The grate outdoors: For backyard kitchens, the sky’s the limit – LA Daily News

Mary and Michael Fry redid their entire outdoor kitchen when they moved in and have used it extensively throughout the years. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Mary and Michael Fry redid their entire outdoor kitchen when they moved in and have used it extensively throughout the years. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)


Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet has a section on its website,, that details how to create an outdoor kitchen. Under the Design Resources tab, look for Outdoor Kitchens 101.

Whether you grill, barbecue, smoke or saute, cooking outdoors seems to add a special flavor to whatever is being served.

With the summer grilling season here (July is National Grilling Month, after all) consider the options, such as taking your backyard entertaining space up a notch with an outdoor kitchen. According to the Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association, 10 percent of grill owners have an outdoor kitchen, and among those outdoor kitchen fanciers, one-third are likely to be upgrading within the next three years.

Before getting started, find out what permits are needed, how will it be connected to your indoor version and whether home utilities can be easily used.

Are you going to want hot and cold water? Make sure natural gas can be connected. Think function. To maximize space for cooking and entertaining, consider spots for hot zones (grills, pizza ovens), dry zones (food prep and storage), wet zones (sink) and cold zones (refrigerators and freezers).

Decide how you want to use the outdoor kitchen. Do you want just the basics or are you interested in more specialty equipment pieces such as tandoors, wet bars and blender stations? List what you want and divide it into “musts” and “extras” as your budget allows. Call on contractors when needed, but also consider prefabricated modular kits that can be easily put together.

And, since the whole idea is to entertain — either your family or others — don’t forget about seating.

Learning from experience

When Mary and Michael Fry of Yorba Linda bought their house 15 years ago, it came with an outdoor barbecue, but one ill-placed and not very functional. When the wind blew, so did the smoke — right back in the cook’s face. Since the family enjoys spending as much time outside as possible, they decided to upgrade. A lot.

“We actually have pictures of friends barbecuing in goggles, so we decided to redesign, reconfigure and elaborate on just an outdoor barbecue, with the addition of an outdoor refrigerator, ice maker, warming drawer, side burners, lighting, storage, trash storage, serving, dining and barbecue counters including a sink and remotely expandable awning,” Mary Fry said in an email. “We also added an outdoor fireplace for the adults and an outdoor fire ring for the kids.”

Outdoor living has been important to her family. The investment has paid dividends throughout the years with the outdoor space being used for client appreciation and charity events, neighborhood gatherings, their son’s college graduation party and even a wedding. More recently, it served as a lovely party venue for Michael Fry’s Harley-Davidson buddies and their significant others.

The Frys had the fun catered by Jonathan Duffy Davis and Jonathan Dye.

“I am entirely enthusiastic about outdoor kitchens,” said Davis, owner of Tule Peak Farm in rural Aguanga, south of Hemet in Riverside County. “Jonathan Dye and I have conducted cooking classes for the last five years. As a farmer on brand-new/raw land, I’ve spent the last two years planning my incredible 1,000- to 1,500-square-foot outdoor kitchen and event space complete with a 100-year-old wood stove, clay pizza oven, bar and plenty of counter space and seating for guests.”

Materials have been purchased and permits are being filed with the county so, hopefully, the outdoor kitchen will soon become a reality for the Toronto native. Tule Peak Farm is a rustic place, and his outdoor kitchen will reflect that.

“We have an incredibly small home but we moved here so we could grow and cook food,” he said. “We want to teach cooking, have canning workshops and provide an outdoor venue.”

It encompasses 20 acres with vegetables, stone fruits, apple orchards and honey.

“I like hosting different events at different spots on the property,” he added.

Eventually, the farm will be home to the event company Table and Field.

“The outdoors has really become a great extension especially here in Southern California,” Davis said. “It’s a great place to entertain and to escape the heat of the summer. Outdoor cooking is part of the culture here.”

Part of a way of life, maybe, but a few instructions wouldn’t hurt.

“We see no end in sight for the growing popularity of outdoor kitchens,” Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, said in an email. “Throughout the last decade, we’ve been fortunate enough to see a drastic evolution in the space, and it’s been truly exciting to continue to be at the forefront.”

It’s pretty simple. Homeowners want to spend more time outside eating and entertaining with friends and family.

“For many of our clients, their outdoor kitchen is their favorite part of their home — and it’s easy to see why,” Faulk said. “Over time, this desire to create a special place in the home has influenced outdoor kitchen designs to become more refined. They’re no longer an afterthought.”

The increasingly popular choice also isn’t exclusive to the upscale market.

“Over the next three years, I expect to continue to see more outdoor kitchens becoming better integrated with the architecture of the home,” he added.

Well-suited for SoCal

Southern California is a hot bed for outdoor kitchens because of the climate. Many are installed in warm cities near the coast. For those clients, Kalamazoo offers appliances and cabinetry that come in a marine-grade stainless steel that helps guard against corrosion.

“Once you’ve developed a clear vision for the space, the next step is to select the grill,” Faulk said. “It’s really the heart of the outdoor kitchen. Search for one that really empowers you to be the cook you aspire to be. There are no uniform depths, heights or widths for grills, so upgrading down the road might be a challenge.”

Like its indoor cousin, outdoor kitchens vary in size, basics and extras, along with the cost of providing for all of that.

“Our essentials include a grill for cooking, a sink for washing your hands, a refrigerator large enough to support a single meal, enough storage for the essentials, and as much counter-top space as you can fit into the plan,” he added. “Focus on the quality, performance and versatility of each product to ensure the greatest enjoyment.”

To learn more

Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet has a section on its website,, that details how to create an outdoor kitchen. Under the Design Resources tab, look for Outdoor Kitchens 101.


Write a Reply or Comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.