Pool & Spa Outdoor Blog

Category: Barbecues & Grills

Barbecues & Grills

Outdoor Kitchen Designs & Options

Building an Outdoor Kitchen: Appliances, Materials, and More







By Patti Plummer


Viking Range LLC outdoor kitchen grill courtyard string lightsMany homeowners believe in utilizing every inch of their backyard space to create the perfect backyard retreat. They include swimming pools and spas, hot tubs, outdoor living rooms, and more often than ever, outdoor kitchens.

From simple grilling stations to fully-equipped setups that include everything from grills, rotisseries, and pizza ovens to refrigerators, beverage chillers, and ice machines, today’s outdoor kitchens can have it all.

Ready to build your own outdoor café? Before contacting a landscape architect or outdoor kitchen expert, make your wish list. Here are a few ideas to get you started.




Photo courtesy of Viking Outdoor Products


Material Options

Outdoor kitchen appliances, cabinets, and countertops continue to grow in sophistication and specialization. The majority of homeowners opt for a simple outdoor kitchen consisting of a grill and a sideburner, but others want all of the bells and whistles including a sink, dishwasher, smokers and flattop grills, granite countertops, all-tile backsplashes, and travertine flooring.

Most outdoor kitchen appliances are stainless steel while countertops and backsplashes are made of natural stone, tile, or concrete. A few of the more popular cabinet materials are heavy-gauge stainless steel, solid marine-grade polymer, teak, cedar, and powder-coated metal made to appear like real wood. By working with a professional outdoor kitchen designer, however, you can transform your wish list into a reality that is in sync with your property.


EP Henry outdoor kitchen grill food fridgeStainless Steal Appliances

The most requested types of appliances are those made of stainless steel because they are durable enough to handle changes in the weather and can hold up to high usage. If your home’s style is more on the rustic side, consider featuring a natural stone or composite façade to add a cozy charm to your setup.


Photo courtesy of EP Henry; Photo by Jay Greene Photography



Carefree Pools thatched roof umbrella outdoor kitchen grillThatched Roof

Many outdoor kitchens are open to the elements, so the addition of a shade product is not only an aesthetic choice but also a practical one. Enjoying a refreshing beverage after hours of fun in the pool can be enhanced by relaxing under the cool shade provided by an umbrella—besides, the chef will welcome a reprieve from the hot sun too! For a tropical theme, consider a thatched roof.


Photo courtesy of Carefree Pools and Spas, San Luis Obispo, Calif



Baker Pools outdoor kitchen breakfast bar grillDining Bar

Besides working as a dining area, outdoor bars can also double as more counter space and be a stylish divider between the kitchen and other parts of the patio. Consider outdoor bar stools for seating. The most common materials include hardwoods like teak, jarrah, and shorea, as well as plastics/acrylics and wrought iron. If the seats are cushioned or covered with fabric, select a cloth that is made for outdoors, like Sunbrella®.

Baker Pools outdoor kitchen bar grill pool
Above and right:
This stunning outdoor kitchen features a barbecue grill, side burners, sink, and refrigerator. The cozy bar is perfect for causal dining and sipping a drink after a dip in the pool. Hanging planters and beautiful landscaping complete this outdoor retreat.


Photo courtesy of Baker Pools, LLC, Jenks, Okla.



Cipriano outdoor kitchen grill ventilation system Ventilation Systems

Nothing beats the wonderful aromas of steaks on the barbecue, but when the wind blows from the wrong direction bringing with it clouds of smoke, your well-planned ambiance can be destroyed in an instant.

By including a ventilation system to keep the surrounding outdoor space fume-free during heavy-duty grilling sessions—especially in outdoor kitchens covered by a roof—you can almost guarantee everyone will enjoy their dining experience a little more.


Photo courtesy of Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools & Landscaping, Mahwah, N.J.




You may also like...
6 Types of Barbecue Grills >>
Top 10 Pool Outdoor Entertaining Essentials >>
5 Summer Desserts on the Grill>>
Homeowners Design the Perfect Backyard Retreat >>

Top 10 Outdoor Entertaining Essentials

Must-have Items for Entertaining Outdoors


1. Grill

You can’t have a backyard party without a barbecue grill. Today’s grill units come in a variety of sizes and offer built-in storage and prep space to minimize the hassle of trips indoors. Many also feature accessories such as rotisseries, warming plates, and side burners for diverse cooking methods.

