Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

Backyard kitchens come fully equipped with a grill, sink, refrigerator, storage compartment and stereo system.

Outdoor Kitchen

Grill in a Fully Equipped Outdoor Kitchen

Craig Murray poses with Diamond Ranch rib-eye steaks that are ready to go on the grill. (SHNS photo by Owen Brewer/Sacramento Bee)

If one pulls up to Dave Hunter's home in Sacramento, Calif., at the right time – and that's at least a couple of evenings during the week and on weekends – the aroma of grilling food will be in the air. It won't be coming from your standard barbecue grill, though, but from his beautiful new outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor kitchens range in cost from about $3,000 to more than $30,000 and can include stovetop-style burners, griddles, roasting spits, sinks, refrigerators, storage space for dishes and cooking gear, low counters for prep work, bar-height counters for guests, stereo systems and more.

Dave and his wife, Leslie, have been improving the backyard of their house since moving into it three years ago.

Two years ago, they added a swimming pool and surrounded it with a stylized concrete deck. Last year, right next to the pool, Dave built the outdoor kitchen with the help of friends.

The Hunters' V-shaped, 14-foot outdoor kitchen is built above a paver stone deck next to the pool.

The star component is an Australian-made grill. An island housing a sink, refrigerator, storage compartment and stereo system completes their outdoor setup.

The Hunters estimate the outdoor kitchen cost them about $8,000, but "it probably would have been twice that if we had had to pay for labor," says Leslie, an accountant.

"I priced a premade island setup that I sort of liked, and it was over $10,000," Dave says. "That wouldn't have included the deck, and it wouldn't have been nearly as nice."

It isn't necessary to invest as much money or labor into an outdoor kitchen as the Hunters did.

John Wakefield was unhappy with the grilling setup at his recently purchased Elk Grove, Calif., house that he, his wife and one child share with his wife's parents. He went to buy a pre-assembled kitchen.

An L-shaped unit was installed. It has a steel frame that's covered with stucco and includes a 32-inch grill, two burners, a sink, a utensil drawer and a bar. Wakefield spent $3,600, which included pressure washing and color staining an existing concrete patio. Later, a patio cover was added.

Perhaps Craig and Jody Murray had the best idea of all for an outdoor kitchen. They bought a house that already had one.

According to Craig, the backyard kitchen is what really made him want to buy their house five years ago.

"It's not new," he says. "It was put in before the previous owner had the place, probably 30 or 40 years ago. But it's beautiful and was the major selling point of the house for me. I've always loved to grill. When I saw this setup, I knew I had to have it."

Approximately 20 feet long, the brick kitchen has a tile countertop, a grill, a smoker, a sink, a refrigerator and a fireplace. It’s covered by a redwood roof.

"The fireplace and roof make it usable year-round," Craig says. "It's really a wonderful spot. We use it almost every day. And it's great for parties. We can accommodate 40 or 50 people. I can't wait to start grilling every night."

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