BOSS OUTDOOR KITCHENS
You’ll be ‘cookin’ with gas’ in these high-end outdoor grilling areasBy Richard A. Marini STAFF WRITER
Courtesy Southwest GreensThis standalone structure was designed to fit to scale with the rest of the backyard while still being large enough to contain a fully functional outdoor kitchen.
This backyard kitchen has two levels, the lower for cooking/entertaining, the upper, a glassed-in office for working with a view.
Courtesy Lake | FlatoThis outdoor pavilion is made of materials that will withstand the weather, including a durable, tropical hardwood called Ipe used in the decking.
Courtesy Southwest GreensA four-burner grill highlights this backyard kitchen that packs a lot of pop in a small space. There’s also a ceramic smoker, a double burner and griddle unit and a warming drawer.
Courtesy Southwest GreensThis modern-looking backyard kitchen, installed in a garden home, is about 10 feet long.
With summer in full swing, the red-blooded American homeowner’s thoughts turn, naturally, to outdoor grilling. And what better way to cook like a boss than with a custom outdoor kitchen?
A built-in grill or smoker, countertops made of marble, granite or some other weatherproof material, a pergola overhead for shade, maybe a dining table or seating area with TV to watch the game. That’s the recipe for a first-class outdoor kitchen sure to impress family and friends.
When it comes to the cost, there’s no upper limit. Kevin Detmer, owner of Southwest Greens, which designs and installs outdoor kitchens, said it’s not unusual for him to work with clients who spend $100,000 on their outdoor showplace, which includes cost of construction, appliances and running gas or electric to the facility.
“But too many people think they can’t afford an outdoor kitchen,” he said. “I’ve done some that are very good looking and pretty high end for $450 to $500 per linear foot, not including the cost of appliances.”
Choosing the right materials for your backyard kitchen can mean the difference between something that lasts for years and a weathered eyesore you’ll find yourself coming up with reasons not to use.
“We like using a tropical hardwood called ipe (pronounced EE-peh) that’s grown in Central and South America,” said Rebecca Comeaux, an architect with Lake | Flato. “It’s durable and can withstand the exterior environment.”
Another popular wood used for outdoor kitchens is western red cedar, which, restained every two years or so, will retain its natural good looks while resisting water damage and decay.
It also pays to buy the best countertops you can afford. One of the most popular materials for outdoor use is granite. It’s durable and can withstand the sun and extreme heat and cold.
Another popular material is poured concrete, although Kevin Detmer makes sure he briefs his clients thoroughly.
“We never know exactly what the final product will look like,” he said. “Depending on the weather, the humidity, the temperature, the final look of a poured concrete countertop may vary from job to job.”
To protect the kitchen, including the appliances, and provided much-needed shade, the kitchen should be built under a shelter, either an open-sided arbor to allow for cooling breezes, or under the existing eaves of the home.
Sometimes even then, extra steps are needed to ensure the comfort of guests. Architect Tobin Smith recently designed an outdoor kitchen under the existing roof line.
“We had to install an exhaust hood over the cooking area that vents out of the roof,” he said. “Without it, when the wind comes from the north, it can trap the smoke under the eaves, making things unpleasant for everyone.” This particular area was large enough for a small dining table and a seating area with a fireplace and a television hanging in a built-in niche.
Outdoor electronics such as TVs need to be protected from the elements by being installed under a solid roof or inside a waterproof glass or plastic case. There are also TVs specifically designed to be used outside.
A recent article from the tech website Best Products listed 10 weather-resistant outdoor TVs designed with brighter screens and engineered to withstand the elements. They range in price from $1,500 for a 43-inch set to an eye-popping $25,000 for an 84-inch 4K set.
As for the appliances themselves, buy quality products, so it’ll be a long, long time before you have to replace them.
“If something wears out, it can be more expensive to alter the hole where the old, worn-out unit fit than (the cost of the) new grill,” said Herb Detmer, who, with his wife Kathy, runs Jeff’s Backyard, an outdoor product retailer near the San Antonio International Airport.
Detmer suggests looking for products made with 304 stainless steel, which indicates the percentage of non-iron constituents in the steel, primarily nickel and chromium. But all you need to know is that, while products made with 304 stainless may cost more initially, they’ll last longer, won’t rust and will be easier to clean than cheaper models.
Also, look for grills with innards that are also made with stainless steel — especially the grates and burners — instead of cheaper, less durable materials like cast iron or sheet steel.
Finally, look for products with a lifetime warranty. This way if something does wear out, you should be able to get it replaced (although a newer model may not have the same dimensions as an older one).
How much grill do you need? That depends on how you plan to use it. If you’re cooking up chicken, ribs and veggies just for the family, a grill with three burners and a 30-inch-wide cooking surface should suffice. But if you’re like most people who install a backyard kitchen
(i.e. someone who loves to entertain), look for something no smaller than 36 inches wide and with at least four burners.
And if you really want to impress the neighborhood dads, take a look at one of the hottest outdoor kitchen toys — the iPhone X of outdoor cooking — the pellet smoker.
Instead of burning split and seasoned hardwood, these gizmos, from $400 to $1,000, are fueled by what looks like rabbit food, small pellets of compressed sawdust. Poured into a bin attached to the side of the grill, these pellets are fed into the burn box via a turning auger. This allows precise control of the grill temperature.
Because the grill is thermostatically controlled and has wifi, you don’t even have to leave your easy chair to check the temperature of the grill or, using a meat probe, the food you’re cooking. All it takes is a mobile phone.
Now that’s cooking like a boss. email@example.com | Twitter: @RichardMarini