When spring and summer hit, there’s no more pleasant place to do your cooking than outdoors on the grill. But many backyard chefs become frustrated with having to run in and out of doors for plates, utensils and other necessities.
The trend in backyard design lately has been to turn decks and patios into outdoor living spaces such as living rooms and, yes, kitchens. Here are six things to keep in mind when transforming your deck into an outdoor kitchen:
1. Start with a strong foundation. An outdoor kitchen will add a lot of extra weight, so make sure your deck or patio is strong enough to support it. (For wood decks, we prefer Port Orford cedar because of its ability to withstand weight.) If you’re building onto an older deck, you may want to have it reinforced.
2. Consider the location. Most people’s decks connect directly to the back of the house, which doesn’t leave a lot of leeway for choosing the ideal spot. But when you’re building an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to look at how the area will be affected by the elements. A little sun exposure is important, but too much can roast your guests. Good air circulation without too much wind is also a major factor. To get the best of both worlds, consider building a cedar pergola over your outdoor kitchen. Not only will it provide partial shade while still allowing sunlight through, but you can hang sheer curtains or bamboo mats from the sides to help block the wind. Plus, it will help define the space and add a touch of elegance.
3. Decide on a budget. Some outdoor kitchens are elaborate affairs, with professional grills, built-in cabinets and all the latest gadegtry. If you think the expense of an outdoor kitchen is out of reach, think again — all you really need is a decent grill, storage for your cooking accessories and a place to keep your drinks cold.
4. Keep safety in mind. Place your grill at least 10 feet away from your house or any other outbuilding. You should also keep it well away from wood, vinyl siding or any other combustible material. It’s also a good idea to place a grill pad or splatter mat under your grill to protect your deck or patio. Always exercise safe grilling practices.
5. Include plenty of seating. It doesn’t matter how expensive your grill is or how elegantly you’ve accessorized your outdoor room. The most important factor in making your outdoor kitchen work is offering an abundance of comfortable seating.
6. Watch the flowers. It’s human nature to want to fill an outdoor space with colorful flowers in spring and summer. But keep in mind that flowers attract bees, which will become a nuisance when you’re trying to eat.
Once you start thinking of your deck as a kitchen, instead of just a place to stick your grill, the possibilities are endless!