How to create your own outdoor kitchen

We love a barbecue. And a pizza oven. And for serious foodies, a smoker is truly next level. Cooking outdoors, in all its forms, is our favourite method of choice for casual entertaining.

Set the scene

Enter the outdoor kitchen, an open-air cook zone, with a barbecue enhanced by gourmet tools and accessories. “An outdoor kitchen delivers all the conveniences of an indoor kitchen but with the atmosphere of being out in our wonderful climate”, says Matthew Hoffmann, Bunnings barbecue and outdoor heating buyer. The space is usually equipped with a sink, workbenches for prep and serving, storage and fridges. It’s about having everything you need so conversation – and food and drink – can flow.

Planning

An outdoor kitchen is the ultimate lifestyle upgrade. Location is everything; it should feel connected to the social hub, whether that’s a dining table or alfresco lounge area. If it’s close to the indoor kitchen, think of it as an extension of your main cooking station, where you can cook with smoke under higher temperatures. Bar fridges and storage will redirect some of the foot traffic outside.

You’ll need an easy passageway to the indoor kitchen, so supplies can safely make their way outdoors – a servery window is a useful addition here.

Hook it up

As a general rule, the further from the house, the more expensive it will be to connect to existing electricity, gas and water lines. While you can run barbecues on cylinder gas, it’s so much more convenient if your outdoor kitchen is plumbed in to the mains. If views, orientation and the lay of the land dictate a position further away from the house, a sink with hot and cold running water and a sink waste means you won’t have to run back and forth as much and, at the end of the night, you won’t have to drag messy grill plates and tools to the house to clean.

Outdoor kitchen
This barbecue area connects directly to the indoor kitchen. Walls in James Hardie Axon cladding in Dulux Blackwood Bay

Modular or built-in

A built-in outdoor kitchen gives you freedom to design it to your exact needs. This is useful in small or unusual spaces, or if you wish to extend your interior style outside. Oliver Sizeland, company director of Growing Rooms Landscapes is a fan of this approach. “Built-ins are aesthetically pleasing and look like they have been designed to fit in with the rest of the garden design,” he says. Kaboodle kitchen products, for instance, are moisture resistant so they can be used in an alfresco space, but they must always be installed under cover, to keep them out of direct rain.

When planning your outdoor kitchen, Oliver Sizeland says a few additions can make a big difference. “I recommend a fridge to keep drinks and food cool, a sink, stone benchtops, and a feature wall in the back,” he says.

Affordable, quick to install and easy to relocate if you’re renting or awaiting renovations, modular outdoor kitchens are another great option – and one that still allows you to have the bells and whistles, including a fridge, rangehood and sink. These ready-made entertaining hubs are planned to suit most outdoor spaces, with colours and materials in tried-and-true combinations.

Material options

An outdoor kitchen is typically sheltered but still has to withstand wind, UV rays and rain, as well as heat from the grill itself. Grade 316 stainless steel, also known as marine-grade stainless steel, is the gold standard for corrosive environments, although grade 304 stainless steel is also very weather resistant. Wall materials need to be carefully selected too. “Ambient humidity and heat from cooking appliances needs to be managed carefully, so select a moisture resistant plasterboard for walls and ceilings,” says Therese Tarlinton, CSR Gyprock marketing communications manager. Solid timber and marine ply also hold up to outdoor conditions. For benchtops, look to stainless steel, concrete and exterior-rated hardwoods.

Heating, cooling and lighting

To get the most out of the space, install a few comforts and conveniences. Lighting is a practical addition; try adjustable wall lights, to be directed onto the barbecue while you cook and redirected to greenery to provide ambient light as you dine.

In hot climates and west-facing outdoor kitchens, a fan can help to make the cooking zone more comfortable and keep mosquitoes at bay. Outdoor heating can keep the party going into the night and the kitchen in use well into the cooler months. Look to wall- or ceiling-mounted heating, so it won’t be a trip hazard.

Outdoor kitchen

Shelter and ventilation

An outdoor room ideally needs a roof of sorts so it can operate year-round. Walls are popular too, especially in windy areas or west-facing zones, which need protection from glaring sun.

As outdoor kitchens become more room-like, ventilation is required. An outdoor rangehood is necessary if your cooking zone is well covered, and especially if it is joined to the interior. Louvred openings in walls allow smoke plumes to dissipate before they hit your entertaining area, as well as acting as a cooling system.

Check out our range of outdoor kitchens and while your browsing take a look at some of our BBQ and smoker recipes. You’ll be sure to find some inspiration!

Photo credit: Alfresco Plus and James Hardie.

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