How to create your own backyard oasis

We have welcomed warmer weather here in the northeast and daydreams of backyard living and entertaining are finally here.

An outdoor kitchen not only extends your living space, it is the height of luxury for entertaining friends and family. Whether you are looking for a sleek stainless steel cooking area or a full kitchen complete with pizza oven and tepanaki grill, having a plan will get you on your way to a fabulous outdoor space. There is more to designing an outdoor kitchen than building walls and adding cabinets. It is no different than designing a kitchen for inside the home.

Here are my pro tips when designing your outdoor kitchen

Location, location, location.

Consider where you will be placing your kitchen. It should fit in with the surrounding landscape and complement your homes exterior colors and textures. The kitchen should be convenient to the main house for all entertaining. The sun is another important consideration. Will your guests be in direct sun or is the seating in a shady spot?

Appliances: Make a list and check it twice.

Think about the types of appliances you want to build in to the kitchen. There are so many choices from cooking to cooling to clean up. Here are some appliance options.

Cooking:

Grills and smokers are the most popular cooking appliances. Many grills have side burners for cooking sauces and side dishes. More elaborate kitchens have multiple burners for larger cooking adventures. Not much of a meat eater? How about a pizza oven (it cooks more than just pizza).  A tepanaki grill is perfect for vegetables or seafood.

Refrigeration:

A small refrigerator is perfect for keeping meats and sides cooled and right at your fingertips. Having drinks chilled outside is not only convenient but keeps you and your guests from constantly going in and out of the house. Built in kegerators are not just for beer. Add a second tap for root beer for the designated drivers. Ice makers are another option if you go through a lot of ice.

Clean up:

Don’t forget the sink.  A water source is great while preparing meals and for the clean up too. Outdoor dishwashers are the ultimate luxury especially if you; like my hubby, prefer to eat on china plates.

Materials:

Not all cabinets are created equal. Most outdoor kitchens use stainless steel cabinets. Make sure that they are all-weather friendly, can be hosed down for cleaning and will stand up to your region’s weather conditions as well as the heat from the cooking appliances. High quality cabinets are truly water proof which prevents mold and mildew from developing. The best cabinets are made from marine grade materials. If the kitchen will be under a roof, more cabinet options such as teak are available. For counter tops I prefer a leathered or flamed granite. It will handle the weather and outdoor conditions the best.

Lighting:

Just like indoor kitchens, lighting is an important design detail. Once the sun goes down, you will need good lighting for cooking as well as creating ambiance. A ceiling fan with a light will provide illumination and help keep bugs away. In order to make sure your food is cooked correctly, a light above the grilling area is a must. If you have wall cabinets, install under cabinet lighting. Pendants over the eating bar are decorative and provide light but will attract spider webs, so keep a duster handy. Strings of Edison lights are a pretty alternative to built in lighting. Make sure all of the lighting is approved for damp outdoor use and install dimmers if possible. Walkways should also have proper illumination.

Extending the entertaining seasons:

One of the great benefits of an outdoor kitchen is that it extends your living and entertaining space. Make the most of this additional space by planning for shade, shelter, and warmth. In the hot summer months, a shaded kitchen means that cooking and entertaining are more pleasant. To provide shade and shelter, plant some nearby trees or incorporate an awning or pergola in the design. For seating areas, consider a patio umbrella. You’ll also want to plan for cooler temperatures. Fire-pits or outdoor heaters that you can gather around make a cozy retreat when the temperatures start to chill. Here in the northeast don’t forget to winterize your appliances.

For more great ideas visit my favorite gourmet outdoor kitchen source Kalamazoo Gourmet 

Happy outdoor entertaining!

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