Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Build An Outdoor Kitchen?

What’s my number one reason for building an outdoor kitchen? I guess it’s because I’m a natural host. I just like having people over to my house and entertaining them. Food, music and beverages are my idea of a good time and I’ve got a lot of friends and relatives who feel the same way. So, what better way to entertain than by having an outdoor kitchen?
It solves a lot of problems with space and convenience being at the top of the list. Space is an obvious one. I can fit a lot more people into my backyard than I can into my family and living rooms combined. And when we’re all outside we’re in one place so it makes for a better party. If people want some quiet from whatever reason they can always go into the house.
They rarely do, though, except for obvious reasons, because all of the food and drinks are outside. This is where the convenience part comes in. It’s so nice to be able to stock my outdoor fridges and coolers with all the food and drinks we’re going to need and then never have to run back and forth to the house. And since I’m cooking outside too, I don’t have to move.
I can enjoy the party myself a lot better and still be able to keep the food and drinks coming without any letup. It really is a lot less stressful for me and also my wife. The cleanup is so much easier for us when everything is outside. It makes us want to have a lot more parties than if we had to have everything inside with me trying to cook on a grill on the patio.
And with all the different accessories you can buy now to complete your outdoor kitchen you have a lot more flexibility than you could ever have with a conventional kitchen. I’ve got sideburners for doing extra duty. I’ve got a smoker. I’ve got warming trays and more. It’s like having a professional kitchen almost and it’s made me a much better cook. I can’t call myself a chef yet but I’m getting there.
I won’t say it didn’t take some time – and money – to realize my dream of having a great outdoor kitchen but the first time I really had a party in my new outdoor kitchen I knew I had made the right decision. I was hooked. What a great time we had and we’ve had many more since then.
And on a practical note, the outdoor kitchen has certainly increased the value of my house should I ever want to sell it. With the outdoor kitchen fad still growing it makes real sense to have on of your own. In fact, if I ever do look for another house you can be sure that an outdoor kitchen will be high up on my list of must-haves. And it will have to be at least as good as my present one—or I’ll just upgrade it until it is!

Entertainment Possibilities With An Outdoor Kitchen

The entertainment possibilities that are opened when you build yourself a new outdoor kitchen are almost limitless. That’s because an outdoor kitchen is more than just a place to cook food. Great outdoor kitchens also function the same way as indoor kitchens do in certain ways.
Remember when you used to go to parties when you were younger? Lots of times the party would be centered in the kitchen for some reason. Was it because you were in closer proximity to the source of food and drink? Or was it just because it was a more comfortable environment? Who knows? Maybe it was a little of both.
In any case, the same thing applies with an outdoor kitchen. People tend to have better time and enjoy themselves more when you’ve got a great outdoor kitchen. It’s especially true if you have a pool and/or a Jacuzzi nearby. Then you’ve got the best of all possible worlds.
The types of parties that you can have with an outdoor kitchen are almost limitless. You can host everything from a bridal shower to an afternoon watching a big game, whatever sport you might like. A covered patio where you can put a TV is all you need for watching sports and a simple outdoor speaker setup takes care of the music needs for any type of party.
Of course, maybe you just want to have a good old-fashioned barbecue. That’s OK too, especially since a good outdoor kitchen makes it so much easier to cook and feed your guests. You don’t have to worry about carting food and beverages from inside if you’ve got outdoor refrigeration units. And with warming units and storage drawers you can keep food a lot fresher. Who wants to eat a dried-out old burger, right?
You also get to be an integral part of the party, too. You can be both host(ess) and chef at the same time. Maybe even bartender too, if you’ve got a bar area. I opted for that with my outdoor kitchen since I had a bit of experience with tending bar in my younger days. It’s great having a real bar setup outside, even though it’s small. I can still serve drinks very quickly and without having bottles and glasses all over the place. It also makes for a lot less mess to clean up afterwards if you limit the number of bartenders, if you know what I mean.
I also find that I can have parties and get-togethers more spontaneously since we don’t have worry about cleaning up the house so much and cleaning up always seems so much easier and quicker. It’s really given us an opportunity to enjoy ourselves more and even though we spent a fair amount of money to get our dream kitchen we feel it’s been worth every penny.
We’re saving money on going out since we can have plenty of fun at home and we’re seeing our friends and relatives more in fun situations. It’s hard to put a price tag on that kind of enjoyment.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Barbecuing With My Outdoor Kitchen

