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Living Space: Create an outdoor kitchen that really 'cooks'

By By Kathryn Weber
July 5, 2012 at 2:05 a.m.

Make sure natural materials, like porous stone, are sealed so they don't show every grease spot and drop of barbecue sauce.

One of the great joys of summer is outdoor cooking. Not only is it a tasty way to get a meal on the table, but it also keeps the house cool and makes meal prep quick and easy. But if your idea of an outdoor kitchen is a kettle grill, there's a whole world of innovation you can tap into to create an attractive and efficient, open-air cooking space.

Keeping in mind a few simple guidelines will help you create an outdoor kitchen that's not only enjoyable, but also adds to your home value.



Pick a spot

When you're ready to create your outdoor kitchen, it's important to pick the right spot. You only need a small corner of the backyard or patio, but you first decide if you want your al fresco facilities under cover or out in the open. A key consideration is ventilation.

If you designate a corner of a patio, make sure there's a way for smoke and odors to escape, such as with a venting or fans. Smoke can gather in an enclosed area and cause soot and smoke stains on the walls. A grill that's open at the back or in an open area won't cause this problem.



Selecting materials

Natural materials are very popular and perfect for an outdoor kitchen. Bear in mind that these materials should be polished and sealed. If you use untreated natural stone, for example, its porous surface will reveal every grease spot and drop of barbecue sauce.

A polished stone surface or fired porcelain tile also make for easy clean-up of soot, grease and spills. If your outdoor kitchen is in an enclosed space, tiling the backsplash wall with a cleanable surface is key to keeping the space attractive and easy to clean.



Cooking considerations

Today's grills offer a variety of options, from burners to infrared searing elements and rotisseries. Rotisseries enable you to place a large piece of meat or a whole chicken on the grill and roast it easily because the spit turns automatically, leaving you more time to spend with family or friends. This accessory is available on most upper-tier grills, producing nicely roasted meat without a strong grill flavor.

An outdoor kitchen needs both ambient lighting and task lighting to help you see clearly while cooking. If the grill is in the yard, you may need an electrician to run conduit and electricity to the kitchen. String patio lights to add an inviting ambience. You'll also want to include storage for charcoal, utensils and essentials. Are you a family of pizza fans? Consider adding a pizza oven for a wood-fired taste.

Prep space, refrigeration or insulated storage, and a sink are other nice additions for any outdoor kitchen, but before you spend a bundle, consider how much time you actually spend outdoors in the summer.

If you hang out on the patio every night, these niceties will be a great investment; if not, they'll be bells and whistles you might regret buying.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, redlotusletter.com.

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