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The Unique Blog

Tips For Planning the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

Take outdoor cooking to the next level with these kitchen essentials…

One of the best things about summer is being able to cook and dine al fresco… who can resist the aroma of barbecued meat and veggies fresh from the grill? And with people looking to spend more quality time at home, many are taking outdoor cooking to the next level — ditching the solitary grill in favour of a complete outdoor kitchen!

Designing an outdoor kitchen that merges beautifully with your home’s exterior and landscape doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. But with so many options out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

With careful planning, your outdoor kitchen will become a luxurious and sophisticated outdoor living space — a place to bond with family and friends as you gather together to prepare and cook some memorable meals. 

To make it easier, we've put together some tips to help you design your dream outdoor kitchen… so let’s get started!

Before you start… 

Before you start designing your outdoor kitchen — either by yourself or with the help of a professional designer — you should take the time to consider how you plan to use the space, both now and in the future. 

Understanding your personal culinary style and hosting preferences will help take the guesswork out when it comes to choosing the elements to include in your kitchen design. For example, if you’re someone who loves entertaining friends while watching the game, a simple setup that creates a sports bar vibe might be just right for you. But if you’re all about the food you’ll need generous room to prepare and cook your fabulous meals. 

Think about all the features available (I’ll list the most popular options in this post) and decide which ones you’d like to include. If you’re not sure how — or where — to set up your outdoor kitchen, you might want to get the help of a professional designer. 

The designer can help with the configuration and placement of the kitchen, as well as suggest the materials and features that would be best for your lifestyle. The designer will also know where to put the power and water lines, taking future expansion into consideration. 

Best of all, our custom design packages include a 3D rendering of your kitchen, so you’ll know what it’ll look like before it’s built!

Outdoor kitchen essentials

When we design an outdoor kitchen for our clients, we start with the basics — a barbecue, counter, cabinets and drawers. These can be simple or more elaborate, depending on your needs. 

Grills & barbecues — Even the most basic outdoor setup has a barbecue of some description. Different brands have different features, so knowing what you need your grill to do can help make your decision easier. Here are some things to consider before purchasing a barbecue. Weber or Napoleon are popular and trusted brands. 

  • Fuel source — The most common fuel sources for outdoor barbecues are charcoal, propane, and natural gas. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, so choose the one that matches your needs and preference. Charcoal grills give food that beautiful smoky flavour, but they take a long time to heat up. Propane and natural gas are the most popular barbecue options, with natural gas being the clear winner when considering convenience and ease of use.

  • Heat zones — Some barbecues are either “off” or “on”. While you can control the heat somewhat, having a barbecue that lets you control the temperature of different cooking zones is crucial if you’re planning to do more than flip burgers on it. 

  • Accessories — There are all sorts of accessories you can buy to upgrade your grill, including rotisseries, pizza oven attachments and more. If you’re interested in adding all the bells and whistles (either now or in the future) check with the manufacturer to make sure your grill is compatible with the different options.

Kamado grills — I’m sure most of you are familiar with the “big green egg.” It’s a ceramic barbecue that can cook bread, meats and vegetables all in one place. It uses lump charcoal to give you that smoky barbecue taste we all crave.

Cabinets and drawers — Cabinets and drawers add storage and functionality to your outdoor kitchen. Before placing your order there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Choose weather-resistant materials — Make sure the cabinets and drawers are constructed using materials that can withstand the elements, such as stainless steel, marine-grade polymer, or teak. For longevity, avoid materials that can warp, rot, or deteriorate over time.

  • Consider your needs — Decide on the size and configuration of the cabinets and drawers you need to fit your outdoor kitchen layout. Think about what items you will be storing and choose cabinets and drawers that are the appropriate size and shape for the space.

  • Order from a reputable dealer — Look for cabinets and drawers that are high-quality and durable, checking for solid construction, sturdy hinges and drawer slides, and weather-resistant finishes. Make sure your purchase comes with a warranty against defects or other issues.

  • Complement your existing decor — Choose cabinets and drawers that match the style and design of your outdoor kitchen, considering the colour, finish, and hardware options available. 

Customize with special features

There are all sorts of appliances and special features you can add to your outdoor kitchen to make it your own. These are some of the most popular:

  • Refrigerator — Having a refrigerator in your outdoor kitchen means you don't have to keep running back to the house to grab cold drinks, condiments, or other items, making outdoor entertaining more convenient and enjoyable.

  • Wood-fired/gas pizza ovens — Turn your yard into a pizzeria! Have a pizza oven built right in, or add one to your barbecue so you can have fresh pizza whenever the mood strikes you.

  • Wet bars and sinks — Having a sink or wet bar in your outdoor kitchen can make food preparation and cleanup easier, safer and more convenient.

  • Dishwasher — This is a great feature to have, especially if you store your dishes and utensils outside in your cupboards. No need to dash inside to wash them, and dash back out to put them away!

  • Smoker — Smoking food gives it a unique, rich flavor that cannot be replicated by other cooking methods. The slow cooking process and wood smoke add a depth of flavor that can make your food taste amazing.

There are, of course, other features you can add, including ice makers, warming stations, wine coolers, kegerators and more! 

Building your custom kitchen 

Now that you have an idea of what appliances and features you want to include in your outdoor kitchen, it’s time to think about the actual construction. 

At Unique, our teams currently build custom kitchens using precast stone products or natural stone. Both are beautiful and durable, but there are some notable differences.

Precast stone

Precast stone is an alternative to natural stone that is produced in moulds using Portland cement, sand, crushed stone and high quality fine and coarse aggregates. It comes in a wide variety of colours and patterns and is designed to simulate natural cut stone.

  • Cost-effective — Precast stone is generally less expensive than natural stone, making it an affordable option for many projects.

  • Consistent — Because precast stone is manufactured in a controlled environment the colour, texture and finish are more consistent than natural stone. It also weathers in a similar way to natural stone under similar conditions.

  • Customizable — Precast stone can be made to mimic the look and feel of natural stone, but can also be customized in a variety of colours, shapes, and sizes.

Natural stone

“Natural stone” refers to any product that is quarried from the earth, including granite, slate, limestone and sandstone. 

  • Durable — Natural stone is one of the most durable materials on earth. It can stand up to heavy use and adverse weather conditions without being damaged. With proper care and maintenance, it can last for decades, if not centuries!

  • Authentic — Although precast stone comes close, you can’t beat the unique and authentic look and feel natural stone will bring to your project. 

  • Increased property value — Just having an outdoor kitchen in your yard can increase your property’s value… having one made from natural stone pushes the value even further.

Ready to start planning?

I hope this post has inspired you to stop dreaming about an outdoor kitchen and get busy planning one! We’ve designed and built many outdoor kitchens for homeowners in the Hamilton area, and would love help you create yours! Just give us a call or book a consultation to tell us more about you and your project.