Outdoor Kitchen Size Matters if You Have the Room
As far as beautiful backyards go, few outside home improvements yield as much bang for your buck as outdoor kitchen islands. That’s why we’re dedicating this final installment of our Patio Designs series to the selection, maintenance and use of outdoor kitchen islands. Outdoor kitchen planning means you will expose your appliances, cooking zones, and outdoor dining furniture to the elements year-round, and this change may seem overwhelming. Luckily, once you view a few outdoor kitchen designs and follow some basic rules you’ll find that your outdoor cooking area plans won’t be difficult to execute.
Today’s outdoor kitchen designs—whether part of a new home or a remodel—are more likely than ever to complement a home’s architectural aesthetic and environment. To create inviting and functional living spaces, where all the features work together, you need a refined and thoughtful approach. Here are a few design concepts to help you make that happen.
Start With the Grill
The heart of any outdoor kitchen, big or small, is the grill. It can make or break a client’s satisfaction with a project, so select the best one that fits within the budget.
When it comes to grills, there are no uniform depths, heights, or widths. This means that upgrading a grill sometime in the future could present a challenge, so its selection should be based on the cooks your clients aspire to be, rather than on the cooks they are now. Also keep in mind outdoor cooking options other than the standard gas grill, such as pizza ovens, smokers, cooktops, and charcoal- or wood-fired grills.
Once the grill has been selected, the next big decision is placement. If your clients entertain often, position the grill so it is perpendicular to the dining area to keep the cook in the party. That way, the cook can work without having his or her back turned to the guests and without having the open hood in the way.
In the Zone
The perfect outdoor kitchen for entertaining is about more than just the appliances. Like indoor kitchens, outdoor kitchens are made up of functional zones. These include hot, cold, wet, and dry zones.
Hot zones, not surprisingly, consist of all cooking areas, like grills, pizza ovens, and cooktops; cold zones include refrigeration and freezers; wet zones include sinks and adjacent workspace, and dry zones are dry prep counters and storage. The key to designing an outdoor kitchen that functions well is planning for all four zones to work together, along with providing plenty of countertop space to support the “workflows” of prepping, cooking, serving, and cleaning. For example, the cold zone should be next to the wet zone, to facilitate moving food from the refrigerator to the sink to wash it and get it ready for grilling in the hot zone.
Think about other outdoor living activities, as well. If there is a pool, consider placing beverage refrigeration near it.
Outdoor kitchens come in all sizes. When you’re determining the design, layout, and available space for your clients, it’s helpful to think in terms of four basic categories.
Small (10 linear feet). A small kitchen generally includes a grill, a cooktop, a sink, and storage. It needs at least 36 inches of usable countertop frontage, no less than 24 inches deep.
Essentials (13 linear feet). A bit larger, this size typically has a refrigerator in addition to a grill, a cooktop, a sink, and storage. It should have at least 48 inches of countertop frontage, at least 24 inches deep.
Medium (16 linear feet). To the essentials kitchen, a medium kitchen adds more storage and counter space and sometimes more refrigeration. There should be at least 72 inches of countertop frontage, 24 inches deep.
Large (more than 20 linear feet). A large kitchen has all the amenities and can accommodate multiple cooks. Provide 156 inches of countertop frontage at 24 inches deep.
Space to Land
You can almost never have too much countertop space. Outdoor kitchens are typically smaller than their indoor counterparts, and insufficient countertop space is still one of the most common design shortcomings I see.
Ideally, you should provide your clients with free and clear “landing areas” on both sides of grills, sinks, and cooktops. This space can be used for ingredients, cutting boards, platters, colanders, and other items that the cook needs to have close at hand while using the station. When it’s time to pull the swordfish steaks off the grill, for instance, there needs to be space next to the grill where a platter can be ready and waiting.
Omitting landing areas on one side or both sides of key equipment such as the grill or the sink is the most common design mistake. Similarly, grills and sinks should never be placed at the end of a counter run; there should always be landing areas to the left and right sides of both.
To figure out how much space you should provide for your clients, you can use the following recommendations of basic landing-area dimensions for common outdoor kitchen workstations:
Grills. Be sure to keep 24 inches of open counter on one side and 12 inches on the other side.
Cooktops. Maintain 12 inches of open counter on each side. However, when you combine a grill and a cooktop into one station by positioning them next to each other, use the landing area recommendations for a grill (24 inches on one side and 12 inches on the other).
Sinks require 18 inches of open counter on each side because your clients will be doing a lot of washing and cleaning in that area.
Pizza ovens. Landing areas are especially important for pizza prep work. Provide 24 inches of open counter on one side and 12 inches on the other side.
Kegs. Having room to place and set aside glasses is important for the keg tapper, so provide 12 inches of open counter on each side.
Under-counter refrigerator/ice maker. Be sure to have 15 inches of the open counter above it. Read more here…
What Size will Your Outdoor Kitchen be?
If you find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed while planning the design of your family’s outdoor kitchen, don’t worry! A lot of homeowners feel the same way when it comes to expanding their living area. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a reliable, local landscaping team. Creating an outdoor kitchen is a major investment, but it can become the staple of your home life. With the right consideration, thorough brainstorming and inspiration, you can create a space that delivers the ultimate value and experience.