Designing a Delicious Outdoor Kitchen
Today’s outdoor kitchens are more elaborate than ever. These exterior spaces offer generous layouts, luxe
Today’s outdoor kitchens are more elaborate than ever. These exterior spaces offer generous layouts, luxe materials, and cutting-edge appliances comparable to what one would expect in a high-end chef’s kitchen. Whether the goal is crowd-pleasing backyard dinners or casual family grill nights, a well-designed outdoor kitchen will improve both the cooking and dining experience.
Todd Blitzer, founding principal of Mirador Group, an architecture firm in Houston, says that determining how one will use an outdoor kitchen should precede the planning. “Having a detailed idea of usage is key to making sure all of the homeowner’s cooking needs are designed into the space,” he says.
Generally, a person’s lifestyle affects the design of any room, outdoor kitchens included. Perhaps they’re a “culinary connoisseur who wants to create full meals regularly with all of the appliance bells and whistles,” Mr. Blitzer notes. That cooking space would be poles apart from an outdoor kitchen serving occasional weekend soirees.
Deborah Naierman, senior designer and partner at Italkraft in Miami, agrees, stressing that there’s much to consider before taking a pen to paper. Beyond thinking about how an outdoor kitchen will be used, the size of the space, budget, and aesthetics should all be mulled over before diving into design. “Deciding all of this upfront will allow for smoother sailing, as you and the team working alongside you will have a clear idea of your wants and needs,” Ms. Naierman says.
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Allocated space will probably dictate any kitchen’s layout, be it an L- or U-shaped kitchen, a galley, or—for properties with limited footage—a single-wall kitchen. Due to the surroundings and budget constraints, some outdoor kitchens will remain exposed and need to incorporate covers to protect appliances in the off-season and when a space isn’t used.
While costly, a loggia is the most effective solution for protection from heat and water.
A less-expensive pergola can help shield a kitchen from the sun. But if a client wants filtered light streaming into their outdoor kitchen, Mr. Blitzer recommends attaching Lexan panels to a pergola. These durable polycarbonate sheets protect an outdoor area from the elements while creating an open effect.
In a Miami kitchen by Italkraft, a concrete roof structure was finished with ipe, an exotic Brazilian walnut. The attractive canopy will help to preserve this outdoor kitchen for years to come. Meanwhile, in a covered alfresco space designed by Mirador Group, the kitchen has all the makings of a great room, such as lounge seating and a dining table. A sink, plenty of under-counter storage, and a high-tech grill complete the outdoor-cooking and entertaining space.
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As in indoor kitchens, appliances are intrinsic to how the space functions. Nowadays, built-in gas grills, outdoor cooktops, pizza ovens, and Big Green Eggs—multipurpose kamado grills—are common in outdoor kitchens. Refrigeration is often installed outside as well, and though less common, some outdoor kitchens incorporate dishwashers.
“The appliance selection depends on the style of entertainment and cooking,” says Julia Walter, managing director at Boffi Georgetown, a contemporary kitchen showroom in Washington, D.C. “For the barbecue and grill lover, they will find the most function in heavy-duty ovens, BBQs, smokers, etc.” But perhaps the ultimate splurge appliance in a luxury outdoor kitchen is a teppanyaki grill, a flat-surface, cast-iron, Japanese-style grill requiring little maintenance.
Like an indoor kitchen, materials and finishes in an outdoor-cooking area can enhance performance and look. “Using proper materials is key for a space that has to endure the elements,” Mr. Blitzer explains. “We suggest using large-format porcelain-tile slabs or granite slabs for counters; stucco, masonry, or other materials to complement or match the design of the home for walls; and stainless steel for access doors.” Mr. Blitzer says to avoid UV-sensitive cabinetry materials like quartz and wood, which wouldn’t pass the durability test for outside.
As an alternative to stainless-steel access doors, Ms. Naierman recommends powder-coated steel for longevity. This material also achieves a sleek, minimalist look. Dekton, a composition of raw materials, porcelain, and glass, is her preferred countertop material. “Porcelain is highly durable, it mimics natural stone, and its surface doesn’t scratch or fade in the sun,” she adds.
Mr. Blitzer says other essential factors include placing the outdoor kitchen near the indoor kitchen, offering an adjacent area for dining, and proper ventilation for cooking equipment. He says hoods are usually necessary for any covered or partially enclosed outdoor kitchen.
“With an outdoor loggia wrapped around three sides, you’ll want to put a hood over your cooking area,” he advises. “Whether it’s a grill or a power burner, you need a hood that will exhaust.” He explains that building codes will dictate whether one is required, but even if the cooktop is in the open air, a hood is beneficial to keep smoke under control.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.