ARTICLE Penny Lewis

Indoor kitchens are one of the most expensive rooms in the house, so it stands to reason outdoor kitchens don’t come cheap. Expect to pay at least $20,000 to really get cooking outside. Landscape designer Nichola Vague from Zones, says basic outdoor kitchens start with standalone components fitted into an existing space. The most entry-level pieces are available from hardware chain stores.

What sort of weather-resistant materials should be used?

If you don’t have the budget or the space to cover your outdoor kitchen, you will need to think very carefully about choosing fittings to stand up to the elements. Stainless steels are an excellent choice – for benchtops, cabinetry units and appliances. If you want to have a go at making shelves and storage, opt for treated pine and marine ply.

Nichola tends to err on the low-maintenance side when specifying materials for outdoor kitchens. She opts for granite, sealed concrete and stainless steel. “You wouldn’t use MDF for the carcasses, but treated pine is fine because outdoors kitchens can afford to be a bit more rustic or low key.”

Built-in stainless stell hooded barbeque unit with stroage and sink

Which appliances are the best for basic outdoor kitchens?

It goes without saying, but be sure to choose appliances especially designed for outdoor use, especially if your outdoor kitchen is not undercover. Nichola says basic outdoor kitchens can be as simple as stainless steel units bought at Bunnings, which are more elaborate than a barbeque. “They might have a type of hotplate in addition to the frill, as well as a couple of cupboards,” she says.

Some off-the-shelf outdoor kitchen models have granite benchtops, cupboards and even a sink. It’s now standard for even basic barbeques to have hoods, so expect an outdoor kitchen retailing for around $2500 to have one, too. A hood means you effectively have an outdoor oven, not just a grill.

Love pizza but don’t have the space or budget for a dedicated pizza oven? Consider an inexpensive pizza stone. Just leave the stone to heat up sufficiently under the hood for a crispy base and cook your pizza in only a matter of minutes.

Refrigeration is also a biggie if you want to avoid walking back inside all the time to fetch food, condiments and drinks. Even if you are not storing food outside permanently, you will ideally have refrigeration to keep drinks cold and keep chilled food safe from spoiling. Small stainless steel 118-litre capacity fridges especially made for outdoors are priced from $1399. Larger models are also available.

Should I use electricity or gas?

Electricity is essential in any outdoor kitchen, just as it is for an indoor kitchen. But there are special requirements when you are dealing with electricity outside. Trilect Electrical services tells its clients that Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets must be installed in any area where electricity and water may come into contact. A landscaping specialist will not only know the codes inside and out, they’ll know about the requirements of GFCI outlets. It’s a good idea to put the outdoor kitchen on its own GFCI circuit board inside your house, because it’s far simpler to reset the system from indoors.

Theresa Davis, leisure buyer for Bunnings, says the Metador Entertainer 6-burner outdoor kitchen it sells runs on LPG out of the box, but it can run on main gas (natural gas) once converted by a licensed gas fitter/plumber. “We also recommend checking with local council requirements in regards to gas conversion.”

Theresa says it’s personal preference to run natural gas or LPG. Running on natural gas will eliminate the trouble to purchase/refill LPG gas bottles. Running on LPG will be convenient if the kitchen needs to be relocated or when main gas is not readily available.

Basic outdoor kitchen with benchtop prepping space and hooded barbeque grill and ventilation

Plumbing installation and water supply

Theresa says the Metador Entertainer 6-burner outdoor kitchen it sells comes equipped with a mixer tap for hot and cold water and would generally be required to be plumbed in by a licensed plumber. “The waste water goes through a pipe from the bottom of the sink and can be directed into a drain or can be properly plumbed in as well. We would recommend to check with local council requirements in regards to water supply and waste management,” Theresa says.

What type of lighting should I plan on getting?

Just as you need the right lighting in your indoor kitchen, so too will you need the right illumination outside. A mix of task lighting for prep work and cooking is required, but also ambient lighting too, to set the right mood for the dining area. Nichola Vague recommends investing in the right lighting. She believes in having fewer, good quality lights, rather than poor quality lights that you will end up replacing.

“I tend to use good lights throughout. There’s nothing worse than fitting a house out with lighting and then having to replace it a year later.” Make sure the lighting you choose is specially designed for outdoor use.

Does everything have to be brand new in the outdoor kitchen?

Well-known chef Al Brown has chosen many pre-loved materials for the outdoor kitchen at his family home in Ellerslie, Auckland. Many of the fittings and decorative elements he transplanted from his previous home in Wellington. His three requirements for his outdoor kitchen were copious bench space, running water and something to wash up in and he found an old wash tub in an inorganic collection. “I love original, not bought off the shelf. Finding ideas and scouring recycle yards is part of the process.”

Nichola Vague says she loves the whole movement of repurposed materials. “I haven’t had much to do with that, but I love that whole look. I love that whole movement.”

Outdoor fireplace place which can also be used as a pizza oven

IMAGE Scott Espie
 

Where should I place the planter boxes?

You may like to keep planter boxes close by kitchen-handy fresh herbs. If mint is a favourite for cooking or summer cocktails, remember to plant it in its own pot, otherwise it will tend to spread out and crowd other plants.

What do I need to know about ventilation?

Just as you would with a conventional barbeque, think about air flow around the cooking area of your outdoor kitchen, no matter whether it’s wood, coal or gas-fired. Particularly if your outdoor kitchen is positioned close to your home, you don’t want smoke or cooking fumes wafting inside. This also goes for where you will be dining outside with your friends and family. The last thing you want is for your alfresco dining to be a smoke-out.

How much does it cost to add a heater?

You may like to add on to an existing outdoor fireplace, or if you are starting from scratch, freestanding powder-coated gas outdoor heaters are less than $200.

If you have a slightly bigger budget to work with, why not read our mid-range outdoor kitchen and high-end outdoor kitchen.

 
Note: Prices are rough approximations only, and Zones Landscaping cannot be held accountable for their accuracy. All prices in this article are exclusive of installation costs and any variations.
 

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.