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Your blueprint to the outdoor BBQ kitchen

Want to transform your outdoor space into an outdoor BBQ kitchen? We’ve got the blueprint, covering design and construction to materials and appliances.

The COVID-19 crisis forced us all to re-examine our connection to our surroundings. Due to the imposed self-isolation, we had to redefine our relationship with space and the latter’s functional possibilities. Living rooms became classrooms and studies morphed into DIY gyms. The point here (yes there is always a method behind every Big K musing) is that space isn’t some independent physical entity separate from humanity. Rather it exists in relation to us. In other words, it is human beings that infuse space with meaning. As time and technology advance, society evolves and our needs change. These new desires lead to a reinterpretation of spatial possibilities, creating new spatial experiences. The rise of the outdoor bbq kitchen is testament to this fact.

Take a tour around the outdoor BBQ kitchen
A little deep for some light BBQ blog reading? Well we like to understand the way of things. Analysis leads to understanding and understanding leads to better living…and better BBQing we might add. The rise of the BBQ kitchen isn’t just some trend. In fact, 6% of all UK households now have some form of outdoor kitchen, so we thought what better time to explore this design phenomenon and bring you some outdoor BBQ kitchen knowledge.

A generic design plan of an outdoor BBQ kitchen complete with centrepiece grill, appliances and seating

How to set up an outdoor kitchen? Design and planning is everything. 
An outdoor kitchen is no different from any other space. This means that it must be designed to be efficient, functional and of course aesthetic. So where to begin? Design comes in stages. First up, you need to know the key components that form an outdoor BBQ kitchen, once you have these fundamental ‘pieces’ you can configure and arrange (design) them in a variety of ways. Here are the main players.

BBQ Grill
This will be the centerpiece and focal point of your outdoor BBQ kitchen. You have countless options to explore, from pizza ovens and smokers to conventional charcoal BBQs. Design tip alert – placement is key.  You want the guests to see the grill and the chef to be close to the guests while cooking, so position your grill perpendicular to your dining area. Problem solved. Here’s some more info on grills to feed your curiosity.

Appliances 
Any thoroughly designed BBQ kitchen will have a sink and refrigerator for obvious reasons. We will get into the positioning of appliances later on. For now just be aware that they take up space and volume so this must be considered in your design layout. Also, unless you are a construction pro or DIY specialist, you may require sub contractors to handle the electric and plumbing for proper installation of your appliances.

Countertops
Have you tried to prepare a meal on a postage stamp? Spoilers, it doesn’t turn out well.  Basically you need plenty of space to layout all the lovely prep for your al fresco cooking, so factor in plenty of surface area into your design thinking. Side note – material choice is super important. Your outdoor kitchen (depending on its design) will be exposed to the elements in one way or another, so you need durable countertops that can handle both rain and sun light. Safest bets are natural stone, concrete or tile.

Storage
If you don’t want your dreams to be haunted by a load of food and utensils simply loitering around with nefarious intent and no place to go, ensure that you make storage a top consideration in your design. Usually your storage will be integrated into your main kitchen unit and we will touch on this more in due course.

Table, seating and micro ‘landscaping’
You can have a beautiful and functional outdoor BBQ kitchen, but if your guests are stuck in a corner or balancing plates on beanbags, your culinary delights will be lost in a mist of misery. Benches or chairs? Bar, island or table?  Are you going for a communal feel or more indvidualised comfort? Reflect on these elements and ideas, as well as furniture positioning. Floral accents can also really elevate the look of your bbq kitchen. Shrubs and herbs, well-positioned planters – all these things will add a natural and vibrant touch to your design.

A bird’s eye view of a man grilling in his outdoor BBQ kitchen with all his meat and vegetables ready for to cook.

 

How big should an outdoor kitchen be? 
This isn’t quite the how-long-is-a- piece-of-string conundrum. To phrase it differently, yes there are literally infinite size variations to think about, however there are some general size parameters to consider – minimal dimensions that cover a basic layout, to optimum sizing for the full bells and whistles outdoor kitchen.

Mini (10 linear feet approx.)  This is a small outdoor BBQ kitchen complete with grill, optional cooktop, a sink, plus storage. You will need a minimum of 36 inches of countertop frontage, with a minimum depth of 24 inches.

Standard (13 linear feet approx.) Imagine a BBQ kitchen a little larger than a mini. The design includes a fridge, grill, cooktop, sink, and storage. You will need at least 48 inches of countertop frontage, with a minimum depth of 24 inches.

Medium (16 linear feet approx.) The medium outdoor kitchen is basically a standard kitchen with increased storage and counter space. Leave at least 72 inches of countertop frontage with a minimum depth of 24 inches.

Large (20 linear feet plus approx.) Go all in with a large outdoor BBQ kitchen. This size offers all the possible amenities and can handle several cooks simultaneously. Makes sure that you have at least 156 inches of countertop frontage at a minimum depth of 24 inches.

