By Sandra Nelson
While outdoor kitchens have been at the top of homeowners’ wish lists for the last few years, ideas about what those kitchens should look like are beginning to change.
No longer just a spot to grill, outdoor kitchens today are fast becoming the heart of outdoor living. They include options for extensive food prep and clean-up, formal dining, comfortable lounging and space for entertaining friends and family.
Gas or charcoal grills used to be the only options available for outdoor cooking. That’s changed. Ceramic kamado-style grills are popular additions to the kitchen because of their versatility.They can quickly cook with extremely high heat — think baking in a pizza oven — or can be used to slowly smoke meat at low temperatures. By opening the lid, a kamado can even be used as a charcoal grill.
Another helpful element in an outdoor kitchen is a set of side burners. Easy to add and relatively inexpensive, side burners greatly expand the types of meal prep that can be done outdoors. While the meat and vegetables are cooking on the grill surface, the pasta or rice can be simmering in the same place. No more running indoors to check on the stove; no more missing out on half of the conversations.
Freshly picked garden produce and herbs elevates the taste of any meal. Containers of herbs, vertical vegetable gardens and edibles integrated into nearby planting beds add function as well as beauty to the outdoor kitchen.
The end of an outdoor meal usually means someone is responsible for moving the mess from outside to inside. Adding a clean-up area to the design, whether just a sink or a fully operational dishwasher, and an outdoor refrigerator eliminates the immediate and isolating need for multiple trips back and forth carrying dirty dishes to the sink and leftovers to the family fridge. Instead, by having clean-up options outdoors, everyone can be together relaxing and enjoying the conversation after a great meal.
Here in the Midwest, as in other parts of the country, temperatures can soar in the summer and plunge in the winter, chasing people indoors. Fortunately there are some excellent climate control features that can open up more time for outdoor living.
In the summer, shaded areas to sit are essential. Permanent features such as pergolas, fences and screens can be designed to block the sun’s rays.
Outdoor rated fans and misters can add welcome breezes, while cantilever umbrellas can add a pop of color as well as welcome shade to an outdoor living space.
In the cooler fall and winter months, staying warm and comfortable becomes the goal. Massive infrared heaters like those on restaurant patios used to be the main outdoor heating option. Today, smaller, energy efficient infrared heaters suitable for outdoor kitchens are available in a variety of sizes, shapes and even colors.
Another choice, but one that adds an unforgettable ambiance to the design, is to add an outdoor fireplace. Unsurpassed for their beauty and romantic appeal, nothing draws people together or relaxes them more than gazing into the dancing flames of a roaring fire from the embrace of a comfortable chair.
Today’s homeowners are demanding well- designed spaces that seamlessly connect their indoor living areas to the outdoors. They recognize the value of being fully connected to nature but also want the conveniences and luxuries of their indoor lifestyle.
Whether you are upgrading your existing patio or beginning an entirely new outdoor kitchen project,
the designers at Embassy Landscape Group are ready to help bring your ideas to life. Give them a call today.