For most people in the summer, the weather is definitely hot. Salads and grilled food become the order of the day, and baked foods seem to go away with the summer heat, instead replaced by ice cream cones and popsicles.
To escape from the heat, one place of relief is inside the home, where the whirl of the air conditioner promises to cool us down.
But when the time comes for us to preserve our garden's abundance with plenty of cooking and preserving, our house gets too hot causing the air conditioner to strain, and our energy usage to go up. The thought of this happening makes many people, myself included, cringe.
A simple solution is to have an outdoor kitchen.
What is an Outdoor Kitchen?
An outdoor kitchen is a place outside of the house where one can cook, prepare a meal, and easily clean up afterward. There is some heating element to the area, such as a stove, a cooktop, a grill, or even a pizza oven.
First, we are going to understand why you would want an outdoor kitchen. What you would use it for – just to cook and save energy, or to entertain, or both?
After that, we will focus on different aspects you may not have thought about for your outdoor kitchen, depending on what you want to do.
Why is an Outdoor Kitchen Beneficial?
1. Energy usage
As was mentioned in the beginning, running an indoor kitchen in the summer months equals extra heat in your house. This, in turn, can bring energy usage up causing an added expense to your electricity bill.
If your house is like mine and the air conditioning needs a little extra help, it could cause the air conditioner to stop completely making the house as hot as it is outside, or worse.
Being able to cook and prepare meals in the warmth of the outdoors allows you to keep your air cooler inside and reduces energy bills.
2. It keeps the smells outside
During the summer months, every scent seems to be stronger. When canning, some foods are put in the jars pre-cooked and these smells all mixed up might cause a problem to noses in a household.
Cooking outside means the questionable smells stay outside as well. Better yet, with all the other smells from the garden to the farmer next door going on, the smells may blend in or be completely eliminated.
3. It is a great place to entertain
Canning food is normally done with a family in order to get it done quicker. Getting the family involved or inviting friends and neighbors to can their food as well makes it easier, and more enjoyable for everyone.
This can also be a place of entertainment outside of canning food.
Working together to make a meal and then enjoy the fruits of your labor around mother nature is something memorable for everyone at the table. An added benefit? There is less crowding when working outside.
Not to mention when you are having a birthday party or another event you are celebrating, this keeps everyone from being cramped up in the house the entire time. What a great way to celebrate!
4. It keeps everyone from bumping into each other
This part was mentioned before in the entertaining section but I feel it should be reiterated.
This time, we are looking at it more from a canning aspect. When working with really hot canners and other items, such as the large pressure cooker pot, it is extremely important to give one another elbow room so there is no bumping into one another; therefore, the hot food is not dropped.
5. You do not have to worry as much about cleaning up
Naturally, I am not saying there will be no clean up involved but if you drop a little bit of blueberry jam on the ground, it will just help with the process of life; however, that same little bit of blueberry jam dropped on tile means having to clean it up with a rag and possibly even mop it.
This could be extended even further if you are a crafter. Making homemade soaps? Candles, perhaps? Having an outdoor kitchen means less worry about ruining the floor or kids eating ingredients not meant for human consumption.
6. It eliminates multiple trips in and out of the house
Most people have grills outside but still have to go inside to make sides and get items out of the refrigerator, such as drinks.
Many outdoor kitchens include storage space and refrigerators, thus eliminating multiple trips in and out of the house. This, in turn, goes back to helping the energy consumption and makes life easier no matter what the circumstances for cooking outside are.
Things to Consider When Designing Your Outdoor Kitchen
1. How you will use it
The cost of an outdoor kitchen is not cheap.
One aspect to think about is how you are going to be using it. If you know you are not the entertaining type- then it is not as much of a concern to have a twenty-four people long table area thus eliminating some of the price aspects of unnecessary items.
Likewise, if you know you are the entertaining type- buying small appliances could mean constantly cooking small batches instead of being able to sit down with your guests and eat a meal.
