Our backyards have become our new happy places, and outdoor kitchens are not only reserved for those with mansions and manicured grounds. How can you make your entertaining space as beautiful and functional as possible? What will a small-space outpost—or a complete outdoor kitchen with island and weather-resistant appliances—cost?
In Part 1 of our outdoor kitchen series, leading appliance platform Appliances Connection asked experts the keys to designing a personal oasis. Here, we tackle some specifics of space and budget when creating an outdoor retreat.
Prices for designing an entire space will vary widely by region, materials selected and the amount of work that needs to be done. For the purposes of this story, we’ll focus on appliances and accessories.
COZY SPACE, COZY BUDGET: WHAT TO EXPECT FOR UP TO $4,000
Where to Begin
Say you have about a 15-ft.-by-15-ft. (about 225 square feet) space. Enough room for one table with four to six chairs, and a stretch of about 10 to 12 feet for cabinetry and appliances. You will have room for a grill, ranging in size from about 30 inches to 40 inches, either as a grill head housed in an island or freestanding on a cart. A 24-in. refrigerator can sit under a countertop, out of direct sunlight, with a small 15-in. sink on the side.
You can buy these items separately. And if the budget is somewhat tight, start with a grill and plan where you will add other appliances and amenities later. A small, portable charcoal grill or electric tabletop unit can be had for $100 or less, and can be a good supplemental cooking source for tailgating, toasting marshmallows, or a few extra hot dogs for the kids. But charcoal doesn’t necessarily mean inexpensive. Some large units—freestanding or built-in—can run upwards of $2,000, depending on size and features. These can be incorporated into a bbq kitchen island, or stand alone with cabinets and countertops on either side for a cohesive look.
To cook for a crowd and ensure consistent heat, opt for gas (natural gas or liquid propane). Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $500+ to start, for a bare-bones gas grill on a cart with flip-up side panels, or about $600 for a grill head to insert in cabinetry. As you step up in price—$1,000 to $2,000—you’ll get a greater grilling area and more BTUs (50,000+), and some carts will have storage with doors. A number of brands offer accessories like rotisserie packages, interior grill lights, electronic ignition and smoker boxes—and don’t forget the cover.
Additional Appliance Necessities
Outdoor-rated refrigerators that fit under a counter start at about $500 for a 20-in. compact, stainless steel unit. Adding a few hundred dollars brings greater capacity, more shelves, a door lock, adjustable thermostat and interior lighting. Between $1,000 and $2,000, you can find taller units and door style options (glass or panel, and reversible door opening on the right or left). More expensive units offer automatic defrost, heavier-gauge steel, eco-friendly refrigerant, a crisper drawer and high/low temperature alarm.
Outdoor sinks are typically stainless steel and generally bar-sized—about 15 to 18 inches square—and some have faucets included. Be sure to get a faucet with components that will withstand extreme temperatures and weather. Entry-level prices start under $200 and can run as high as $600. Larger, deeper sinks in heavier-duty stainless steel, double-bowls, sinks with built-in cabinetry, a cover, accessory racks or shelving can top $1,000.
MORE ROOM, MORE TOYS: WHAT TO EXPECT FOR $4,000-$10,000
Starting With a Spacious Plan
If your outdoor living area has more space (generally 500 square feet), you should be able to accommodate 10 to 16 people. Begin your planning process by thinking about the appliances you’ll want to bring the convenience and enjoyment of an indoor cooking experience outside, and how you’ll be entertaining in that outdoor living space. With a greater area, you may be farther from the main kitchen, so having a bigger outdoor sink, refrigerator and serving area will be a great convenience and eliminate multiple trips in and out.
Prep, cooking, and serving zones can be configured in an L-shape, perhaps even with island seating for a few more friends. It’s easier to accommodate more outdoor kitchen options with a spacious island. You can include a built-in grill head, enclosed storage, an undercounter refrigerator near the cooking zone and perhaps a wine refrigerator, ice maker, stainless-steel tub cooler for additional drinks, and a kegerator beer dispenser in a bar area.
