Upgrade your al fresco entertaining with a fully equipped kitchen for an outdoor cooking experience your guests won’t forget.
Image: DesignSpace London (020 7228 8088; designspacelondon.com)
More than just a place for the occasional barbecue, the latest outdoor kitchens allow you to cook as adventurously in the open air as you would inside. Their rising popularity may seem surprising given the UK’s unpredictable climate, but it’s part of a trend for opening up homes to make a connection to the garden. To create these new outdoor rooms, an array of equipment is available, from tandoor and pizza ovens to powerful barbecues, wine fridges and built-in storage. The only limits on your dream outdoor kitchen are space and budget.
Image: Bert & May (020 3744 0776; bertandmay.com)
1. Position it right
Before you start on the finer details, it’s important to figure out where the kitchen will go, how it will work with the rest of your garden and how large it will be. First, consider the distance from your indoor kitchen, as this may dictate the elements you need to include outside. Your outdoor kitchen’s orientation is key. For example, the prevailing winds in the UK come from the south-west and west, so position your cooking area or grill so your back is facing in that direction when you’re using it.
If your kitchen will be close to your house, nearby buildings can cause wind turbulence that may drive smoke down as well as up, so check where the smoke goes by carefully setting a small fire in a frying pan. For good ventilation, situate your cooking area the same distance from the house as it is high. ‘Be aware of flammable materials, proximity of hot gases and smoke getting trapped,’ says Amrit Row, designer at Wood-fired Oven (01225 867 971; wood-firedoven.co.uk). ‘Smoke from a pizza oven exits at nearly 200°C and, at start-up, small sparks can drift out of the flue, so make sure there is adequate clearance.’
Image: Sub-Zero (0845 250 0010; subzero-wolf.co.uk)
2. Decide on space and features
Next, work out how often you’ll be using your outdoor kitchen, how many people you’ll be catering for and what sort of food you like to cook.
This will help you decide how much grill area and workspace you’ll need. ‘Ask yourself if you’ll be grilling or roasting, too, or if you’d like to make stone-baked pizza and breads,’ says Jeremy Sharples, owner of Kitchen in the Garden at Cedar Nursery (01932 862 473; landscaping.co.uk). ‘For larger roasts, it’s better to get grills with three or more burners or, if you’re going for charcoal, a grill area that allows the coals to be separated. For the more adventurous cook who wants flexibility, consider a kamado, a Japanese-style clay oven that can cook pizza and slow roasts. For keen entertainers, a Le Panyol wood-fired oven can cook up to 40 pizzas an hour.’
Image: Boffi (020 7590 8910; boffuk.com)
3. Choose a style
Once limited to stainless steel, designs are now available in timber and composites such as Corian or Dekton. Check that the materials you want to use are suitable for outdoor use – they need to be UV-stable, durable, flame-proof and frost-proof. Even if your design is mainly steel, accompanying building work can be personalised using render, brick, stone or timber cladding.
Where possible, ensure your design complements its surroundings and works for the way you cook. For example, there may be less need to design it like an indoor kitchen, so you could house a pizza oven separately from the grill if you only tend to use one at atime or the oven doubles up as heating. Similarly, do you like to face guests and have somewhere for them to sit as you cook, or would you prefer a self-contained unit away from the seating area?
‘It’s best to call in professional help, as a designer can advise on ventilation, location and material selections, as well as what utilities, such as plumbing, gas or electrics, may need to be extended,’ says Craig Ormiston, director at Fire Magic (01732 884 030; fire-magic.co.uk). ‘However, putting your kitchen under shelter is a personal choice – if you choose to do so, ensure you maintain adequate ventilation.’ And remember that any electrical appliances will need a power supply via an armoured cable or an IP-rated socket.
Image: Chaplins Furniture (020 8421 1779; chaplins.co.uk)
4. Weigh up the cost
As with indoor kitchens, there’s no limit to how many features you can incorporate, from weatherproof TVs, sound systems and lighting to fridges, smokers and rotisseries.
‘Quality is linked to cost, but not everyone needs a top-of-the-range model,’ says Jeremy Sharples. ‘Much of the outlay is in the build of an outdoor kitchen, and, unlike internal kitchens, there is no standard sizing. Be sure to buy equipment that is backed by a strong warranty from an established manufacturer, as you don’t want a grill to wear out only to find there are no replacement parts. Some models may seem expensive but come with lifetime guarantees – key when they’re living outside in the British winter.’
Image: Palazzetti (palazzetti.it)
Words: Rachel Ogden