Equip an area for alfresco cooking and dining year round.
Take the living outside and set up alfresco food preparation and dining areas.
OUTDOOR KITCHENS are definitely on the hot list for gardens right now. Whether you’re a pizza oven aficionado, barbeque nut or simply don’t have a big enough cooking space inside your house, most of us would agree that cooking outside is much more pleasant than being stuck inside four walls with food smells wafting around. So why not make the process more efficient and enjoyable with the right equipment? Maybe it’s that caveman instinct coming to the fore, but men seem to particularly enjoy demonstrating their culinary skills outdoors, even more so when there’s a flash barbeque, oven, fridge and bench to work with.
WHAT’S IT FOR?
Before investing in appliances or fixtures, first clarify your overall aim. Is it simply to cook outside without continual trips inside for drinks, cutlery and plates? Are you a passionate foodie and want to produce gourmet dishes while you enjoy the garden? Will you be cooking mainly for the family, small groups or large gatherings? This will not only help determine the size of your barbeque or outdoor oven, but also the degree of prepping space, storage and seating you require. Do you need an outdoor fridge for beer and wine? Even if you’re mainly catering to kids or teens, cold drinks are always in demand.
To get the maximum use out of your outdoor kitchen, try to make it useable all year round. This means creating shelter from wind, sun and rain with screens and overhead canopies, especially for the cook
(avoid combustible materials over the barbeque or outdoor oven, though!). Having a barbeque on castor wheels so it can be moved to a more sheltered spot in winter is also a good idea. Patio heaters or an outdoor fireplace will help to extend your use of the space throughout the cooler months of the year.
What do you like to cook? One advantage of having an outdoor kitchen is that you can supplement the existing cooking appliances you have inside. Barbeques are the obvious choice, but you can also opt for outdoor ovens for pizza, bread, meat – even cakes – as well as rotisseries, smokers, wok burners and teppanyaki plates.
Deciding where to put the outdoor kitchen is obvious if you have an existing outdoor entertaining area. If not, then easy access to it from your indoor kitchen is key. Not only will this minimise running in and out between the two, it will also cost less to connect to existing utilities such as power, gas and water. However, this may not be possible with steep sites or where the view, sun or amenities (such as a pool) are not close to the house. In this case, rather than it being used as a supplementary cooking space, the outdoor kitchen will need to be equipped as a stand-alone entity with plenty of storage and prepping space.
If indoor and outdoor kitchens are going to be close to each other, think about a design that allows the two to merge seamlessly to create one large, fabulous entertaining area when you open the doors – a great option if your inside kitchen is quite small. For a really stunning effect, try to use materials and detailing that complement or repeat those inside the house: benchtops, door hardware and cabinetry, for instance.
“Generally the same principles apply for kitchens outdoors as they do indoors.”
DRAW UP A PLAN
Once you’ve got the basic structure and size of your outdoor kitchen mapped out, you can then start looking at its functional layout.
Generally the same principles apply for kitchens outdoors as they do for indoors, with the size, position and proximity of cold areas (refrigeration), hot areas (barbeques, ovens and cooktops), wet areas (sinks) and dry areas (prep benches and storage) all designed for maximum efficiency.
One simple approach is to divide the outdoor kitchen into three main zones: preparation, cooking and serving. But if you’re still unsure, talk to a kitchen designer. The relationship between your indoor and outdoor kitchens should also be considered in the design. Will you use them together or separately when entertaining or cooking? Will the foot traffic flow between them work efficiently?
7 LIGHT UP
Good light is essential when cooking outside. Go for some form of directional task lighting over the cooking and prep areas, but make sure it won’t shine too brightly onto the outdoor dining area.
TOUGH AND LONG-LASTING
Durability is essential for anything used outdoors, so it’s an important consideration in choosing the fittings and materials for your kitchen. Even stainless-steel barbeques will eventually corrode in coastal locations, but using protective covers will increase their longevity.
Keep the maintenance workload down by choosing hard-wearing materials in your outdoor kitchen, and remember that cabinetry and benches will need to be weather-resistant unless they are in a protected area.
Choose grease-resistant materials for benches, and coat decking, concrete, stone or paving stones with sealant to avoid food stains. Slippery flooring materials such as tiles are not ideal in outdoor cooking areas. And in locations where the weather gets very cold, avoid tiled splashbacks or benches, as these can crack in heavy frosts.
Use a butcher’s block for food preparation and serving.
Adjoining the kitchens will create a seamless flow.