Friday, March 14, 2008
Outdoor kitchens can enhance backyard barbecues
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
It's March. The snow is beginning to melt and we are all anticipating spring. Before long we will soak in the sun, watch the flowers bloom and, of course, barbecue.
It is hard to imagine spring and summer without a little outdoor cooking. The backyard culinary experience has moved far beyond a simple barbecue on the patio. Now, manufacturers of appliances and cabinetry are producing products to create complete outdoor kitchens.
A trip to the nearest home-improvement center will confirm the wide range of free-standing barbecues that are available. Pushing aside the lowly kettle barbecue, huge, stainless steel barbecue behemoths stand ready to meet your every need.
Barbecues don't just grill anymore. Some come equipped with rotisseries and can double as smokers. Additional stovetop burners are also available in some models, so you can prepare the whole meal without ever stepping foot in the "real" kitchen.
For some, a giant, all-inclusive barbecue just isn't enough. These intrepid grillers want more — an actual outdoor kitchen. Only stainless-steel appliances can be used to equip an outdoor kitchen. These may include an undercounter refrigerator, wine cooler and small cooktop (usually one or two burners).
Stainless steel sinks and faucets are often used as well. And, of course, we can't forget the barbecue itself, which is built into a counter with shelves or cabinets below.
Large grilling "islands" are produced commercially and include all these amenities in one free-standing unit. Remember, when you are considering purchasing one of these islands that the placement in your yard or on your patio is critical. Check the manufacturer's requirements for clearance, which ranges between 12 inches and 36 inches. This distance is required both for reasons of venting the barbecue and for keeping heat away from combustible materials.
Some homeowners decide to build a permanent structure of their own design so it can be customized to their particular needs and wants. Safety is a primary concern when designing a grilling station. The barbecue itself is best supported by fire-resistant masonry, though this only works if you have a ground-level patio.
All materials used must obviously be weather resistant. Any kind of concrete, stone or brick is suitable for the base of the outdoor kitchen, as are stainless steel, pre-manufactured cabinets.
If you construct something out of wood, it needs to be covered with stucco, stone or tile to meet the requirements of fire and weather resistance. Obviously, the barbecue must be completely isolated from any wood.
Make sure there is ample counter space on either side of the barbecue. The counters must take exposure to wind and water, as well as Utah's freezing temperatures. Stone, tile, stainless steel or concrete are appropriate materials.
Often homeowners want a roof over their outdoor cooking space. Technically, no wood should be used over a barbecue, whether a roof or a pergola. If a roof is a must, consider partially covering the area, leaving the barbecue in the open. A frame can also be constructed of steel and a metal roof applied if a full roof is non-negotiable.
Remember, the design of the outdoor kitchen should have some relation to the design of your home. Barbecues produce a lot of smoke, so keep in mind the prevailing winds in your area when placing your grilling station. You will also need to consider plumbing issues, as you may want a water line and a permanent gas line to the area, in addition to electric power which may be needed for lighting, refrigeration and rotisserie.
So, get ready to grill! Plan ahead now and you just might be ready for the Fourth of July extravaganza of your dreams. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.