Picture this: it’s a hot summer Saturday and you’ve worked up an appetite from spending the early afternoon lounging at the beach, reading your favorite book. “What should we do for dinner?” little Johnny asks. All of a sudden it comes to you: burger night. You get home and start cranking up the tunes, turn on the grill, and pop some rosé. You’re surrounded by close friends, family, and music. Your floor is grass, the ceiling is the 7 pm summer sun. The sweet smell of smoking corn is radiating in the air. And all this was made possible by your outdoor kitchen. Now if there’s one thing the pandemic taught me –– it’s how to have a good time in your own backyard and this, for me, is the best way to enjoy doing the otherwise mundane task of cooking dinner.
In our team zoom call last week, Emily and I had a debate on what is actually needed in an outdoor kitchen. I love those “non-essential” cooking gadgets (when they actually work well) to shake up the dinner-making process, so I was trying to convince everyone of the really cool, best ones that can give you and your family endless amounts of fun. Emily on the other hand thinks these gadgets can be a lil’ unnecessary and never get used as much as you think they will (like she talked about in this post). So she would rather have a simple outdoor kitchen without fancy built-in pizza ovens or Brazilian charcoal grills (we’ll get to that later). Now she’s not TOTALLY wrong, but I think all of these gadgets and gizmos can be VERY fun and can get used a lot depending on the person. We both agreed however that if you’re going to build an outdoor kitchen, there really are only 3 really essential items you need and then everything else is just a bonus. So we’re gonna break it down into the basics and then I’m gonna send you down a list of weirdly fun doodads that I’ve used/want to use that you could totally try out this summer (and the summer after that and the summer after that, you get the picture).
1. The Grill
I mean DUH. I know it’s self-explanatory so please don’t click away yet bc we’re about to get to the fun stuff. But for the people in the back, if you don’t have a grill, definitely start here. I’m linking some well-reviewed gas, charcoal, and electric grills below and I’d love to hear which you guys love and use in the comments too. Also note, grills and really any gas stoves, in general, aren’t the best for the earth (and according to this article, propane grills are slightly better for the earth than charcoal grills, and then electric grills are probably the best planet-saving option). We feel like there is a total hole in the market for awesome, better-for-the-earth options since the electric grills aren’t reviewed as well in terms of actual cooking experience… if you know any other grills that are more sustainable or if you have any more insight on this please let us know in the comments — it’s a very important topic and we want everyone to shop smarter and more sustainably. Okay now onto some of the best-reviewed grills:
1. 3-Burner Propane Gas Grill in Black with Built-In Thermometer and Side Burner | 2. 4 Burner Propane Gas Grill | 3. HERO Portable Charcoal Grill System | 4. 18″ Portable Electric Grill | 5. Precision Charcoal Grill | 6. Charcoal Grill | 7. Large Charcoal Kamado Grill and Smoker | 8. Everdure CUBE Portable Charcoal Grill | 9. George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill | 10. 4-Burner Propane Gas Grill in Stainless Steel with Side Burner | 11. Mon Oncle BBQ V2 | 12. Weber ® Slate Blue Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
Apparently, according to Chris Loves Julia’s IG stories, everyone is head over heels for this Weber grill linked above as #1 (the reviews are basically that it lasts A LONG TIME which is also important when shopping sustainably). Also, I just got Instagram marketed for these new grills (#5) which are apparently supposed to be “grills that are designed beautifully” (and boy they are pretty). Lastly, my boyfriend LOVES to cook at the beach/lake so I got him this HERO portable grill (#3) as a gift and we’re very excited to try it out this summer.
2. The Surface/Prep Area
You’re gonna need to put your corn on the cob and burger patties SOMEWHERE…why not make it fashion?? Here are some awesome prep counter/storage cabinets that you can add to your kitchen (for minimal to no renovation costs!!!) including this one that Emily just got from Pottery Barn for the mountain house that they’re planning to use for both a cooking surface and then also toy/outdoor activity storage underneath. She also wanted me to inform you guys that they had to get metal because wood ––or really any other material–– don’t do great out there because the seasons can be so extreme. So if you live in a climate with real seasons (unlike LA), definitely consider that before you buy. Alright, onto the options:
1. Kitchen Sink & bbq | 2. Sherly Counter Height Trestle Dining Table | 3. Indio Metal Kitchen Double Cabinet | 4. Black Stainless Steel Grill Island | 5. Portside Outdoor Kitchen Collection | 6. Kitchen Island Shelf Unit | 7. Big Green Egg Cart | 8. 5-Piece Modular Outdoor Kitchen Cabinet |9. 8 Foot Table for Large Green Egg | 10. Outdoor Kitchen Series 3-Piece Modular Kitchen | 11. Everdure by Heston Blumenthal Mobile Prep Kitchen | 12. Portside Bar Island
So #3 is the one that Emily just got for the mountain house which is AWESOME. Also a huge fan of #11, which is a genius designed if you look at the video on amazon…there’s a hole cut out so you can slide your trash straight into the trash once you’re done chopping. Also for a more affordable option, this ikea one is a steal for $129!!
3. The Mini Fridge
Okay before I start, this is only REALLY needed if your outdoor kitchen is really far away from your normal indoor kitchen. If you are, then a fridge outside is a GAME CHANGER. You can store all the meats and veggies and whatnots you’re gonna cook right under your cookin’ station along with some ice cold beers, La Croix (or Spindrift…we have a debate about which one is better going around EHD currently), or just cool refreshing water. I’ve personally never had an outdoor fridge by my BBQ, which also works out okay, but would it be better if there was a fridge?? Absolutely. Also, note that the fridges below are not all weatherproof, but you could certainly build them into a cabinet or just have them under a covered pergola or something if that’s your thing.
