Not long ago, the term ‘outdoor kitchen’ was only a concept. Homeowners were forced to fire up their backyard barbecues with messy charcoal and lighter fluid and make numerous trips in and out of the house to cook a meal. That all changed in the mid-’90s when certain grill manufacturers began to produce professional style gas-fired grills made of commercial grade stainless steel. These gas grills had high BTU burners combined with heat generators capable of quickly searing meats for flavourful, moist results.
As the popularity of this trend grew, so did the desire for consumers to have more than just a grill outside. Today, the outdoor kitchen has become the new indoor kitchen, encompassing all the conveniences of an indoor kitchen so delicious culinary creations can be executed from start to finish outside. Manufacturers have successfully stepped up to meet the popularity of this trend, offering a complete line of restaurant inspired outdoor kitchen products, including high performance grills, power burners, fryers, outdoor refrigeration, prep and waste centres, plating centres, sinks, beverage centres and a host of door and drawer storage systems. Other popular products now available for outdoor kitchens include pizza ovens, icemakers and even dishwashers – all enhancing the functionality of the space.
When it comes to designing an outdoor kitchen, designers should employ the same space planning practices used when designing an indoor kitchen. The design should be ergonomically intuitive with good functionality, flow and comfort, combined with all the conveniences that are key to making an enjoyable fully functional culinary environment.
Proper space planning of appliances is an area that is often overlooked. When it comes to choosing outdoor appliances, it’s important to know the different types of stainless steel and construction techniques. The three types of stainless steel used are 304, 201 and 400 series. 304 series has the highest nickel content and holds up best in the elements, especially near marine environments. Welded construction in lieu of mechanical fasteners will ensure long life.
The best grilling systems are the ones that have heat generating ceramic briquettes because this allows the heat to evenly be delivered to the cooking surface for optimal caramelizing results on food. They are also the most effective at driving flavour back into the food.
When it comes to outdoor refrigeration and icemakers, there are many different brands certified for outdoor use; however, only a few are capable of performing well in high outdoor temperatures. The higher the BTUs, the better the performance on the hottest days. Most residential refrigerators have plastic interiors, yet the best material for maximizing its ability to maintain cool temperatures and long life is stainless steel.
Dale G. Seiden is co-founder and vice-president, director sales and marketing for Alfresco Open Air Culinary Systems.