Outdoor living invariably brings to mind outdoor kitchens, according to industry experts. “They are now ‘must-have’ addition to any home,” says Crystal Watson of Embers Grill and Fireplace Store.
Carol Sullivan of The Hearth & Grill Shop says, “What better way to celebrate Middle Tennessee’s weather—even in December last year—than to enjoy outdoor dining?” She adds that with an outdoor kitchen a homeowner can eliminate running in and out of the house with food for guests. “Your outdoor kitchen can be anything you want it to be,” she adds.
Watson says, “Some homeowners may add an outdoor kitchen/outdoor bar for convenience for cooking and entertaining, some add them to increase their property value, and many values the increased living space.”
Today’s outdoor living focuses on creating a versatile space usable for cooking, entertaining, recreation, and relaxation.
Many clients may walk in just wanting a built-in grill, but after they see all that you can do in a fully functional outdoor kitchen they opt for more, Watson says. “They decide to add other items such as side burners, power burners, warming drawers, teppanyaki griddles, refrigerators, ice machines, sinks, pizza ovens, dry storage pantries, dishwashers, and more. We have an indoor and outdoor showroom with full displays of a variety of outdoor kitchen appliances, brands, sizes, and features.”
While outdoor kitchens revolve around the grill, Sullivan reports that adding components varies from customer to customer. “Power burners are a popular option for cooking foods that produce a strong odor. Believe it or not, not everyone enjoys the smell of bacon wafting from their indoor kitchen.
“Outdoor refrigerators provide the ultimate convenience for temperature-sensitive food prep items,” says Sullivan. “And since outdoor cooking can work up a thirst, a fully stocked outdoor refrigerator keeps beer and wine easily within reach.”
Whether built-in or freestanding, the grill is the focal point of every outdoor kitchen, says Stansell Dye of Ferguson. “We recommend customers start with high-quality construction and features that make the cooking experience easier,” he says. “When selecting a heating element, the choice of a gas versus charcoal grill ultimately comes down to taste versus convenience. Above all, don’t isolate the cook! Keep the location of the grill close to the entertainment.”
Tammy McKinney of Superior Custom Homes & Remodeling says, “Creating a cooking and dining space that allow for outdoor entertaining in a condensed space is the goal. Architectural elements vary depending on whether a kitchen is exposed to the elements or under a roof.”
The goal, McKinney adds, is to make any outdoor space look as though it’s always been in place. “Granite countertops are popular because they can withstand seasonal temperature changes,” she reports.
Simple outdoor kitchens can range from a straight line 8-ft. a structure that incorporates a few appliance elements all the way to a U-shape design that is a fully functional kitchen with seating, says Watson.
As an outdoor living space, the outdoor kitchen is used well into the evening hours, according to Dye. “Once the grill and functional additions are selected, make sure space is well lit for night time entertaining. Place task lighting above cooking stations and add a decorative chandelier, wall sconces, and freestanding lanterns to create ambiance,” he says. “Consider accent lighting to illuminate trees, wash walls and light pathways and trails.”
“Those who invest in outdoor kitchens are entertainers,” according to David Reed of NiteLiters. “That is, they entertain a lot. And one concern they have is lighting the outdoor kitchen space without putting an outdoor gathering on display to neighbors or passersby. Setting the mood through lighting so the homeowners can sit and enjoy their surroundings is our specialty,” he says.
Outdoor kitchens are a great way for families, friends, and neighbors to connect and enjoy two great traditions of food and relationships.
There are a number of local resources for outdoor kitchens including:
Embers Grill & Fireplace Store
Florim Tile Outlet
Hearth & Grill Shop
Hermitage Lighting Gallery
Lynn’s Patio Shop
Siano Appliance Distributors
Superior Custom Homes & Remodeling
Trees ‘n Trends