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Take It Outside

05/06/2016 08:37AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier

The New Way To Cook Is Right Outside Your Backdoor 

By Amanda Jean Harris / Submitted Photos

Get Cooking

I remember when my dad got a nice gas grill in the 90s. It sat on a simple deck on the back of our house. And that was the standard in outdoor “kitchens” as far as anyone I knew. Times have changed. 

“We’ve been doing a lot of pizza ovens outside,” says Tanya Zaunbrecher of Zaunbrecher Architecture Design + Interiors. 

What was once a luxury addition to nicer homes — an outdoor kitchen — is fast becoming a standard at homes of all sizes with the standards getting even steeper for those higher end homes.

“We do the pizza ovens for high-end homes and then often an outdoor fireplace for ambiance or the gas fireplace with the fire and rock and the glass,” Zaunbrecher says.

Mark Lassalle of Lassalle Gas Company says they are seeing more pizza ovens and a serious expansion of the concept of an outdoor kitchen. 

“People have had these outdoor kitchens since I was a young boy, but it has exploded in the last 20 to 25 years,” he says. “We’ve always had stuff available, but it’s graduated with time and with the desire of what people want.” 

Lassalle says that the majority of new construction now includes an outdoor kitchen element. 


Living “Room”

People are doing more than simply grilling outside these days — they are cooking every last bit of the meal. And they’re prepping it outside as well. 

“It’s an outdoor living area now with a fireplace, TV, sofa, settee, side chair, rocker and rugs. Around here, we need fans, too,” Zaunbrecher says.

According to Nick Milton of Dunn’s Furniture and Interiors outdoor kitchens are becoming the central living area for some families.

“You can have it in such a large area that it can support living and conversation as well and you get the fresh air and the natural sunlight. It’s the new hot spot to locate. You have the TV and sound system, too. It’s taking the indoor luxuries outside. It’s taking what we’re accustom to on the inside and putting it all outside,” Milton says.

Chill Out 

In addition to a grill many people install a two or four-burner stove as well and even some type of oven in some cases. Hibachis are another hot item if there’s space for it. If the options for heating food are varied, so are the cool elements of the outdoors. 

“Some people do full outdoor refrigeration with wine and beverage coolers. But, we will do refrigerator drawers and coolers with beverages if you want to use less space,” Zaunbrecher says. “If you do have the space you can do a bar like you would do in your kitchen with under the counter storage.”

Milton says when it comes to the cool elements to consider even the smallest details and it can make a big difference in comfort of your outdoor area without having to make frequent trips inside.

“Ice makers. It’s simple and saves you time. Built-in kegerator, a beer tap. People are starting to incorporate that and it makes it easy because it saves you time and storage. You’re not storing bottles of beer and waiting for them to cool and if you have a tap you can easily pour and it’s ready and easy to go,” Milton says.


When it comes to the overall layout no matter your priorities, there are a few tried and true rules. 

According to Lassalle, the safety is absolutely key. It starts with the placement of each appliance as well as the specs for any type of gas. 

“You need to make sure you’re putting in the proper line or proper noncombustible material,” he says. 

Plan the space to ensure grills and smokers are in the best spot no matter the direction of wind. 

“Keep in mind ventilation. If you have a pergola for example you’ll need to make sure you ventilate,” Milton says.

Make sure a smoker isn’t too close to the doors or windows that may be open frequently to the house. And plan around all your big appliances.

“Pick your appliances and then do your layout,” Milton says.


From The Bottom Up 

Other standards begin from the ground up. Take great care in the flooring for an outdoor kitchen area.

“Don’t pick anything too slippery or if you do want concrete it can be raked, we can add something to it or treat it so it won’t stain,” Milton says.

Zaunbrecher also suggests paved brick or slate and a raised porch, which can be wood, resin or stamped concrete.

“Make sure it’s slip resistant and not going to crack and can handle the movement of the house and freezing conditions,” Zaunbrecher says. 

Other important elements to consider are the natural elements, which can affect every last item chosen for an outdoor kitchen and just how long you’re able to enjoy the space.

“You can use a lot of brick as your base and metal drawers,” Zaunbrecher says. “Everything can be framed inside the brick. Some areas are made of resin so you don’t have to worry about rotting. You’ll have to replace wood if it’s exposed. The deeper the porch, the longer the lifespan.” 

Live Long

The long lifespan of an outdoor kitchen is a must, unlike some more trendy add-ons for many homes, the outdoor kitchen and living space seems to be here to stay, especially in a region that has so many warm months of the year perfect for outdoor play. 

“People will skimp on other things and throw that into their outdoor area,” Zaunbrecher says of new homebuilders. “We used to do a lot of home theaters and I think that’s less now because people want to go watch TV outside and it’s more enjoyable. Everybody works indoors and it’s better to get outside. You get home at five or six at night and it’s nice to go outside. From now through October, we will probably eat breakfast, lunch and dinner outside.”

Light & Bright 

In addition to the guts of an outdoor kitchen come the best items to protect outdoor lovers from the elements as well as lighting to set the mood for a relaxing evening.

“Something as simple as string lights and some LED candles,” says Milton. “Edison bulb string lights give off a nice warm glow and get that nice ambiance and relaxation at night. Citronella candles are a must around here at nighttime. Roller shades or netting to keep the bugs out and a shading system during the day to keep the sun out as well.”

“Grill Island”

If you’re low on funds and all these options sound great, but are out of the budget, there are easy ways to still create a chill space for a fraction of the cost.

“When you can’t afford to go all out, create what I call a ‘grill island,’” Milton continues. “It doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles, but it lets you build around your grill and it’s more basic.”

Life+Leisure, Today Outdoor Kitchen Zaunbrecher Architecture Design + Interiors
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