane tank tray is another great feature on their gas fuelled appliances and makes changing your propane tank easy. It even includes a wingnut lock keeps the tank safe and in place.
Maintaining the Outdoor Kitchen
The downside to having an outdoor kitchen is that you have another area of your home to keep clean! Joking aside – like with everything we love – the better we look after it, the longer it will last. So, regular cleaning is essential to keep your outdoor kitchen running smoothly.
Cleaning the Countertops and Surfaces
Wipe down countertops with soapy water frequently, including the cabinetry, countertops, sink, outdoor refrigerator and other stainless steel items.
If you’ve had a large gathering and have a lot of garbage make sure to dispose of it properly to prevent unwanted visitors from feasting on your leftovers.
Keep Your Grill Clean and Free of Residue
After each use, and when the grill is cool, scrub the residue off your grill and wipe it down with a clean cloth. Keep an eye on burners, valves and hoses, and use a stiff brush to clean off the burners.
While you are cooking also pay attention to the flame. A healthy flame on a gas grill should be blue with a yellow tip. If the flame doesn’t look like this it could indicate there is a fuel valve pressure issue and should be checked out right away.
Preparing for Winter
Many homeowners use their grill all year long, however, if you have a gas line and don’t intend on using it over the frigid winter months, you should turn off your gas. If you intend on storing your grill then make sure it is clean and dry and properly protected with a cover.
Unplug your refrigerator and ice maker, remove any items and wipe down with warm soapy water and make sure they are completely dry, before putting the protective cover on.
If you have an outdoor sink – you will need to shut off the water and drain the line, and for extra precaution drain your P-trap, and then cover it with a protective cover.
Sealing and Protecting the Kitchen
No matter how durable your outdoor kitchen is, remember to use extra-tough polyester covers that can handle sun, sleet and snow. In general, you should always cover your outdoor kitchen when it’s not in use – this will protect your cabinets, countertops and appliances from critters and the elements from getting damaged – especially when the temperature goes below freezing.
Adding Lighting and Decorative Features
The one thing that I’ve learnt over the years from my Dad and the many experts we have on our shows is the importance of lighting and how to incorporate “zones”. Zones can be created by using different lighting to create different areas of ambiance.
An outdoor kitchen may require more lighting, while softer lighting may be used in the dining or entertainment area of your outdoor kitchen space. Adding fun lighting, like strings of twinkle lights, or lanterns can add sparkle and fun. As with any lighting plan, a layered approach is always the best.
For more information check out our Outdoor Lighting Guide
Another thing to remember when lighting your outdoor kitchen is to be aware that there are lights specially rated for outdoor use. Wet-rated light fixtures are designed for use in areas that are directly exposed to the elements. Examples of wet-rated lights are wall lights, post lights and motion sensor lights.
There are also damp-rated lights, which are designed for covered areas such as patios, pergolas, or an overhang – any place that is not exposed directly to the rain. Outdoor ceiling lights and hanging lights are damp-rated.
Tip: Remember water and electricity don’t mix. I recommend contacting a Licensed Electrical Contractor to discuss your outdoor kitchen plan. They will review everything and advise what you need. You will also have peace of mind knowing that all your electrical needs will be installed safely and correctly.
I’m so excited for the summer and I can’t wait to start planning my new outdoor kitchen! I know I want all the features and accessories NewAge has to offer but I also know that I may have to plan my outdoor kitchen in stages. Either way, it will be the perfect place to relax and entertain family and friends.