When the weather is nice, you may yearn to prepare your meals outside, and having your own outdoor kitchen can make it easier. Whether you purchase an economy grill with a utility food-prep surface or invest in an elaborate setup that includes a refrigerator, sink, and other chef accoutrements, an outdoor kitchen could provide you with everything you need to master outdoor cooking. Despite how it may seem, however, building one doesn’t have to be overly expensive. Follow these tips to make your perfect outdoor kitchen without breaking the bank.
Choose your location
To begin, you’ll need to decide where to create your outdoor kitchen. The best spot will likely be close to your home’s kitchen so you can grab ingredients and other items as needed. But if you’ll be cooking on a grill, you should plan to place it at least ten feet away from your home, trees, and other flammable objects to avoid accidentally sparking a blaze. (As a precaution, always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.)
Once you’ve picked the location, measure your available space to determine whether you can add extras like a sink, refrigerator, additional appliances, or storage—and whether they’ll fit into your budget. If you can’t create your dream kitchen from the get-go, start small and improve it over time.
It may be tempting to get a top-of-the-line, natural gas grill and have it professionally installed, but doing so could blow your entire budget. Instead, consider choosing a less expensive appliance like a propane or charcoal grill. Although you’ll still need to stock it with fuel, doing so is often easier and less expensive. Then you’ll be able to augment your setup with inexpensive accessories like a grill basket to prevent diced foods from slipping through the grates while cooking, a grill wok for making delicious Asian-styles stir-fries, and a flat-top griddle for preparing eggs, pancakes, quesadillas, and more.
Up your game
Do you have a little extra money to spend? If so, you could splurge on an item like a portable pizza oven, an outdoor sink that’s powered by your garden hose, a mini outdoor fridge, or even a full-sized fridge. The pizza oven would give you more versatility, as you could also bake desserts like cobblers and cinnamon rolls, and the outdoor sink and refrigerator would be big time-savers.
Light it up
If you expect to cook after the sun has set, it’s a good idea to bring artificial lighting into your space. Inexpensive DIY options include clip-on or magnetic grill lights, string lights with bright, Edison-style bulbs, or solar lighting. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll get the most illumination in your space if you can bring in more than one light source.
By adding a protective covering over your backyard kitchen, you can prevent inclement weather from ruining your fun. One option is to get a gazebo or pergola, but it’d be best to install a nonflammable metal one over your grill since a fabric or wood one could catch fire.
Lay it out
For seamless outdoor cooking, you’ll need flat, sturdy surfaces for your ingredients, cooking implements, and home-cooked meals. You can do this by setting a multitiered cart or small folding table next to your grill; just make sure that your choice can withstand the elements. If you’re handy and would like a built-in look, you could construct your own grill surround by stacking retaining-wall blocks.
Storage is often at a premium on a deck or patio, but you can still get the space you need with inexpensive outdoor cabinets; weather-hardy cabinets made of stainless steel or resin are a particularly good choice. Other options include durable and waterproof ottomans with hidden compartments, storage benches, or simple plastic storage containers.
Even if your budget is low or your space is limited, you can still create an outdoor cooking area that will give you what you need to prepare the best meals under the sun, moon, and stars.