Creating an outdoor kitchen doesn't have to mean big money. Most backyards can have an outdoor kitchen that is functional and stylish yet easy on the budget.
1. To get started, it is important to first designate an area that will be the outdoor cooking center. "Designing an outdoor kitchen is the same concept as designing the layout for the indoor kitchen -- take your measurements," says Marlaina Teich, owner and principal designer of Bellmore-based Marlaina Teich Designs. "No matter the size of the space you are working with, plan out where each item is going to go. Everything should be within easy reach for your entertaining and dining needs."
2. Once you decide on the location, it is time to determine the type of counter layout that would work best for your space, taking into account the grill size, appliances and accessories you want. A granite countertop is typically more costly. Lower-cost options include tile or concrete. Additional elements of the kitchen include a gas or electric grill that either runs on propane or natural gas, a refrigerator to house marinated meats and beverages, and plenty of cabinets and drawers. To help define the area, a gazebo or pergola can be an attractive addition.
3. Many manufacturers offer different brands and models of appliances for different budgets. A porcelain body on a barbecue may not have as long a life as a stainless-steel or cast aluminum unit. "Do your research. You don't have to go for top-of-the-line if it is not in your budget. There are brands available today that work just as well," Teich says.
4. Adding a sink to the outdoor kitchen is a convenient feature, but it can be expensive. "Most people who purchase these outdoor kitchens don't want the sink because it gets complicated. You need to have a hot and cold line running out of the house to the enclosure as well as a drain line for the waste," says Kevin Shepard, manager at Jetmore of Wantagh.
5. Another way to build your outdoor kitchen is to invest in some free-standing pieces. Many barbecues offer closed cabinetry underneath the grill to place utensils and grilling appliances. An outdoor refrigerator is ideal for storing beverages and all the cut-up limes and lemons to dress up the drinks. A second refrigerator, if your budget allows, can be handy for all the meats, sauces and condiments. "A second refrigerator cuts down on trips in and out of the house. All the food is right there and makes it easier, especially when you are cooking for a crowd," Teich adds. And don't forget another must-have appliance -- the blender for cocktails.
6. A counter-height table nearby can serve a dual function -- as a serving station and, if you add a few bar stools, a dining and entertainment area. And when it is time to clean up, no need to use the black garbage bag. There are some attractive and handy bins that come in all-weather wicker or stainless steel.