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Your guide to outdoor kitchens, kitchen benchtops, kitchens planning and  kitchen benchtop ideas, advice, suppliers and manufacturers

Outdoor or Outside Kitchen



Few summer pleasures are as much fun as a barbecue. The smell of grilling food stirs the appetite, everything tastes great and it's hard not to have a good time - that is, unless you're the harried host running back and forth between the grill and the kitchen for the chicken and steak, forks and knives, beer and wine, and ketchup and mustard. Not to mention the cleaning up afterwards!

An outdoor kitchen can help you slow down and spend more time with family and friends by putting all the ingredients for outdoor dining close at hand. It can be as simple as a storage cabinet for cooking gear or as ambitious as a full kitchen with grill, refrigerator, sink and eating area. Either way, your patio or deck will be a more versatile outdoor "room" that's a natural gathering spot.


What to Include
An outdoor kitchens cost could cost as little as a few hundred dollars for a good-quality grill or barbeque, a benchtop and storage cabinet, to over $10,000 for one with all the toys. Although it's tempting to compare outdoor kitchens to the one indoors, there are some important differences.

For example, while a grill and benchtop for preparing food are essential, a refrigerator and sink aren't. But including them can boost the value of your home by helping your outdoor kitchen qualify as a second kitchen. And though indoor-kitchen design includes a raft of rules and caveats, outdoor-kitchen designs are much more casual.

How elaborate should yours be? That depends on what you and your family need. For example, if you barbecue only once a week or so, a grill and a counter-high storage cabinet covered with tile or stucco should do it. The cabinet will protect supplies from the weather and the countertop will provide work space when you get down to cooking.

Like to eat outside as much as possible? Then you'll want storage space and a benchtop or table for dining, along with a sink and refrigerator.


Planning Your Space
An existing backyard patio is a great foundation for an outdoor kitchen. You can add a grill, benchtops and other elements without having to make structural modifications. Decks, on the other hand, require additional support for all but the simplest of outdoor kitchens.

Whichever route you choose, an outdoor kitchen should be near the house to save you steps when you need to go inside for supplies. But that doesn't mean it has to be visible from the house. fter all, you don't want to be inside look out at a stack of dirty dishes, though under-bench shelves that keep dishes out of sight until cleanup time are one way around that problem.

Also be sure the spot you choose will accommodate everything you want the kitchen to hold. Here are some typical space requirements for each component:

Grills & Barbeques. You'll find grills with cooking areas from 600mm to about 1200mm wide and 350mm to 600mm deep. You can also add a side burner or shelf, each of which can add another 300mm or so to the width. Whichever grill you choose, place it so smoke blows away from people eating, and notinto the house!.

Eating areas. Outdoor Tables typically range from those that can seat four to those that seat up to 10 in reasonable comfort. people. Allow at least 1000mm and preferably 1200mm between the edge of the table and a wall, deck railing or other fixed object so there's room to walk behind those seated. For safety's sake, place tables at least 1500mm from stairs, even if the eating area is just one level up.

For benchtops with high stools, provide at least 600mm. of bench width for each stool. Also plan on 300mm of under-bench leg room.

Bench space. You'll need plenty of open benchtop space to prepare food and serve as a holding area for a variety of items, so don't skimp. As with indoor kitchens, plan on 1000mm in. of counter on each side of the grill if possible. And to make food prep and cleanup easier, allow 400 to 800mm of open space on both sides of a sink.

Layout. Because the grill is the heart of any barbeque, build your outdoor kitchen around it. Then arrange the items in the kitchen so they're easy to reach when you're cooking. Don't forget hooks for hanging tongs, spatulas, forks and other grilling utensils. If you include a sink, refrigerator and storage cabinet, they should all be close to each other. But they don't have to be arranged in the indoor-kitchen work triangle that ties the stove, refrigerator and sink together.

One functional layout to consider: Place a benchtop opposite the grill, creating a mini-galley or U-shaped kitchen. This setup is not only efficient, but it also keeps kids and other traffic out of the work area. Barriers that keep children away from the grill are a plus.

Choosing a Grill
The main grill types are charcoal and gas. Charcoal units range from $80 to $500. Those at the high end include work shelves, charcoal-storage areas and auto ignition systems.

Gas units offer more advantages. Many can be built into an incombustible surround for a more permanent appearance. They also provide greater control over cooking temperatures.

Good-quality gas grills start at about $300 and top out in the $4,000 range. That's a big spread, but you can narrow it once you determine what you need. Remember, the price of a grill rises as the size of the cooking surface, BTU output and extras increase.

Even for $300, expect a generous cooking surface and 22,000 Btu of cooking power. That compares with 10,000 to 12,000 Btu for the typical indoor range or cooktop. Grills in this price category come in a wooden or aluminum housing attached to a portable cart.

What do you get for $4,000? A built-in unit that pumps out 60,000 Btu, has more than generous cooking surfaces and such conveniences as side burners and a built-in rotisserie. Also expect a stronger, more durable stainless-steel housing.

For built-in grills, you'll need a surround. If you choose one made of combustible material, make sure the grill is designed for zero-clearance installations where it can touch the surround safely. Or, include a stainless-steel sleeve in your plans. Sleeves are available from grill manufacturers.

Whichever grill you choose, you'll get the best deals by shopping for one at the very end of the barbeque season or just before it starts.

A Short Run
The side of the house can be an ideal location for an outdoor kitchen. There's no need to excavate trenches for gas and electricity lines, and the house itself provides some shelter for the appliances. And when yard space is at a premium, an open space along the wall of the house might be the only spot available for a permanent kitchen.

Going All the Way
If you routinely entertain large groups, consider these elements when creating an elaborate outdoor kitchen now or adding components along the way:

Storage cabinets. Many custom cabinet bases are made of masonry block and then finished with stucco or ceramic tile. Cabinets like these are rock-solid and weatherproof and fit in nicely with other landscape elements. The downside is cost. DIY enthusiasts will enjoy making their own from treated outdoor ply and good quality outdoor hinges and door furniture.

Sinks. Stainless-steel sinks are the obvious choice here because they won't corrode. They start at about $150. Unless you plan on washing dishes outside, you'll only need a cold-water supply. And in cold-weather areas, install a shutoff valve inside the house so you can drain the pipe for winter.

Refrigerators. Under-bench units are popular for outdoor kitchens. They're out of sight, protected by the counter and handy for storage. In colder areas, disconnect the refrigerator and store it inside during the winter.

Cold-weather cooking. Even in chilly areas, you can extend the cooking season with a gas patio heater. Marketed by all the DIY sheds, these heaters look like 8-ft.-high light fixtures and produce a 20-ft. circle of heated air around theml. Either portable or set in concrete, they include a number of settings. An 8.75Kg LPG tank, hidden in the heater base, can provide up to 10 hours of heat.

Power requirements. Electric, water and town gas pipes are usually brought to the outdoor kitchen from the service in the house. Besides providing power for the kitchen lights and refrigerator, electric outlets should be included in plans for the cooking and dining areas. (Outdoor outlets require RCD circuit interrupters.) Check local regulations on burying electric cable and gas pipes. In many areas, the two must be buried in separate trenches, though some areas require only that the two be separated. Ask your building inspector to explain what's needed.



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