There’s something about cooking and eating outdoors that makes everything taste better. Upgrading from a simple barbecue to an outdoor kitchen set-up means you can spend more time in the thick of the alfresco action with guests and family. Options range from barbecue kitchens (essentially a barbecue unit with extras) to modular versions, where you can cherry-pick the outdoor kitchen equipment you need, such as a sink, fridge or storage units. Here’s how to get started.
There are a lot of factors to consider in deciding where to place your kitchen: for example, proximity to the house, available space, amenities like a pool, and privacy. Kaboodle Kitchen’s Monique Parker says your outdoor kitchen should be as close to your existing kitchen as possible. “This will not only create a feeling of space as the inside flows outside, but will reduce costs if you can connect to existing plumbing, power or gas,” she says.
Any outdoor kitchen should be made from tough, weather-resistant materials, says Jason Elboz of Space Landscape Designs (spacedesigns.com.au). “Outdoor kitchens are never going to be watertight, but if you use good products in a good design, they will function well,” he says. Even stainless steel can be susceptible to rust, so creating a protected zone for your outdoor kitchen is optimal. Make sure it's ventilated to Australian standards and is sheltered from direct sun. “This can affect cabinetry finishes and the performance of bar fridges,” says Rina Di Pietro of AlfrescoPlus. “Wind and rain direction should be factored into your design.”
Your budget and how you’ll use your kitchen (daily meals with the family or casual barbies) will help determine how simple or sophisticated you go. “You need to have a budget first and then work around that,” says Jason. “For example, polished concrete benchtops are very popular at the moment, but are very expensive due to the labour and engineering.” In your layout, allow space for key kitchen zones – preparation, storage, cooking and serving – and carefully consider where to place hot zones (barbecue, pizza oven or cooktop), wet areas (the sink), prep and storage areas (benches and cabinets), and cold areas (the fridge). “It’s highly likely that a barbecue or pizza oven will be included in the design, so it’s a good idea to consider the size of these when designing the space,” says Monique Parker, who recommends including a sink.
If budget allows, an outdoor bar fridge can also help reduce the foot traffic indoors. Make sure you factor in the cost of licensed tradies to install lighting and appliances.
An outdoor kitchen needs to be located on a level area and the flooring must be durable and slip-resistant. Ceramic tiles, bricks, pressed concrete and pre-cast pavers are all stylish, water-resistant options. Materials around the cooking zone, such as behind the barbecue, need to be heatproof.
Also factor in lighting: illumination above the barbecue is essential, so you can see what you’re cooking. Consider shadows – don’t put the main light behind the chef, or behind the barbecue if it will be blocked by a hood. If you have an overhead covering, fixed downlights and spotlights are great for lighting up the cooking zone, and can also set the ambience in the dining area.
“It’s important to establish the layout of your appliances to make sure that the services – gas and electricity – can be correctly positioned,” says Rina. Here are three options:
Check out our wide range of barbecue kitchens, which are perfect for your outdoor kitchen set-up.
Photo credit: James Hardie, Space Landscape Designs, Sue Stubbs and AlfrescoPlus