Weber Summit Grill Center

For a list of leading grill manufacturers and resources, visit our Outdoor Kitchens & Grills Buyers’ Guide.


Photo courtesy of 2011 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Used with Permission



2. Grilling Tools & Accessories

Every grill master needs to have a good set of grilling tools, especially when cooking for a large crowd. The three main grilling utensils: a spatula for flipping burgers and positioning food; a pair of tongs for gripping meats and vegetables; a fork for piercing and turning meats. Look for grilling tools with long handles to protect your hands from the heat.

Weber Grill Accessories
Photo courtesy of 2011 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Used with Permission


Another important grilling tool to have on hand is an instant-read meat thermometer. This will take the guesswork out of cooking and ensure that meat, poultry, and other cooked foods have reached a safe internal temperature.

Digital Meat Thermometer
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com



3. Outdoor Dinnerware and Glassware

If you typically resort to disposable paper plates and red plastic cups for your outdoor affairs, consider investing in outdoor dinnerware and glassware made from hard plastics like melamine or acrylic. These worry-free options are durable, lightweight, and environmentally-friendly because they can be washed and reused. They also come in an array of vibrant summer colors and patterns just like your indoor tableware.  

Melamine Outdoor Dinnerware
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com

A large, self-serve beverage dispenser makes it easy to serve a big group of people and will also cut down on waste like empty water bottles and soda cans. Use it to serve homemade iced tea, lemonade, or a fruity summer drink.

340-ounce Beverage Dispenser
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com



4. Outdoor Serving Items

It’s important to serve food outdoors when entertaining in your backyard. This eliminates the hassle of running inside to grab additional food items and also keeps guests from having to make trips in and out of the house—often with dirty shoes or wet feet—to grab food or supplies. The type of outdoor serving items you’ll need will depend on the number of people you plan to entertain and the type of food you’ll be serving. 

 

An outdoor extension table is a great item to have when entertaining because it allows you to easily adjust the table size to your needs. Extend the table for additional seating during larger gatherings or fold down the leaf when space is limited.

Outdoor Extenstion Table
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com

A fold out bar can come in handy if you regularly entertain outdoors or host large parties. It offers both countertop space for serving food and/or beverages and storage space underneath for essentials like glassware, dishes, utensils, or other supplies you might want to have on hand.

Royal Tahiti Outdoor Folding Bar
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com

For smaller outdoor gatherings, a portable patio cart can keep supplies within reach. Stock it with dishes, utensils, ice, paper towels, condiments, and other necessities. When the party is over it can be used for easy clean-up: just load it up with dirty dishes and wheel it back inside.  


Outdoor Patio Cart
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com




5. Insect Control


When eating and entertaining outdoors it’s expected that a number of mosquitos and insects will be flying around. Keep bugs away from food by keeping it in covered storage containers or under mesh food tents. Umbrella drink covers will prevent insects and debris from getting in beverages and will also help guests keep track of their drinks.

Place citronella candles on outdoor dining tables to repel pests while guests enjoy their food. Set citronella tiki torches or mosquito lamps around seating and social areas for added protection at night. See more tips on bug protection.

Candles around Outdoor Patio
Photo courtesy of Gasper Landscape Design & Construction; Photography by Rob Cardillo




6. Backyard Shade Products


Make sure you have enough shade for your guests so that they don’t get uncomfortably hot and retreat indoors. Table and freestanding patio umbrellas offer relief from the burning sun while guests eat and socialize. Some patio umbrellas can be tilted and turned with the movement of the sun to provide optimal shade throughout the day.


Green Cantilever Outdoor Umbrelle

Photo courtesy of Overstock.com


You can also keep guests cool and comfortable with a pop-up canopy or tent. These come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit any outdoor entertaining space. A pop-up canopy or tent can also be used to keep food out of the sun and offers protection from an unexpected rain shower.

Outdoor Party Tent Canopy
Photo courtesy of Hayneedle.com



7. Music & Outdoor Stereo Systems


Music helps set the tone for any party, indoors or out. There are a variety of ways to add acoustics to your backyard get-together. Wireless docking stations for MP3 players and iPods can easily be set out on a table or by the pool. These systems are convenient for outdoor parties, but they are not weatherproof so be sure to look for models that include a splash-proof plastic covering to protect your iPod or MP3 player.