1. Freestanding Mini Fridge Freezer Compartment | 2. Galanz Retro 3.1 cu ft True Freezer Dual-Door Refrigerator | 3. Built-in Indoor/Outdoor Undercounter Double Drawer Refrigerator | 4. Frigidaire 4.5 cu ft Single-Door Refrigerator | 5. Outdoor 19 in. 2.1 cu. ft. Commercial Refrigerator in Black | 6. Kenmore 4.4-Cu. Ft. Retro 1-Door Compact Refrigerator
So like I said, some of these are probably better if they’re under a covered patio or at least in a fridge cabinet especially the awesome retro ones…(#2 and #6). Otherwise, the really expensive (#3) one on the top right says it’s indoor/outdoor which is awesome, but if you’re looking for a more affordable option, this target one is also great!
A Heated Debate On The Outdoor Sink
A real internal debate has sparked at EHD and we need to share it with you. I personally think it would be AWESOME to have a sink in your outdoor kitchen for washing your hands in between seasoning meat and whatnot. However, Emily thinks it’s the least essential thing to have in an outdoor bbq area (and they’re not planning to put one outside at the farmhouse). Her argument is that it basically just becomes a dumping ground for dirty glasses and dishes that all eventually end up getting moved into the kitchen to go into the dishwasher. I totally get this point, and from a guest’s perspective, I also get why they would put their dirty drink glass there, but as the chef, I’d love to have a place to rinse flour off my hands when making pizza or whatnot. So what do you guys think?? Are you on team outdoor sink or team no outdoor sink?? AKA WHO DO YOU LIKE MORE… ME OR EMILY? Wait don’t answer that. Just comment your opinions below, please.
The Bonus Fun Stuff
NOW TO THE FUN STUFF I’VE BEEN WAITING TO TELL YOU ABOUT. I love the idea of having a giant outdoor kitchen with all these fun things. Some of them are decently affordable (and portable) and others are like full-on custom built-in situations that cost thousands of dollars that are definitely less attainable… but are fun to dream about. Let’s begin.
Let’s start off with the big one that everyone loves to talk about. THE SMOKER. Anyone else watch The American BBQ Showdown on Netflix?? They use a smoker for pretty much every single round in this competition and it’s no surprise why. If you’re a bbq kind of chef, the smoker is the greatest tool you can have. It’s a low and slow process (like seriously you can cook stuff for like 24 hours) which is perfect for making ultra-tender brisket, ribs, and whatnots. We want one SO BAD.
I linked this awesome Traeger pellet smoker because it’s SUPER affordable at only $117. The dream smoker though would definitely be the pro wifi Traeger because you can check the internal temperature of your meat straight from your phone (which is awesome when you’re smoking it for hours and hours and hours). I was once at a family party where they were smoking a brisket that took 18 hours (or longer) to cook and I got swept up into a 3-hour conversation about different smokers, how to use them and what they do. Traeger is probably the most famous smoker brand (at least according to every country song ever) and apparently, the tale goes that an employee from Traeger was fed up once the company got HUGE and thought their quality of product started to decline, so he started Pit Boss which is another awesome smoker brand that you should check out if you’re in the market. But honestly, I’ve heard great things about both brands so you can’t go wrong. Also, Carmeon did an awesome brand partnership with Traeger in this post, which honestly made me want one even more:
Have ya heard about the portable pizza oven phenomenon that’s going around right now??? It’s all thanks to Ooni, which are seriously great, small pizza ovens that have both wood-pellet ovens and gas-powered ovens. They range in size but can be as small as 12″ and 23 lb (that’s the one we have) which makes it perfect for those who don’t have space or funds for a built-in pizza oven since it can be stored away nicely when you’re not using it. I bought one for my boyfriend for Christmas last year –– it took 3 months to ship because they’re that in demand… and let me say we’re not disappointed. Our first pizzas weren’t perfect, but once you get past the learning curve these are a lot of fun for summer.
If you want a built-in pizza oven but are not down to pay the cost, you can also build your own from this cool kit on Etsy! Would be so fun & you could paint the brick if you wanted to just saying…
Sam the Cooking Guy is a legend over at my house and if you watch any of his videos, you’ll see he cooks on an Evo grill, which is basically a hibachi grill but more circular and just looks so cool. For sure this is a splurge, but it’s super awesome because you can use it like a stove and put a pot or pan on it OR you could literally grill stuff up directly on it. We’ve been wanting one for so long and I can’t even tell you how many giveaway competitions we’ve unfortunately lost. One day…
Bruh (the bruh seems like a fitting way to start this paragraph in particular), having a keg at your house is like the ultimate party trick. Of course, if you don’t want to install one, you can totally get what I have which is a small device that turns any can or bottle on draft in seconds (it’s pretty cool too and it can be battery operated or plugged in which is cool). Also, shoutout to this thing which I think is also a keg and definitely gets the award for being the prettiest of the bunch.
Sam the Cooking Guy also has a custom version of this and I just think they are SO COOL. It’s a charcoal grill where you can raise and lower your food depending on where you want it to sit on the flame below. This is another splurge and a lot of people do custom builds into their outdoor kitchens like these from Etsy, so if you’re looking for something interesting and fun, try these out:)
That’s all for this post!! Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend, everyone xx.
Opening Image Credits: Design by Velinda Hellen Design | From: How Does E-Design Even Work?? Velinda Shows Off Three Client Reveals She Never Saw In-Person