 

A close up of a stone grill in an outdoor BBQ kitchen with steaks cooking on the grill

Do it yourself outdoor kitchen? You need to assess your construction skills first.
We get it. You see yourself as pretty nifty with the tools. However be honest with yourself. If you are extremely experienced in DIY, plumbing, electric and multiple forms of construction then fill your BBQ boots and construct your dream outdoor BBQ kitchen. However if, deep down, you know your skill set isn’t sufficient, we’d advise you against doing things yourself. If you do, you will end up brooding in the rubble of your dilapidated BBQ kitchen, lamenting your self-delusion. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but constructing an outdoor kitchen can be a complex process. For example, there are countless options when it comes to the construction of the structure of your outdoor kitchen, not to mention material choices, framing options, appliance installation and so on. For safety, value for money and ultimately longevity, we’d suggest hiring masonry or landscaping contractor with outdoor BBQ kitchen experience. Alternatively you can purchase some prefabricated outdoor kitchen sets if you want to avoid the hassle of detailed construction.

How to build an outdoor kitchen? These are the things that you must consider.
Phew…we feel better with that disclaimer out of the way. If your DIY ego is feeling slightly bruised, no worries. We’re still giving you a load of info to help you make better design choices. While it is true that every outdoor kitchen is indeed unique, the construction process remains fairly consistent whether your outdoor BBQ kitchen is made from wood, cement block or a framework kit.

Concrete
Durable, economical and weather and fire resistant, many outdoor BBQ kitchens start life as a concrete block structure. Newsflash, concrete structures must be built in a level and solid slab of concrete. Don’t worry about design Dullsville, you can use decorative concrete panels, tile, stucco and stone for aesthetic flavour, Concrete brings enhanced customisation, meaning you can create pretty much any configuration of appliances. Masonry skills are a must, so ensure that you hire an experienced contractor if you are more Bob the Builder versus seasoned vet.

Wood 
Wood delivers all the customisation of concrete or brick while adding a more natural looking style to your design. However it isn’t as inherently durable as other materials. We advocate a pressure-treated pine for you wood-framed base, as it will perform better under extreme heat from the grill and exposure to the elements. You should also cover your wood with a cement backer board, both internally and externally, to further protect the frame from water and heat. Again here you can ‘dress up’ the wood with stucco, concrete panels, tile, brick veneer or stone.

A view of a brick and stone outdoor BBQ kitchen design with the grill as the main focus containing burning charcoal

Brick
Not much of a concrete or wood fan? Then build in brick. Brick outdoor BBQ kitchens must be built on a concrete slab and the construction process is more time consuming and complex than its concrete cousin. However brick offers strength, weather resistance and of course a high level of customisation possibilities. There’s also no need to worry about the ‘face’ of the design, meaning the surface level aesthetic, as the brick offers a lovely finish as standard.  If you think that mortar is a small hamlet on the outskirts of Warsaw then we urge you to hire a pro to help you out.

Steel
Steel framed outdoor BBQ kitchens are on the rise. This is due to steel’s heat and weather resistant properties. The level of customistion with steel isn’t quite as high, however this could be a blessing in disguise if you are new in the game and looking for a slightly easier option. Think of steel framing as more of a modular system – meaning you can choose from, and arrange, a variety of configurations of individual steel units. Simply position the frames, rivet them together and bolt everything to a concrete slab. Finally skin the structure with cement backer board and choose between stuccoing, stone cladding or tiling the walls. The initial part of steel framing is defo more DIY friendly.

That’s the main structural options covered. So now it’s time to wiz through the other main elements.

Grading
The first step in the construction process is all about grading. This is basically the combination of soil compaction, as well as the levelling and layout of your drainage structures such as drop inlets.

Utilities
A lot of things can go wrong when you’re dealing with water and electricity. There’s nothing like 150 volts flowing through your body to put a dampener on your day. Once more, we strongly advise you to hire specialist electrical and plumbing sub contractors. Take sinks for example; you can’t just whack one in and hope for the best. It will require both hot water and a sewer drain. Not so straightforward right? Also any electric utilities need to be connected to your breaker box and travel underground to your connection points in your kitchen.  Trench size and depth, as well as the need for conduit, are essential to achieve this goal and each one must meet the exact requirement of building codes.

Paving
Usually prefabricated units are installed upon your current paving. If you are building from scratch, your units must be installed on their own concrete footing. Then simply lay your paving around them.

Units and countertops
The more elaborate your outdoor BBQ kitchen design, in terms of units and countertops, the longer the time needed to complete the work. So let’ say that your units require detailed stone veneering, this will naturally increase your construction time. Moving to countertops, if you have a complex finish such as ceramic tiling, this again will take longer to compete due to the multifaceted methodology behind tile setting.

Overhead structure
If you have a roofed portico or something like a shade arbor to protect your BBQ kitchen, you must install your support footings early on in the construction process.

Lighting
Arriving towards the back end of the construction process, the installation of lighting brings visual and functional cohesion to your design. Your lighting must be configured to accent particular features of your design (such as the dining area) as well as illuminating the key work areas of your outdoor kitchen.

Ready to cook up an outdoor BBQ kitchen for your home? If so we hope you have a newfound confidence to set the wheels in motion. Until our next tête-à-tête…bye.