Wireless Music Dock for iPod or MP3 player


Another option is to hook up your indoor stereo system to outdoor speakers. Weather-resistant outdoor speakers can withstand the elements, such as sun, rain, and temperature changes and come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and designs. You can select from outdoor speakers that are mounted to a wall or pillar, freestanding speakers that can be placed around the yard, landscape speakers that are installed inground, and wireless speakers that are disguised as rocks, lights, or planters to blend with the surrounding scenery.


Outdoor Planter Speaker_OSD Audio
Photos courtesy of OSD Audio, Stereostone, Inc and Etón Corporation



8. Outdoor Seating

It’s important to provide ample seating for your party guests so that they are comfortable. While you could invest in additional outdoor furniture like patio chairs, loungers, and sofas, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to add extra seating when entertaining outdoors.

Folding chairs, ottomans, and even beach chairs work well around the pool area or a fire pit. An outdoor storage bench or cooler can easily double as a seat when you place a cushion or a few pillows on top.

White Adirondack Beach Chair Montego Bay Deck Box
Photos courtesy of Overstock.com


A large blanket or outdoor rug spread out on the lawn offers a simple place for guests to relax and catch up; it can also designate a play/picnic area for the kids. And remember that a retaining wall easily provides a comfortable spot for guests to perch or set down their food and drink.

Outdoor Rug_Natural Terracotta Ashlar Pattern Retaining Wall
Photo courtesy of Overstock.com; Photo courtesy of Red River Hardscapes



9. Outdoor Lighting


A backyard party in the summer is sure to extend into the night, which makes lighting an essential outdoor entertaining element. Outdoor lighting not only keeps the backyard safe as sunlight withdraws, but also adds ambiance and makes an outdoor setting feel more cozy and inviting at night.

String lights add festive sparkle to a pergola, gazebo, or umbrella and help highlight dining/social areas for guests. Tiki torches and path lights can be placed around the patio or pool to help illuminate dark corners and designate walkways. Lanterns and candles are great for table tops and help create a more intimate atmosphere. Additionally, an outdoor fire pit provides both light and warmth to keep guests comfortable on cool summer nights. It also creates a prime gathering spot for conversation.

Pergola with String Lights

Photo courtesy of The Outdoor GreatRoom Company




10. Outdoor Games

Having a mix of outdoor games set up around the yard will keep everyone entertained throughout the day and ensure your guests have a good time at your party. There is a wide selection of outdoor games to choose from, but it’s important to pick ones that are suited for the various age groups of your guests. Lawn games like horseshoes, ladder ball, washers, and bag toss are easy to play and require little equipment and space. These games can also be played in teams, which is a great way for guests to mingle if they don’t know each other well.

Washer Toss Lawn Game Ladder Toss Lawn Game
Photos courtesy of Hayneedle.com


A variety of games and activities can also be played in the swimming pool. Get a group of people involved in some friendly competition with a volleyball or basketball net or keep things small with a floating Ping-Pong table or poker table.

If you’ll be spending Labor Day poolside, check out these fun pool games for kids.



6 Types of Barbecue Grills

By Patti Plummer

Today’s barbecues and grills are sophisticated tools that allow homeowners to prepare full course meals totally outdoors. From the urban griller who uses the compact efficiency of a hibachi to the master chef who uses the talents of high-tech equipment made of stainless steel, there are a variety of types that fit every kind of cooking style. Here are 6 main types:  

• Gas Grill: Popular with most outdoor chefs, these grills run on natural gas or propane and are excellent for all types of cooking. Many units feature side burners, woks, smoke boxes, rotisseries, and other accessories.

• Infrared Grill: Ignited by propane or natural gas, these grills utilize a superheated ceramic tile to cook. Reaching 900 degrees F, an infrared grill is perfect for searing food quickly. 

• Charcoal Grill: Purists choose charcoal because it allows them to cook low and slow.  Traditional briquettes or all-natural lump charcoal are the preferred sources of fuel.

• Pellet Grill: Fueled by compressed hardwood pellets made of hickory, oak, or mesquite to name a few, this type of grill is great for slow cooking meat. 

• Ceramic Cooker: Based on a design from 3,000 years ago but built using space-age materials, these cookers effectively retain heat and moisture and can grill, smoke, and barbecue.

• Hybrids: Combining the convenience of gas and the cooking techniques and flavor of charcoal, these grills offer the best of both worlds.


Ready to check out the latest grill models and compare brands? Visit our Outdoor Kitchens & Grills Buyers' Guide for a list of grill companies and where to buy.

Photo courtesy of RH Peterson Co.; Photograph by Steve Pollock Studios

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