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There are BBQs and then there are outdoor kitchens. You may be wondering what the real difference is, given how large and elaborate a BBQ can be. To answer that question, imagine that instead of cooking burgers and sausages for your guests, you are instead offering whole joints of meat and chickens, all slowly cooked to perfection outside in the sunshine (with a few burgers and sausages too, naturally).

Outdoor kitchens are the complete package, often being built with grills, drinks fridges, prep space and even plumbing, allowing you to cook al fresco without having to keep going back and forth from your home. With the amount of investment such a feature can require, you may be feeling sceptical. However, outdoor kitchens are not merely popular in hotter countries; they are also super stylish in snowy Scandinavia. With the right design, an outdoor kitchen can be enjoyed whatever the weather!

While there are pre-made outdoor kitchens available from retailers such as IKEA, the best guarantee of getting everything you want in a single package will be to hire a specialist. Remember, the foundation and base for your outdoor kitchen should be built by either a local builder or bricklayer, while wooden sections should be assembled by a carpenter. If you choose to connect your outdoor kitchen to your property’s existing utilities, rather than using gas tanks, batteries and so on, then the work should be done by a plumber, electrician or gas engineer as appropriate.

A large part of the charm of installing an outdoor kitchen is the entertainment value, so you may also want to think of how you can create an even better experience for your guests. You may decide to create your own outdoor cinema, fire pit or even an outside hot tub.

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Outdoor kitchen ideas

There are plenty of ways to start cooking al fresco with an outdoor kitchen. Still, if you are ready for an investment like this then you will usually be experienced with cooking outside, ideally with your own way of doing things. As such, some of the first things to ask yourself should be: How do I prefer to cook outside? How much space do I need? How much am I willing to spend?

Depending on all of this, your new outdoor kitchen could include:

  • A drinks fridge or wine rack
  • A gas/ charcoal cooker
  • A countertop for prep space (avoid wood - better choices include concrete, steel or tiles)
  • A sink
  • A searing station
  • A wood fired oven
  • A pizza oven
  • An outdoor bar area

It is also not unheard of to include in-built appliances such as microwaves or blenders. Just remember that this is an outdoor kitchen, so any appliances you choose will need to be specifically designed for the outdoors. Otherwise, you could end up getting a nasty shock the next time you try to make blended cocktails.

As fantastic as all of this might sound, you will need to consider a few potential difficulties before you get started. The first is the cost of connecting an outdoor kitchen to your property’s existing utilities, especially when it comes to plumbing. Installing an outdoor sink can be particularly expensive (without the cheaper alternatives, such as a gas tank or battery). If this is a feature you want to include, it will be a good idea to have your outdoor kitchen close to your property, or to connect it to an existing outdoor tap.

Speaking of location, you will also need to put some thought into the location of your outdoor kitchen. Ideally, you will be able to do your cooking in a spot sheltered from the wind, though you can always invest in a wind breaker or a new wall to guarantee this. You will also want a good amount of sunlight, so avoid shady spots if possible.

Shelter from rain will also be important. One of the big advantages of cooking outside is the natural ventilation. Unfortunately if you have a cover over your grill this will become a problem. A good solution will be to invest in an easily removable canvas cover to keep you and your guests sheltered, rather than a permanent cover that will make smoke a problem even in sunny weather.

Another thing to consider will be storage. Having an outdoor kitchen with prep space means that you will not have to keep going in and out of your home for ingredients. However, you will still need a waste bin. Depending on the style of cooker you choose, you may also need storage for fuel (wood, coal, gas canisters). You could also choose a cooler for ingredients, though many people instead use this space to chill drinks.

If you want to be able to use your outdoor kitchen safely at any time of day, you should also think about lighting. Quite a few people do BBQs for friends in the evening, which as you will probably be able to guess requires adequate task lighting. Outdoor lighting installation should be done by a professional electrician in order to make sure everything is completely weatherproof, though it is still worth taking the time to look online if you want something unique. 

Finally, let’s return to what we said earlier about outdoor kitchens being a big investment. The thing about expensive equipment is that it tends to look attractive for opportunistic thieves; as such, you may want to take the time to consider whether your garden security is up to standard. At the very least it will be a good idea to fix your units to the ground with a land anchor and to make sure that they have engraved serial numbers.