Build a Dream Outdoor Kitchen

January 9, 2012 Outdoor Cooking, Patio Design

Home owners have a strange attraction to outdoor kitchens.  Maybe we believe food tastes better when prepared on an outdoor grill, or maybe cooking by the pool just makes it more fun.  In any case, we all seem to think life would be better with a wide patio, a big grill, and everything else we need to prepare an outdoor feast.

But what is that everything else?  What items should you plan to build or purchase for the perfect outdoor kitchen?

Start with a Grill

Buying a grill is a no-brainer if you’re building an outdoor kitchen.  The place to cook is what makes your outdoor kitchen, well…a kitchen!

The grill is the piece de resistance of your patio, so you need to spend some time picking out the perfect one.  If you buy a low-quality grill and hate using it to bbq, then your whole investment might go down the drain.  So whether you buy a pre-made grill or get one customized for your kitchen, look for high-quality stainless steel on both the interior and exterior.  Additionally, spring for a side burner or two!  You’d be amazed at how useful they are when you need to keep something warm.

The perfect place to grill.

Account for Counters

Anyone who’s tried to cook in a cramped kitchen knows that counter space in the kitchen is valuable real estate, so don’t skimp on counter space.  Instead, use it as an opportunity to make the most out of your patio space by using your counters as extra eating areas.  Also, be sure to have storage cabinets built into them for your grilling tools and cooking supplies.

Just grab a few barstools.

Decorate with a Fireplace or Firepit

While fireplaces and firepits aren’t necessarily part of a kitchen, you can still cook with them.  A roaring fire will keep the patio warm on chilly nights, and it’s the perfect place for the kids to roast hotdogs and marshmallows while you prepare the rest of the meal (or relax!).

The best thing about fireplaces and firepits is that they’re decorative.  Put an outdoor fireplace on the patio and it becomes the focal point – especially if you use the mantel area for your flatscreen tv.

To make the most out of your fireplace or firepit, choose a stone or brick to match or complement your home’s exterior.

Decorative and functional

Take the Baking Outside

An outdoor oven may not be a necessity, but it sure is cool!  For some, having a brick oven to bake pizza or bread is a good enough reason to build one into the outdoor kitchen.  However, you can also use brick ovens to prepare meat, stews, vegetables, and more.

You'll never order pizza again

Patio Cover and Flooring

Last, but perhaps most importantly, you need a quality patio cover and flooring to protect your new outdoor kitchen from the elements.  Tile and marble are both too slick for outdoor kitchen flooring, but stone and stamped concrete are both safe and look fantastic.

As for the patio cover, the most important issue is making sure it’s waterproof.  Not only does the cover need to protect your outdoor kitchen, but it needs to keep water off any ceiling fans, lighting, and electric appliances.  It also allows you to enjoy your outdoor kitchen even when it’s raining!

Of course, choose flooring and patio cover finishes and accents that match your fireplace and home.  Check out these flooring ideas from This Old House.

Elegantly protecting your outdoor kitchen.

Room to Expand

Now that you have some ideas for your backyard, get out a sheet of paper and sketch your dream patio area.  Don’t consider cost just yet, as these projects can be a significant investment that will add to the value and enjoyment of your home.  If you can’t build it all at once, don’t worry!  You can always add that fireplace later.

How to Throw a Holiday Patio Party

January 6, 2012 Outdoor Cooking

It might be winter, but in Texas we can still throw a party on the patio. All you need is three easy dishes for the grill and a festive, inviting patio.

Three Easy Holiday Recipes for the Grill

You can cook an entire holiday feast outdoors.  All you need is a grill and a place to eat!  For an easy, casual party, stick to appetizers, drinks, and sweets.  But if you want, you can do an entire meal outside.

Here are a few of our favorite grilled dishes to serve during the holidays.

Grilled Bacon Jalapeno Wraps 

This tasty appetizer takes just a few minutes to prepare and grill.
Ingredients:
6 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
12 slices bacon

jalapenosDirections:
1. Preheat your grill to high heat.
2. Spread cream cheese on each jalapeno half.
3. Wrap each piece in bacon and secure with a toothpick.
4. Place on grill and cook until bacon is crispy.

For more outdoor appetizers, check out Southern Living’s collection.

Holiday Kebabs 

It’s easy to make Christmas-themed kebabs by using red and white vegetables, like bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes.

Plus, kebabs are infinitely customizable:  Just buy kebab sticks or skewers at a grocery store or home goods store.

Ingredients:
Red, white, and/or green vegetables (Onions, Bell peppers, Mushrooms, Cherry tomatoes)

Meats of your choice (Shrimp, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb, Bacon)

Directions:
1Cut vegetables and meats into 1 to 1.5 inch slices.
2. Soak the pieces in your favorite marinade for a few hours.
3. String the ingredients onto skewers, alternating the meats and veggies.
4. Use high heat on the grill, rotating skewers until all ingredients are done.

Snowball Skillet Cookies

It’s not a holiday party without something sweet!  These tasty little cookies can be prepared using one of your outdoor kitchen’s side burners.

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups crisp rice cereal
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 cup flaked coconut

Directions:
1. Heat a heavy skillet over low heat.
2. Mix together dates, sugar, butter, and egg.  Cook in skillet for about 5 minutes, or until bubbly.
3. Remove from heat and add vanilla, cereal, and pecans. Allow to cool.
4. Form mixture into balls and roll in coconut.

Do you have a great holiday recipe? Share it with us in the comments!

 

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