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With spring just around the corner, it’s time to get your outdoor entertainment area summer-ready. An outdoor kitchen might be just what you need to take alfresco dining, poolside cocktails, summer ice cream treats up a level.

With the ever-looming pandemic and large gatherings still on hold, sprucing up your outdoor entertainment area is a worthy lifestyle investment you will never regret. It’s the gift that keeps on giving to yourself, your family and your Covid bubble.

Why Build an Outdoor Kitchen?

Living in a year-round warm climate like the Mpumalanga Lowveld or KZN coast, outdoor cooking is available and a popular option for most of the year. If this is the case (and space isn’t an issue) then going all out on a self-sufficient, fully-kitted outdoor kitchen is ideal.

How to Design an Outdoor Kitchen

The kind of outdoor kitchen that is best for your home partly depends on how much space you have, the climate you live in, the type of cooking you and your family enjoy and, of course, budget.

At its most basic, an outdoor kitchen could simply consist of a braai and a beverage cooler that doubles as a counter. On the other hand, there is no limit to how extravagant outdoor kitchens can be.

Here are some outdoor kitchen ideas to get you started.

patio outdoor kitchen
A large patio is an ideal space for an outdoor kitchen

Use Principles of Functional Design

Good functional design principles are just as important for the outdoor kitchen as the indoor kitchen. Cold areas (refrigeration), hot areas, braai, pizza oven, and cooktops), wet areas (sinks) and dry areas (prep counters and storage) must work together in appropriate proximity and with enough space.

Outdoor cooking introduces an exciting variety of different cooking options such as open-wood flame and smoking. While running utilities such as water and electricity to the outdoor kitchen could be a little more challenging, indoor and outdoor kitchens generally share similar attributes.

Choose Low-Maintenance Outdoor Kitchen Materials

The biggest difference between an indoor kitchen and an outdoor kitchen is exposure to elements which is why it is important to select low-maintenance materials and equipment that is designed to withstand the more extreme outdoor environment.

The easier the outdoor kitchen is to clean and maintain, the more you will use and enjoy your investment. High-quality stainless steel is easy to clean and resistant to corrosion – especially useful along the coast!

Counters should be able to withstand high temperatures and be resistant to grease stains and weather elements. If opting for natural stone, remember to seal it on a regular basis.

beautiful outdoor kitchen terrace with a view
A beautiful outdoor patio kitchen with a view

Use Compatible Flooring Materials

When it comes to flooring, concrete, sealed pavers and natural stone with lower natural porosity, such as granite, work well. By using compatible materials you can infuse subtle architectural details that complement the landscape of the home.

Also, consider how the outdoor and indoor kitchens may be used together when cooking or entertaining. If your outdoor kitchen is not fully self-reliant, consider how much movement there will be between the indoor and outdoor kitchens and design flow and accessibility accordingly.

Consider the Size of Your Place When Designing Your Kitchen Layout

In a smaller space such as an apartment or residential complex unit, a basic outdoor kitchen on a balcony or deck area can work in synergy with the indoor kitchen by installing glass stacking doors to separate the indoor and outdoor cooking areas. Opening these up when entertaining or cooking outside allows the two kitchen areas to seamlessly function together as an indoor outdoor kitchen.

In larger areas, the dining, cooking and swimming pool areas often coexist and it makes sense to plan the entire outdoor entertaining space as part of a single functional scheme. Take into consideration the flow of traffic as one would when designing an indoor kitchen, living and dining room set-up and don’t isolate the cook from the rest of the party.

Don’t Forget to Equip your Outdoor Kitchen with Essential Appliances

An ice machine, beverage cooler and wine cooler is the holy trinity for “pitcher”-perfect drinks on demand. To take care of the food, a variety of cooking options such as a pizza oven, large braai and gas burner will do nicely and give you all the options you could wish for.

Add storage space and utility drawers for enough cutlery and crockery, pots and pans, utensils and glasses so you won’t have to run back inside and remember to install a sink for washing up.

If your entertainment area doesn’t already include it, add a flatscreen for the big games and/or a sound system for background music. Planting herbs and microgreens nearby for sprinkling on freshly homemade pizzas is also quite handy.

Weatherproof Your Outdoor Kitchen

Adding heaters, shade and rain shelter to the outdoor kitchen extends the outdoor entertainment season. The feeling of something over your head, like a pergola, arbour, a roofed structure or even the canopy of a tree is also a nice anchor. Finally, include adequate task and ambient lighting for after-dark cooking and entertaining.

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