The number of outdoor kitchen ideas has exploded. But, what is going to work best for you? Years ago, we weren’t ready to build an outdoor kitchen but we wanted to cook outdoors. The short-term solution involved buying a large mobile grill. Having a grilling station on wheels worked out well for us. More importantly, it made us realize how nice it was to move the grill based on:
- Cooking for a crowd,
- Grilling dinner for ourselves,
- Storage during the winter months (limited outdoor grilling), and
- The weather.
Our grill is usually in a different place on the deck when entertaining (cooking for a crowd) verses cooking dinner for ourselves. Also, we move it under one of our deck umbrellas during light rains and completely under our covered porch area for storage during the winter months. That all works for us and it made me realize one thing; a mobile outdoor kitchen works. Also, I noticed a while back that indoor kitchen design is getting more mobile as well. Several kitchen cabinets can now be purchased on wheels; think multi-purposing.
Fast forward several years and we are upgrading our outdoor living space. One priority is to use mobile and multi-functional components. Your landscape architect and/or contractor may be stuck on a permanent, built-in outdoor kitchen design. “That’s the way we always do it” mindset. Realize mobile outdoor kitchens offer numerous benefits including lower upfront cost as well as lower replacement cost down the road:
Upfront Cost and Use: built-ins, in most cases, generally cost more upfront. They can quickly get expensive. And, once built, you have few options. You might want the grill in a different location for entertaining large groups and in another location for day-to-day grilling. You may also want to move the grill based on which way the wind is blowing. Problem solved with mobile outdoor kitchens. Also, upscale units are now readily available.
Mobile outdoor kitchens offer more options but you must plan ahead. For example, when using propane or natural gas, you can install multiple propane/gas hook-ups around the deck and/or patio. They can be used for the grill, outdoor heaters, and fire pits as well. You must also plan to have multiple electrical outlets, which you’ll likely have anyway.
NOTE: If you have a large propane tank on your property, you can use 25 lbs. propane tanks for the grill and have your contractor install a “fill value” (attached to a line connected to the large tank) to refill the smaller 25 lbs. tank(s). We have several 25 lbs. propane tanks for the grill and our fire pit. It only requires a few minutes to replace them.
Replacement: outdoor grills don’t last forever. It is less expensive and easier to replace mobile outdoor kitchens than a permanent structure. Components of a mobile outdoor kitchen can be swapped out easily, if you want to change the design and/or features.
Surfaces: I noticed our stainless steel table works great outdoors. Ours isn’t on wheels (yet). However, it is easy to pick up and move around the deck. It holds up well in the weather and makes an excellent outdoor kitchen prep station. They cost $100-$200 depending on the size and quality of the steel.
Granite also works as a countertop surface outdoors. Granite is worth the cost IMHO. It lasts longer than wood or even concrete, which both degrade over time. We have a large granite top on the firepit table I made. It’s over 8 years old and looks as new as the day we purchased it. Also, there are numerous places to buy granite countertops in my area (#RVA, Richmond, VA). The cost per square foot of granite is much more reasonable as a result.
Electrical and Lighting: if you’re going mobile, add an outlet bar to the mobile unit. It can be used for other appliances and lighting. Just plug it in to the nearest outlet with an extension cord when you move your kitchen around.
I have a few more outdoor kitchen ideas on Pinterest here; follow me on Pinterest given I update the boards frequently (I love Pinterest for saving ideas).