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9 tips for an outdoor kitchen that lets you enjoy the party

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 (Houzz/Bruce Palmer Coastal Design)

Have you ever found yourself running back and forth between cooking indoors and cooking outdoors on a warm afternoon? The best way to prevent this from happening is to properly design your outdoor kitchen so that it can function like your indoor kitchen. Now, this doesn't mean you need a large outdoor kitchen -- in fact, a small one might be just what you need. Prevent unnecessary trips inside by doing all the prep work ahead of time, and when it's time to cook, make sure you get all your essentials together before you start -- it's easy to forget about the paper towels or the trash can until you actually need it.

If you are designing an outdoor kitchen or looking for ideas on how to improve your existing outdoor kitchen, follow these tips and you'll find yourself right in the middle of the party, even while you're cooking.

Make sure your outdoor kitchen has all the essential spaces: prep, cook, serve, clean. This will make it easy for you to do all the work outside.

A satellite kitchen is perfect if you plan to do the bulk of your prep work in your actual kitchen. Locating your outdoor kitchen adjacent to your indoor kitchen will help you move food back and forth quickly, and if you forget anything, you know it's close by.

Including a bar top in your kitchen allows guests to sit and talk while you prepare and cook. This brings the party to the cook. Many guests enjoy being close to the cook, and with a bar top they can watch all the action while still staying out of the main kitchen space.

If you are looking for a way to improve your outdoor kitchen and don't want to build in a bar top, consider using a long table with bar stools. This also can act as a great prep area if you don't have enough counter space.

Keep the dining area close to the outdoor kitchen, too. This will give your guests a great place to sit while you cook and will keep the party close to the kitchen.

Put your beer or water tap at the end of the bar. This will allow people to come up to the kitchen without interfering with the cook. Proper placement of the mini fridge is important, too. You don't want too many people in the kitchen, and keeping these types of appliances at the end of the bar will control where people congregate near the kitchen.

Much like having the dining space close by, having a living space close by will allow the cook to interact with guests while they hang out, waiting for the barbecue.

Large kitchens allow for family-style cooking. This is great for people who want to help prepare and cook the food. Make sure there is plenty of counter space for group cooking.

Whether with color, architecture or materials, make your outdoor kitchen a focal point. This will help draw guests into the kitchen area while you cook. This covered kitchen, which allows for the party to be centered around the kitchen, is a great example.

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Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish -- online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals around the world. Alex Jewett is a contributor to Houzz.

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