It came as no surprise when I read that more than 75 percent of all U.S. households include a grill or smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. Still, what the homeowners I work with tell me is that the grill isn’t even half of the story when it comes to cooking outdoors.
Sure, a great grill will help you fire up a mouth-watering rack of ribs. But if you’re serious about cooking and entertaining consider the latest trends for patios, decks and outdoor kitchens:
1. Put a roof over your head. If you’re going to spend all afternoon preparing your famous gumbo or the best barbecue your friends have ever tasted, you need a comfortable place to work.
Nobody wants to cook outdoors on summer holidays in the Louisiana heat. But if you cover your patio with a sturdy roof, you’ll shade your space, cool it off and dim the bright sunlight. You’ll also be able to continue creating your culinary masterpiece during a rain shower if you’re standing under a roof.
2. Don’t bug-out. Mosquitoes and flies seem to be uninvited guests at every outdoor party, but there’s an easy way to keep them out: Screen your patio in. I like detachable screens that you can remove when it’s nice outdoors and replace when the sun goes down. I’ve also seen motorized screens that roll up like a garage door with the push of a button. Or you can install accordion-style doors that pull open and stay out of the way.
3. No smoking. If you’re going to enclose your patio/outdoor kitchen with screens or a roof, consider adding a hood over your grill or cooktop so the smoke will vent out of the enclosed space. For some, a ceiling fan might be enough to circulate the air and keep the smoke from bothering your dinner guests, especially if you locate your grill close to the edge of the patio.
4. Fully stocked. No kitchen is complete without a refrigerator, some counter space for food prep and cabinets for storage. Choose products for your outdoor kitchen that are tough enough to stand up to the heat, sunlight and rain—but that look good, too. Look for refrigerators and other appliances that are rated for outdoor use, cabinets that are weatherproof, and stainless steel countertops that are durable and easy to keep clean.
5. Take it up a notch. If you entertain frequently, how about adding a wine cooler, pizza oven, turkey fryer or another specialty piece to your outdoor kitchen? The more appliances you have to work with, the more variety you can offer your guests—and the fewer trips you’ll have to make to your indoor kitchen during the party.
6. Look happy. A big trend in outdoor living this year: color. The economy is improving and people are feeling better—and it shows when they decorate their patios and outdoor kitchens with bright accessories and fabrics. If you shop for patio furniture, umbrellas and even accent pillows this summer, you’ll find them in shades of blue, green and even orange.
7. Grow your own. The latest “accessory” for the patio: home-grown flowers and vegetables. Surround your outdoor kitchen with planted gardens and container gardens that bloom with tomatoes, peppers and anything else that will grow in your yard, and impress your guests by cooking with food that you grew yourself.
8. Double up. Serious outdoor chefs don’t limit themselves to a single grill. If your main cooking station is a built-in grill with a stone surround, think about investing in a portable gas or charcoal grill—or both— as well.
9. Watch what you’re doing. Without outdoor lighting, you won’t be able to cook after dark—and that can mean the party will break up early. Install overhead lights and lights on stairways, steps and banisters. Uplight tree canopies and downlight from above to make it easier for guests to see their food and walk around without tripping.
10. That’s entertainment. No party is complete without music, movies, football games—or whatever kind of entertainment you and your friends like when you get together. Even television sets come rated for outdoor use and can “take” both sweltering heat and extra-cool evening temperatures.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.jebdesignbuild.com.