Humans still lived outdoors, or pretty close to it, when we first started cooking our meals over fire thousands of years ago. So it makes sense that so many people are rediscovering the joy of outdoor cooking with family and friends. Fortunately, we’ve made some big strides since the prehistoric days that make outdoor cooking even more fun and more comfortable.
Case in point: outdoor kitchens. It’s becoming more common for homeowners to outfit their patios with sophisticated outdoor cooking setups that allow for legendary backyard entertaining. An outdoor cooking area is more accessible and affordable than ever, especially with the rise of new all-in-one outdoor kitchen packages. Should you consider getting an outdoor kitchen, and what kind of resources can you expect to use to build one? We’ll explore these questions up ahead.
What Is an Outdoor Kitchen?
An outdoor kitchen is exactly what it sounds like: a permanent installation of kitchen appliances and cooking space outside. A BBQ grill is often the main cooking appliance in an outdoor kitchen, although some have more traditional cooktops. Pellet grills are a popular choice since they combine many of the best cooking characteristics of grills and ovens. In addition to a cooking surface, an outdoor kitchen will usually have some or all of the following:
- Ice drawer
- Bar area
- Fireplace or fire pit
- Storage cabinets
- Outdoor WiFi router
- Speakers, TVs and projectors
- Patio table and chairs
It’s up to you how extensively you outfit your kitchen. Think about your priorities and what your guests will enjoy most. For example, those who love cooking with the latest and greatest technology will probably want to include WiFi service for a WiFi pellet grill. For homeowners who want to save time and money, installing an outdoor kitchen kit is a popular option. These kits include options such as a sink, fridge, countertop and a space for installing a grill. This option offers a happy medium for many homeowners, with a kit that’s easy to install, but still offers choices and customization.
Why Get an Outdoor Kitchen?
There are lots of reasons why homeowners choose to add outdoor kitchens to their homes. First, the outdoor lifestyle is more popular than ever, and many people want a convenient outdoor social space for their homes. An outdoor kitchen is the perfect place to enjoy food, fun and fresh air with some good company.
Adding an outdoor kitchen also adds value to your property. A well-designed outdoor space is one of the most in-demand property features with homebuyers. In many cases, it offers better value for the money than other common additions like a swimming pool. An outdoor kitchen can also give you a great reason to cook at home more. Takeout can seem less appealing when you get to spend a beautiful evening cooking dinner outside! It can also encourage you to sharpen your cooking skills and cut down on what you spend eating out.
What Does an Outdoor Kitchen Cost?
As of early 2022, HomeAdvisor reported an average cost slightly under $14,000 for an outdoor kitchen project. If you just got a little bit of sticker shock, relax! Many people create their outdoor kitchens for much less, particularly those who save money by DIYing or by choosing an outdoor kitchen kit. As with any renovation project, cost estimates vary according to a lot of factors, including:
- Which features you want
- Your geographic location
- How many changes you’ll make to your existing patio
- Whether you hire a contractor or DIY
- Whether you need building permits from your local government
Can I DIY an Outdoor Kitchen?
It’s certainly not impossible to create your own outdoor kitchen! Although adding a fully custom outdoor kitchen usually isn’t within the average person’s comfort level of DIY, many of today’s outdoor kitchen kits are simple enough for homeowners to assemble using everyday home improvement tools. In any case, you’ll ultimately need some help from a plumber, as well as an electrician and possibly a gas technician to set up your outdoor utility hookups and get them connected to your outdoor kitchen.
Many homeowners choose to hire a general construction or hardscaping contractor. While good contractors aren’t cheap, they can often save you a lot of headaches — particularly in navigating the permitting process with your local government and/or HOA. Plus, they’ll give you the peace of mind to know that your outdoor kitchen is constructed using professional and structurally sound methods.
Tips for Creating a Great Outdoor Kitchen
How can you make sure you get exactly what you want from your outdoor kitchen? Here’s a few quick tips:
- Most patio kitchen designs place the seating area fairly close to the cooking area. This allows the chef and the guests to enjoy each other’s company more easily.
- Make sure that your outdoor kitchen and dining area includes sufficient lighting, both for cooking and for guests to comfortably enjoy the space.
- Integrate your hardscaping and landscaping. Trees, flowers and other natural features will make your patio shine and give your guests all the benefits that come with proximity to the natural world. (Just don’t get your plants too close to the grill!).
- Consider other patio additions, like a hot tub or gazebo, to complement your outdoor entertaining setup. These extras can be just what you need to complete a perfect evening.
- Make sure your appliances are rated for outdoor use, and that they’re sheltered from harsh weather.
- Add some outdoor games, such as bocce or cornhole, to give your guests a fun activity while everyone’s waiting for the food to cook.
A patio kitchen is the kind of renovation that can become such a part of your lifestyle that you’ll wonder what you ever did without it! If you’ve been looking to entertain guests more at your home, an outdoor kitchen could be your next great investment—and what’s more, it can be done without breaking the bank.