Ever since I’ve built my outdoor kitchen I’ve found that my barbecuing skills are getting better and better. I’m not sure what to attribute it to but it’s probably a combination of the following.
First, I’m barbecuing more. Since I spent all that money on the outdoor kitchen I’m certainly not going to let it go to waste. I find myself thinking up reasons to barbecue something or smoke something or just plain COOK something outside. Because of this my barbecuing skills are getting better just through the practice.
Second, I’m paying more attention to learning more about barbecuing. You can find so much information on the internet on any topic you can think of and barbecuing is no exception. I read articles and watch videos about barbecuing and get all kinds of recipe ideas from all kinds of sites. Just google “barbecue recipes” and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll find tons of great stuff and I particularly like the videos because they show you exactly what to do. You can even find barbecuing videos on the New York Times website, of all places. So having the outdoor kitchen has definitely spurred m to learn more.
Third, now that I have the outdoor kitchen I can have much bigger parties. This means that a lot more people are here and that, in turn, means a couple of things. First, you can’t invite a bunch of people over to your house and then not know what you’re doing. These people are going to be hungry and are going to expect be fed and not just a bunch of slop so this puts the pressure on you to deliver the goods. Second, because of this pressure, you don’t want to mess up because the embarrassment factor would be even greater. It’s one thing to mess up cooking a few hamburgers when the next door neighbors are over but it’s another kettle of fish, so to speak, when you have 20 people expecting great barbecued ribs.
You see what I mean? Everyone’s expectations are higher and so you have to deliver. Also, when people come in for the first time and see this really nice outdoor kitchen with the grills and rotisserie and the smokers and refrigerators and everything else they’re really impressed. It also tends to raise their expectation levels. When they see a kitchen this impressive they just naturally figure that the chef is going to be as good as the equipment looks, or something like that.
So this whole experience has had a very positive effect on my cooking skills. Fortunately for me, I haven’t had any major mishaps yet but I’ve come close a couple of times. Like when the roast took a lot longer than I thought it was supposed to. Thank god we had plenty of beer and no one had to drive far. But other than that, things have been pretty smooth. I haven’t tried to overreach myself too, which is important. So the moral of the story is: if you want to improve your cooking skills, get an outdoor kitchen.

The Essentials Of An Outdoor Kitchen

Writing about the essentials of an outdoor kitchen is a little difficult because what I consider to be essential may not always be exactly what someone else considers to be essential but there are probably enough common things that can be agreed upon so here goes.
Let’s start with the cooking equipment since the basic function of any kitchen, inside or out, is cooking. What type of grill should we have in our outdoor kitchen? Obviously there are hundreds if not thousands of options but my simple rule of thumb is that I want a grill that’s big enough for those occasional large parties I have but not a monster that requires more cleaning – and cost – that I don’t want or need on a regular basis.
I also like propane since it’s easier to set up and more flexible in the long run. Other people like natural gas because it can be hooked up to your home’s system, if you have natural gas, and then you can forget about it. Charcoal is an option but it’s harder to deal with than the others in terms of clean-up. However, if you’re really going to get fancy with your outdoor kitchen setup then you could easily have a gas grill, a smoker and a charcoal grill area. That way you can have the best of all worlds: gas for quick cooking, smoking for the best flavor if you’ve got lots of time and charcoal with different wood chips for various flavors.
I also think it’s important to have other cooking accessories at hand and I like to have a sideburner and a searing station as well as a burner for use with a wok for stir-frying vegetables. These accessories give you a lot of flexibility and make things go a lot quicker, especially when you’ve got a lot of people over and you want to have more than one person in the kitchen.
And to make things easier, you’re also going to want to have a refrigerator in your kitchen so you can keep your prepped food nearby when it comes time to start cooking. An icemaker is also helpful when there are a lot of people enjoying cold beverages. And a warming drawer also comes in very handy the bigger the party you have. You don’t want to leave cooked food laying around getting cold and dry while you’re still cooking.
And while this may not be an absolute essential I also like the idea of having a pizza oven and maybe even a combination pizza oven/salamander as well. It’s great for backyard pizza parties for the kids – or for adults. And a salamander is great for finishing off all kinds of dishes with a quick broil.
There you have it. This is my list of outdoor kitchen essentials. Granted, some of the items on my list might not be considered essential but they sure come in handy and help make your barbecue parties as good as they can be. With a kitchen like this all you’re going to need now are a couple of cooking lessons.