There’s nothing like the atmosphere of an outdoor dinner party as the sun sets. An ordinary meal becomes almost magical when served in an outdoor living area under the stars. Soft breezes and chirping crickets serve as the perfect backdrop for fun gatherings and great conversation. To ensure you will be entertaining your friends with ease it’s important not to forget the 5 most important elements critical to well functioning outdoor kitchens.

Whether your new outdoor living space is large or small, rustic or contemporary, don’t make these common mistakes:

1. Forgetting to Purchase Storage for Outdoor Kitchens

With indoor kitchens everything needed is within a few steps. Pots, pans, and utensils are neatly tucked away in drawers or cabinets that are within easy reach of the cooking area. Staples and dry goods fill overhead cabinets and perishable foods are kept at a safe temperature in a large refrigerator. The ideal kitchen constructed for outdoor living space should include all the same great storage that’s needed for kitchen equipment and food.

Including Dry Storage: Dry storage is important for items that are staples in outdoor kitchens. Long-handled spatulas, frequently used cookware, serving platters and bowls, grill brushes, and cleaning supplies swill need to be stored in clean dry cabinets that protect them from moisture and dirt. For quick and easy cooking these items should be in close proximity to the main cooking area. Air tight cabinet space for nonperishable foods that are used frequently, such as drinks, spices and canned foods is also great to have.

Including Cold Storage:  Cold storage can be used to hold meat, poultry or fish, or to keep beverages chilled. Perishable foods must be stored at temperatures under 40 degrees. Cold storage can be achieved with an under counter refrigerator that is not only attractive but weather resistant.

Outdoor Kitchen Storage Space

2. Not Enough Food Prep Space

Counter space is critical to well-functioning outdoor kitchens. You’ll need at last 3 feet of 24 -inch wide counter space adjacent to each cooking area. In addition to being weatherproof, a functional counter must be heat resistant and easy to clean.

If you have the room and the budget, install a large sink with cold running water and a drain for washing produce or filling stockpots. If your budget is limited, purchase a modular unit that includes a sink, counter, and storage cabinet. Hook-up requires attaching a food-grade hose for water and a basin to catch the drain water. A more permanent solution is a fully plumbed sink draining into your home’s drainage system. In climates where temperatures drop below freezing, you’ll definitely need a way to drain the system to prevent burst pipes.

Outdoor Kitchen Counter Space

3. Installing a Grill That’s Too Small

The heart of the outdoor kitchen is of course the grill. Traditionalists love the flavor imparted by charcoal, but many homeowners realize after it’s too late that you can’t beat the convenience of natural gas. Whichever choice you make, it’s critical to make sure your new grill will have the capacity, power and accessories to handle the type of cooking you need to do. Keep in mind that bigger is usually better. A grill that’s too small cannot be easily changed after your outdoor living space is finished. If you’re not sure it’s better to go with a larger grill. You’ll be glad. A nice big BBQ offers lots of surface area and will throw off plenty of heat for quickly grilling large amounts of food for big groups.

If you are considering adding other cooking appliances, carefully consider the best placement. A side burner should be close to the grill, but not immediately adjacent if possible. Smokers, fire pits, and wood-fired ovens are best located a bit away from the general flow of traffic so that their smoke and fumes don’t irritate guests.

Outdoor Kitchen Grill

4. Scrimping on Space to Save Money

Nothing is worse for entertaining than too many people and not enough space. The perfect amount of space needed for the dining area depends on how many guests you will need to accommodate for. For an intimate family meal with two or four people, a 12×12 foot space is all that’s needed. But for most homeowners, a 12×20-foot space is much better. This will provide you with enough room for a patio table and chairs, while leaving ample space for some extra seating and traffic flow. Walking areas should be at least 3 feet wide to avoid bottlenecks. The path from the dinner table to the buffet and to the house should be direct and easy to navigate.

Decks can accommodate a table and chairs, but a patio is a better choice if you have the option. Chair legs can get caught easily in the gaps between deck boards. Decks also can become slippery when wet. A well-built patio provides a relatively smooth surface and should drain quickly after a hard rain.

If your yard doesn’t have room for a table or you want something more conducive to conversations with the cook, include a snack bar near the grilling station. The cooking areas should not be on the same level as the bar to avoid any risk of burning your guests or enveloping them in smoke. It also makes sense to have the grill separated from the dining table for the same reason. High heat, smoke and moisture created by a blazing grill are good reasons to consider strong summer winds when you plan your kitchen.

5. Forgetting What’s Needed for Cleanup

The perfectly designed outdoor  kitchen must consider all aspects needed for the cleaning of dirty plates, utensils, pots and pans. A great outdoor kitchen design should include access to hot water and an outdoor dishwasher. You’ll want a standard-size sink, not a small prep sink, to easily rinse dishes. The drainage system should connect to the homes drainage to carry away greasy water.

You can ease the cleanup burden by making room for a trash receptacle and recycling bin. They should be placed close to where the cooking action is but are best hidden from sight in their own special nook under the counter.

Contact us today and let’s start planning your new outdoor kitchen!