Upgrade Your Grill

The outdoor kitchen trend is here to stay.
Are you ready to build one in your backyard?

By LaRue V. Baber

What’s the biggest hangout spot in a home, particularly when entertaining guests? The kitchen, right? Well, today, the kitchen is moving outdoors. Backyards are being transformed into beautiful oases with huge patios featuring plush, comfy furniture and state-of-the-art appliances—from TVs, gas fire pits, built-in grills, wine refrigerators and even pizza ovens and griddle attachments to make pancakes!

Over the last decade, the trend of outdoor living spaces has solidified into a staple feature for both new construction and landscape remodeling and building projects with the National Association of Home Builders ranking outdoor kitchens number four in desirability for upscale homes.

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5-15 Grill web4What Kind of Built-In Grill Should I Get?

A built-in grilling station is so much better for so many reasons. You can grill, bake, smoke, broil, sauté, fry and roast with the right outdoor cooking station. One of the best aspects of a built-in unit is it typically achieves a much higher BTU output than even the best standalone grill. Another benefit is built-in units are usually constructed of thicker stainless steel, which retains heat better and will last longer. Various fuels change the cooking process for built-in grills. Today, you can find ones that run on natural gas, propane, charcoal or wood.

A glass-ceramic lid (featured in Fire Magic’s Echelon series grills) on your built-in grill allows for great visibility. “An at-home chef can see what is going on inside the grill without opening the lid,” said Karen Elder, marketing manager and global product manager for SCHOTT North America. “Some of the research conducted in our labs on some popular grill models show that lifting the lid can cause internal temperatures to drop 300 degrees. If the user just opens the lid to check on the food, it can have an impact on the overall cooking performance.” No matter which grill (or lid) you choose, remember to always follow local codes for the installation.

5-15 Grill webIf you’re thinking of upgrading your outdoor grilling station into a custom outdoor kitchen, here are some important things to consider.

The first is functionality, said Jim Ginocchi, president of Coyote Outdoor Living. You must define what is important to you. Ample cooking space on the grill? Natural gas or liquid propane hookups? Sufficient counter space for prepping food? Storage and refrigeration solutions?

Jim Book, the chief executive officer of Lynx Grills, offered other important considerations to think about before beginning your dream outdoor kitchen project: Do you need an area to serve food? How far away will your outdoor kitchen be from your indoor kitchen? Are running water, cleaning and wash-up facilities important to you? What is the maximum number of guests you’d like to entertain?

More Heat=Better Steak

Try this experiment some weekend, suggested Bob Palmarroza, a Mr. Handyman franchisee who loves his built-in grill. “Cook a steak at 500 degrees and another one at 1,000 degrees. Let me know which one you like better. Besides dry aging, I just gave you the secret to Ruth Chris’ wonderful steaks. More heat is better.”

5-15 Grill web2Once you’ve got these details figured out, you’ll of course have to consider your budget. A basic island can be had for around $6,000, while a grand custom outdoor kitchen and entertaining space can require an investment of tens of thousands of dollars.

If you’re ready to build that outdoor kitchen complete with a built-in grilling station, find experts who can help. The National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, and the pages of this magazine are good places to start.

“The configuration of an outdoor kitchen island is very much a personal choice, depending on use, available space and budget,” Book said. Take the time to choose wisely and be the envy of the neighbors with your outdoor kitchen oasis!

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