‘Tis the season of warm breezes, extra daylight, and perfect outdoor evenings. What better way to kick off summer than to create an outdoor kitchen space? This can seem daunting and pricey, but there are several cost-effective, clever ways to create a beautiful, functional outdoor cooking space.
Some backstory: my husband’s extended family is from Argentina, and we visit them often (lucky us, I know). My favorite part about our visits are the delicious, lingering outdoor meals. It’s magical to break bread with people you love while the heat of day breaks and gives way to the cool, sweet smell of magnolia trees. These nights are wondrous.
While cooking and eating outdoors is fun, it’s also an energy efficient way to cook, and it keeps the heat out of your indoor kitchen. Outdoor kitchens don’t require a lot of space; in most cases you can fit everything you need onto a small patio!
Now that I’ve convinced you of the need for an outdoor kitchen, let’s break the components into four categories: Dining, Cooking, Bar, and Lighting. These four pieces are essential because they allow you to prepare food with ease, while enjoying the great outdoors.
Creating a comfortable dining area is the whole point of the outdoor kitchen experience. There are various patio sets available at every price range. Here are my DIY and budget-friendly favorites:
Using these step-by-step PDF plans, you can create an outdoor dining table to seat 6 (or more) people.
DIY Tutorial: Ana White
If DIY isn’t your thing, you can nab a large, outdoor dining table for under $300 by doing a little shopping around. A table like this seats 6 and costs $250!
Image: World Market
A grill is an obvious must-have for any outdoor kitchen, and like patio furniture, they are abundant and found in every price range. While grills are great, what I really want in my future outdoor kitchen is an outdoor oven. These are completely DIY-able, and ones like this pizza oven come with clear step-by-step instructions and material lists.
Creating counter space to prepare food is as important as the grill/oven you cook on. There are some great tutorials out there that will help you build your own countertops around a free-standing grill. This step-by-step guide uses masonry blocks and pre-fab outdoor countertops.
DIY Tutorial: Allan Block
If you’d prefer something ready-made, there are some budget-friendly options out there that are built to withstand the weather. For example, using a couple of these lightweight bar tables made from rustproof aluminum allow you to create moveable counter space.
A bar is a great addition to any outdoor kitchen, and it takes up a small amount of space, making it ideal for even the most petite patios.
If you’re going the DIY route, you can build your own mobile bar cart made from wood that can stand up to the elements. Follow this link to the tutorial:
DIY Tutorial: This Sold House
Another easy way to keep beverages cool is to create a side or coffee table with a built-in cooling system. This table was fitted with a galvanized steel gutter set in the middle, making the beverages easily accessible.
Image: Some Drink Recipes
Bringing light into your outdoor kitchen creates ambiance and allows you to see what you’re doing! In Argentina, most of our family cooks by candlelight and the glow of the outdoor parrilla (a grill used for Argentine barbecues, or asados), which is truly extraordinary to watch. However, if you’d like to bring soft light into your outdoor kitchen, here are some gorgeous tutorials and a handcrafted one that won’t spoil your budget.
If you have a covered patio, and are willing to put in a little elbow grease, you can create your own mason jar chandelier following a tutorial like this one:
Image: Apartment Therapy
Or, you can purchase a pastel pigmented one like this for under $150!
These stunning light topiaries were created using string lights and stacked paper lanterns. I love the way they create a soft wall of light.
Image: Martha Stewart
With a little bit of planning and DIY-ing you can create a budget-friendly outdoor cooking space that allows you to take advantage of the summer season.
What are some of your favorite outdoor kitchen essentials? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Now, let’s eat!