Photo: Napoleon Gourmet Grills Oasis Islands
Now more than ever, people are eager to gather together with friends and family. We can’t think of a better place to hold seasonal soirees than a log or timber home immersed in nature.
But when the party moves outside, all too often the host is sequestered in the kitchen, preparing the food and missing out on the fun.
If you’re like most at-home chefs, you want to be in the mix, too, and we have a solution: A true outdoor kitchen (not just a charcoal hibachi) will allow you to prepare and serve an entire alfresco meal while you enjoy each other’s company — and boost your home’s value and livability at the same time.
So if an outdoor kitchen would be the perfect dressing for your log or timber home recipe, consider these key courses as you cook up your plan.
Photo: Heidi Long
1. First Course: Location.
An outdoor kitchen can be located anywhere on your property, but keep in mind that the farther it is from the house, the longer you’ll have to run gas, water and electrical lines, which will incur additional cost. Also, the more remote it is, the more equipped you will want it to be, including everything from a decent-size refrigerator to silverware to dish soap. (Place it near a swimming pool and you have the perfect spot to chill.)
2. Second Course: Size.
An outdoor kitchen may sound like a dream that’s out of reach, but it doesn’t have to be supersized or over-the-top. Ask yourself several important questions: How many people will cook in the space on a regular basis? Will you host a lot of large parties (meaning a sizable table or bar-top is essential) or will your entertaining be more intimate in nature? An outdoor kitchen should reflect the way you live just as much as the one located inside your log or timber walls. A careful evaluation will help you create a comfortable environment for friends and family and let you pinpoint the scale of the appliances you select.
Photo: Adobe Stock ©Ozgur Coskun
3. Third Course: Materials.
Durability is vital to an outdoor kitchen for obvious reasons. It’s essential to choose outdoor-grade appliances, cabinetry and countertops that will stand up to the elements. Heavy-gauge stainless steel, cedar or cypress wood, wood-composite materials, concrete and granite are all solid options that will hold up with minimal maintenance.
4. Fourth Course: Lighting.
All too often, homeowners don’t consider outdoor lighting closely enough. Exterior lights aren’t simply for safety — use them in layers to create atmosphere, just as you would inside. For an outdoor kitchen, you’ll want task lighting above key cooking areas, like the grill, as well as food-prep spaces, like a counter or sink. Then provide general illumination, such as downlighting hung in trees or suspended from a timber trellis. Accent lights, like tiki torches or string lights will add to the festive mood. And don’t forget to illuminate pathways, decks and patio edges to prevent falls.
5. Fifth Course: Shelter.
At a summer BBQ, it’s not just the meat that may be sizzling — it may be the chef, too. Flipping burgers over a smoking grill while you’re baking under the hot sun is no fun. Give yourself a little solar protection by installing a timber-framed pavilion, a pergola or an extended roof overhang supported by gorgeous log posts (a ceiling fan will help cool things down even further). The addition will protect you as you cook while adding extra patio appeal to your back yard.
Photo: Joseph Hilliard
6. Sixth Course: Creature Comforts.
Extras like wood-burning fireplaces with built-in pizza ovens, smokers, kamado grills, kegerators and wine fridges, full-on gas cooktops and warming drawers are just a few of the culinary luxuries you can build into your outdoor cooking space. Let your amenities reflect your lifestyle. With all the little luxuries you can incorporate into an outdoor kitchen, the one essential you can’t forget is comfortable seating. Whether it’s a full dining table, a picnic bench or a sectional couch surrounded by smaller side tables, be sure you and your guests have a place to enjoy your delicious meal, converse and reconnect.