Starting at about $2,000, you can expect to have a grill head that’s at least 32 inches wide, usually with a side burner and temperature gauge, and the stainless steel will be a higher grade for greater durability. Interior and illuminated burner control lights are great features for grilling up those late-night snacks— and user safety—and additional warming racks keep the burgers toasty when the game goes into overtime. Other features at this price point or higher include a powerful sear burner, heavier-duty grill grates, electronic ignition and more.
Push the grill budget to between $3,000 and $4,000 and you’ll get more grilling surface and greater BTUs, ceramic briquettes for better heat retention and some models with digital touch controls.
Thinking about a pizza oven? Allot a minimum of $1,200 to $1,800 for a smaller, built-in wood-burning unit in stainless steel, with ceramic pizza stone and chimney.
The advantage of more space means you can have a refrigerator for beverages or a beer tap by the bar, and one for raw food near the grill. Kegerators start at about $1,500. Sinks at a higher price point are not only larger, but include separate compartments for cocktail garnishes and ice storage.
Easy Decision: Pick A Package
Outdoor kitchen packages can include a built-in grill with storage doors, a refrigerator, storage drawers, side burners and a trash drawer, so you can customize the configuration in an island cooking zone. Depending on the combination you choose and the brand, expect to pay between $3,000 and $6,000 for 3-piece to 5-piece packages. The legwork of finding the right appliances and accessories for your needs is done for you, and you may benefit from manufacturers’ rebates.
THE BACKYARD RESORT: WHAT TO EXPECT FOR $10,000-$20,000+
Structural Elements Enhance the Look
Space and budget are not roadblocks in this scenario. Most of the funding for a resort-style backyard will likely go to structural expenses like stonework, landscaping, permanent roofing or pergola, protection for the TV and built-in sound system, and perhaps expanding the house entrance with a sliding window wall.
When you have plenty of room to run parallel islands or create a U-shaped cooking area, you can opt for a built-in grill head with side burner.
High-end grills will start around $3,000, and most will have lots of bells and whistles—like interior lighting, electronic ignition and temperature gauges. Better grills have better grates with a wave pattern for even heat distribution, and also allow for more cooking methods, such as a searing burner or an infrared heating element. You’ll also find larger and more powerful grills, at least 42 inches wide and 100,000 BTUs or more. These will likely run between $5,000 and $8,000.
If you have a large grill with more BTUs and are under some sort of structure, you may need to consider ventilation. Depending on size and capacity, outdoor range hoods can start around $600 and exceed $3,000. Add a pizza oven or smoker—or both—with brick or ceramic hearth, and a large capacity (40-in. width, 5 sq. ft. of cooking surface or more) for about $3,000.
Place a refrigerator near the grill, and add a second fridge in the bar area, along with a kegerator and ice maker rated for outdoor use. As for ice makers, the more expensive units will produce and store more ice, so depending on your needs, you can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $5,000. Pricier ice makers offer different styles of cubes, and can crank out up to 80 pounds of ice a day, and store more than 20 pounds.
Want to watch the big game and still enjoy an evening outside? Check into an outdoor TV. Most outdoor-rated LCDs start a little over $3,000 and can run as high as $10,000, although smaller sets are available under $2,000. But it’s important to note that the viewing distance outdoors will probably be greater than in a room, so bigger is generally better. Also, for the best viewing, take into account any glare that will be reflected on the screen when figuring out placement. A structure shading the perimeter of the monitor may be necessary to ensure an optimum experience; it’s a good idea to consult with a technology integrator when installing electronics outdoors.
Lots of other extras are available, from water features to fire pits. Finally, don’t forget about lighting, comfortable dining furniture, and conversational seating with weather-resistant fabrics, and secure, dry storage to help realize the backyard of your dreams.
Editor’s Note: Before You Get Started
A few things to keep in mind when beginning the design project involving municipal ordinances and utilities:
- Do you need to run gas, electric or plumbing lines to the outdoor kitchen area?
- Are you building a deck, installing a patio, pouring concrete, building any overhead structure? Remember that construction of permanent structures usually requires permits, footings and inspection by municipal engineers. Check with your local zoning board or city building department before embarking on the project. Also consider drainage: Where will rainwater run, and will that create a muddy mess?
- Ask your utility company to mark any service lines in any area in which you dig.