Outdoor Kitchens, what’s up with that?


For some of us it may seem funny that some Americans are spending a lot of money on building an outdoor kitchen. I mean doesn’t a kitchen go in the house?Outdoor kitchen

Welcome to a hot new trend in outdoor entertaining, the old “Put a shrimp on the barbie” joke now might say “Put a shrimp on the barbie, the chicken in the smoker and turn off the sauté burner”. Outdoor kitchens from the West coast to the Midwest and all the way to Bangor, Maine are being installed. Its the latest cooking fad and people are jumping on to party. Viking appliances is leading the charge with their complete line of outdoor cooking gear and you can expect to pay from $10,000 to $250,000 or more depending on what you want done. Here in Minnesota we have long cold winters but when it warms up outside we go outside.

Here’s a couple of articles by 2 well known and talented kitchen designers on outdoor kitchens.

First is Kathie Maughan who’s Livin’ the Dream in Oregon.

Kathie MaughanAs a native Oregonian, I’m too familiar with the old joke that it’s either raining, about to rain, or it just finished raining here. So, you might not think my kitchen and bath firm would get much call to design outdoor kitchens. But back-yard entertaining has siren appeal, and I’ve enjoyed the chance to design a few, even in rain-rinsed Portland. If you’re dreaming of creating your own kitchen-away-from- the -kitchen, here are a few things to ponder as you plan:

Don’t go too far. All other considerations being equal, plan to put the kitchen near the house. Even if you are fully outfitting a second command-central. Even if a great view – or the pool house – is across the yard. Not only will it cost less to hook up to your existing utilities, you will still be running for stuff from the main kitchen several times an evening – from an extra serving-platter to more ketchup. The shorter that trip back and forth, the more often you will look out at your blooming Rhododendrons and decide they are worth the effort to go cook alongside.

Oregon Outdoor Kitchen
Oregon Outdoor Kitchen

Plan separate cooking and serving areas. An outdoor kitchen is used differently than an indoor kitchen. It should be laid out differently, too. Make sure you have a tight cook’s domain, with handy storage and plenty of prep space. Consider placing the grill at right angles to the main seating so the cook’s back won’t be turned to guests. Then set up one or two service areas away from the cook. Provide ample counter space at these areas for buffet style serving, and include beverages and ice. These separate locations will keep traffic flowing smoothly while the cook is dedicated to the grill, searing steaks to perfection.

Think flexible seating. Providing for a variety of party sizes is a good move. Encourage mingling at large gatherings by scattering tables in smaller groups. Include a mix of tall café-style tables, and small round and square tables – and enjoy the subtle energy that adds to the ambiance. For smaller or more familiar gatherings, making room to pull several tables into one, family-style spread. Plan non-table seating as well, such as benches or wide planter boxes along the area’s perimeter, and allow room at railings for people to stand as they gaze or chat. Also – consider what your guests will see from their seated perspective. Designing a terraced patio or multi-level deck can allow railings or perimeter planters to be set below eye level for unobstructed views.

Extend the season. It’s easy to picture cooking outdoors on a classic summer day. But don’t discount enjoying the first wet day of spring, or the blazing fall colors that way, too. To get the most out of your project, take a transitional approach to your basic plan:

Plan an open room with a roof overhead, so you can enjoy a brief rain shower without running for cover.

Consider the direction of seasonal winds and plan movable screens or a double trellis as a windbreak.

Include an outdoor fireplace or fire-pit to gather around, or incorporate a space heater to lift the temperature a little as the sun sets.

Off-season outdoor cooking can be an unexpected pleasure. Picture driving a convertible with the top down on an October day. The wind chills your cheeks just a bit, but the warmth from the heater blankets your arms and feet. The balance is enlivening and delicious – in fact, just what an afternoon outdoors is supposed to be! Portland Kitchen Design

Carol MorisseauNext writer- designer is Carol Morisseau from California

Are You Considering An Outdoor Kitchen?

A great outdoor kitchen starts with basic planning. To start off, here are some of the most important questions you should be asking:

Can you add a natural gas line?

Do you wish to keep it simple and plan for expansion in future years or do it all at once?

Can you add water supply lines and a drain?

Will you need electrical access?

Outdoor kitchens can range from a barbeque and a weather-resistant cabinet with a non-porous countertop, to full outdoor kitchens with a bar fridge, sink, barbecue, prep and storage space, a dishwasher and a warming drawer.


California Outdoor Kitchen
California Outdoor Kitchen

Location is of prime importance. What we want to avoid is the “smoke gets in your eyes” dance, which means you need to consider where your guests are seated (unless you don’t like them.) You also want to look at wind, sun, rain, and shade. What is the time of the day will be barbequing? Will your guests need an umbrella or trellis for shade? If your back yard or lot gets a lot of wind, is there a place for a fence or wall?


A simple barbeque set-up would start with a quality barbeque. Yes, there is a huge difference in cooking; the burners are a much better quality and it is easier to regulate the temperature. Check the rotisserie; a good motor will rotate the food more evenly and an additional counter balance weight will offset the heaviest part of a roast.

Consider the lowly thermometer

Another accessory on the “must have” list is an excellent thermometer. Not the grocery store variety, but the rather expensive fold-up probe type that is calibrated, like a Thermapen thermometer (www.thermoworks.com) This is used by a number of professional chefs and will give you an instant totally accurate temperature for your steaks, chops and roasts.

Cabinets and Countertops

Stainless steel is the current preferred material of choice for storage cabinets and outdoor appliances. One 30” or 36” wide cabinet would be basic and give you storage for platters, chopping blocks, barbeque tools and pot holders. Keep in mind some storage for the supplies to keep your prep and cooking area clean. A countertop could be a single granite remnant, sealed periodically with a good sealer with UV protection. Other materials could be outdoor ceramic and porcelain tile or stone tile. The entire outdoor kitchen may be built into cinder block, stucco, cement, brick or stone instead of remaining free-standing units.

Appliances and other toys

As this market grows, the sky’s the limit for choices – everything from bar fridges, full kitchens, warming drawers, beer dispensers, outdoor lights – you name it. Very upscale outdoor kitchens can include a fireplace, covered area, build-in warming lights, music, a well-executed lighting plan, and more. The design principles of an outdoor kitchen work like any basic kitchen design with zones for prep, storage, cooking, serving and cleanup. Think of time motion studies and the proximity of food, dishes and any other supplies required. Do a walk-though of your design before it’s done by mentally cooking one of your favorite dishes.

Consumers have discovered this is a great way to entertain family and friends in a very relaxed casual atmosphere. After all, who doesn’t enjoy good food, good company, and the outdoors?

By Carol Morisseau

You can contact Carol or her designing daughter Kelly at Main Street Kitchens

Outdoor Courtyard
Outdoor Courtyard

So who makes this stuff? From simple gas grills to all the smokers and ovens we buy Viking Appliances. The same people that put the Jazz into your indoor kitchens. We get our Viking products from MJ”s Contract Appliances , the Twin Cities best source for Outdoor Kitchen Appliances.

See you outside!


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