People enjoy a good old-fashioned barbecue. On a beautiful sunny day, people just love to cook and eat outside. For some reason, food cooked outside just tastes better. It might have something to do with the mouth-watering scent filling the air for miles or the chef escaping from the walls of the kitchen and becoming one with nature. Whatever the reason, it seems as the weather heats up, so do our outdoor grills.
For the past two weeks, we have been talking about outdoor renovations. We can’t properly talk about outdoor spaces without mentioning the barbecue — or shall we say, the outdoor kitchen.
More people are remodeling their patios into an outdoor entertaining space with the same entertaining concepts as the modern great room. This means there is a space for gathering (seating area), a space for dining and a place for food preparation. The outdoor kitchen allows for the guests to congregate around the outdoor cooking action and makes it possible for the outdoor chef to be a part of the party.
The backyard culinary experience has moved far beyond a simple barbecue on the patio. Now, manufacturers of appliances and cabinetry are producing products to create complete outdoor kitchens. A trip to the nearest home-improvement center will confirm the wide range of free-standing barbecues that are available. Pushing aside the lowly kettle barbecue, huge, stainless steel barbecue behemoths stand ready to meet your every need.
Barbecues don't just grill anymore. Some come equipped with rotisseries and can double as smokers. Additional stove-top burners are also available in some models, so you can prepare the whole meal without ever stepping foot in the "real" kitchen.
For some, a giant, all-inclusive barbecue just isn't enough. These intrepid grillers want more — an actual outdoor kitchen. Only stainless-steel appliances can be used to equip an outdoor kitchen. These may include an under-counter refrigerator, beverage cooler and small cooktop (usually one or two burners). Some outdoor kitchens are even equipped with wood-fired pizza ovens.
Stainless steel sinks and faucets are often used as well, and, of course, we can't forget the barbecue itself. Built-in barbecues resemble an interior cooktop that is built into a counter with shelves or cabinets below.
Large grilling "islands" are produced commercially and include all these amenities in one free-standing unit. Remember when you are considering purchasing one of these islands that the placement in your yard or on your patio is critical. Check the manufacturer's requirements for clearance, which ranges between 12 inches and 36 inches. This distance is required both for reasons of venting the barbecue and for keeping heat away from combustible materials.
Some homeowners decide to build a permanent structure of their own design so it can be customized to their particular needs and wants. Safety is a primary concern when designing a grilling station. The barbecue itself is best supported by fire-resistant masonry, though this only works if you have a ground-level patio. Steel studs with concrete backerboard (in place of wallboard) is a common assembly that is fire-proof and weather-resistant. Any kind of concrete, stone or brick is suitable finish material for an outdoor kitchen, as are stainless steel, pre-manufactured cabinets.
When laying out your design, try to provide ample counter space on either side of the barbecue. The counters must take exposure to wind and water, as well as Utah's freezing temperatures. Stone, tile, stainless steel or concrete are appropriate materials.
Often homeowners want a roof over their outdoor cooking space. Technically, no wood should be used over a barbecue, whether in the form of a roof or a pergola. If a roof is a must, consider partially covering the area, leaving the barbecue in the open. A frame can also be constructed of steel and a metal roof applied if a full roof is non-negotiable.
Barbecues produce a lot of smoke, so keep in mind the prevailing winds in your area when placing your grilling station. You will also need to consider plumbing issues, as you may want a water line and a permanent gas line to the area, in addition to electric power, which may be needed for lighting, refrigeration and rotisserie. Finally, the design of the outdoor kitchen should have some relation in terms of size and style to the design of your home.
So, get ready to grill! Plan ahead now and you just might be ready for the Fourth of July extravaganza of your dreams.