2. Where You Live and How Often You will Use the Kitchen
It is important to consider how often you will be using the outdoor kitchen. Part of what will affect this is the weather where you live.
People from Texas could very likely get to use the area nine months out of the year but that may be more difficult for people who live in Michigan.
The reason I bring this up is because the people living in Michigan might do better to have appliances and storage that can be brought in during the longer winter months. Meanwhile, people who live in Texas will need to make sure that they have shading for their appliances.
When it comes to purchasing a grill, it will more than likely already be weatherproofed.
If you are purchasing more items for the kitchen area such as countertops, a refrigerator, a cooktop, or an oven (or pizza oven) then making sure it can withstand the elements is an absolute must. Purchasing items for a traditional kitchen inside could mean a very quick wear and tear on the product, thus causing you more money in the long run.
Functionality can be broken down into multiple aspects, each very important in their own rights.
Being Able to Acess the Indoors Quickly
Although it seems a bit contradictory to what I previously said, there will be times when you need to get to your indoor kitchen. Naturally, you will want to make sure that you are able to get around with ease and get in the house without too many complications if you need to. This means planning where you are going to put your kitchen in relation to the house.
Making Sure No One Gets Left Out
Going more in depth, it is important to think about where the kitchen will be in exchange with other areas of the backyard. For many, the kitchen extends into the dining area and is accompanied by the entertaining area all-in-one. The goal here is to make sure the chef can enjoy their company as well. If the guests are playing at the pond that is on the other side of the property with a garden full of abundance in between, the chef is missing out on time with their guest.
Getting to What You Need
Another aspect to consider is making sure to put things in relation to one another and deciding how functional you want the kitchen. When it comes to putting things in relation, I am talking about making sure that you can get to everything with ease.
For example, if having the refrigerator nearby when working on canning is important because it holds the produce you are canning, making it further away from the stove top is not functional to your goals.
The Functionality of Different Items
Before getting started, consider the functionality of different appliances, such as a sink. To start out with you could hook up the hose and use it as your running water for the area. It may be important enough to you to have it lined from the house and hooked up from the start.
Either way, plan accordingly to make sure that each area is as functional as you need it, is very important.
5. Storage Space
Most kitchens have walls, outdoor ones typically do not. This means finding places to store your items you want to keep outside. As I mentioned before a great idea for the northern states, where the winters are longer, is to get rolling storage.
Hanging storage is also very popular but might only work if you plan to bring the pots and pans inside when you are finished because if you don't then you will have to worry about the items being exposed to the elements.
Stainless steel is a very good option for storage that can withstand the elements.
6. Areas for protection
Pergolas, awnings, and trees are good examples of ways to protect your kitchen and seating area. You want a place where you and your guests can take cover if an isolated thunderstorm arises. And for many places having a place of shade from the hot summer sun provides much-needed relief.
Besides, coffee in a covered area outside when it's raining is the perfect way to start the day.
It is key to note though that a combustible roof is not a good idea. The goal of the outdoor kitchen is to make things safer, easier, and more efficient than working inside during the warmer months and I have personally seen what can happen when grills are used in an area where there is a traditional roof.
7. The Extras
This includes music and lighting.
If you plan to entertain in your outdoor area, think about if you will want to entertain at night. If so, what kind of lighting do you want?
My husband and I like the Einstein bulbs hanging in our pergola. We also have a spotlight on the grill area in order to make cooking easier. Depending on how much you want to spend, you could have lighting hooked up from the house. We did this ourselves and it cost approximately twenty dollars.
Having music piped in through speakers is a nice touch but not a necessity. We normally just bring out our handheld speaker box and hook it up to our phone. When the timing is right we plan to add speakers throughout the inside and outside of our home.
We understanding that this is a matter of priority on our homestead.
Remember, This is for You
No matter how you choose to use your outdoor kitchen, make sure you know how you want it laid out in order to best serve your needs.
The goal of a home is to have a place to relax and unwind. The outdoor kitchen is an extension of that goal.