You’ve brought the outside in, now it’s time to bring the inside out with your outdoor kitchen. With holidays like Memorial Day, Fathers Day, and the Fourth of July, the time for backyard parties is upon us. Keep reading for some summertime inspiration.
Outdoor Kitchen Must-Haves
Grill? Check. Roasting spit? Check. Mini-fridge? Check. Today’s outdoor kitchens go beyond these basics. Think beyond the traditional grilling area for your burgers and brats. Configure your grilling area so that you can cook different items at different temperatures. Meat-steamers are popular, and a great way to prepare barbeque. Or steam seasoned vegetables that perfectly complement your other dishes. All kinds of hybrid grills and outdoor appliances are on the market to satisfy every cooking preference.
Another popular trend this year is outdoor pizza makers. Create a variety of pizzas with different toppings to please all palates. Kids especially love pizza. You might even set up a design-your-own station and make an activity out of it.
Be sure to stock that outdoor bar, too! Provide a variety of beers and non-alcoholic choices, along with ingredients for summer-themed mixed drinks. Consider hiring a bartender so you can relax and enjoy the libations yourself.
Furniture and Decor
How you design your outdoor kitchen depends on your personal style. Are you looking to host a nice dinner or is a cocktail hour more your approach? Perhaps you’re looking for a dining area that looks nice but is durable enough to withstand the trials children will put it through. Choose your style accordingly.
Wicker gets a bad rep for being tacky but it is incredibly durable. Wicker today is much softer on the eyes than that which was popular in the 1970s & 80s. Look for it in a light or dark finish, depending on your preference. Pair it with tropical plants like hostas, hibiscus, and birds of paradise.
You can never go wrong with wood furniture. It looks nice in every environment. However, it’s not quite as resilient as other materials would be when exposed to the elements. If you choose wood for your outdoor kitchen, treat it on a regular basis so it doesn’t dry out or absorb too much moisture.
Glass and metal make great materials for your outdoor kitchen area. Both are durable against the unpredictable Ohio weather. They can make your setting more casual or add elegance to your dining experience. Be sure to treat the metal with rust-resistant paint to protect it, and it could last for years!
As with your furniture, choose cups, plates, and bowls that can survive anything mother nature has to throws at them. Porcelain and glass do well outside through all seasons. However, they easily shatter on stone or concrete. Accidents happen so look for shatter-resistant dishes. They make a more environmentally friendly choice than paper and definitely more so than plastic. If you do use disposable cups, plates, or bottles, make recycle bins prominently available either to guests or wait staff.
Arranging Your Party Area
Furniture makes a big impact on guest comfort. Before you host any parties, optimize your seating arrangement. First, consider the crowd. Will you predominantly be hosting friends with young kids, or your retired buddies? Will your guests be facing the chef? Or keeping an eye on the kiddos as they run around the yard? Will guests be watching fireworks or other entertainment? Do you plan to serve a meal around a table or keep it more informal with tray-passed finger foods?
Usually, a U shape allows everyone to join in the conversation. This works well for groups of any age. For groups with young families, arrange the seating around the cooking area so the chef can chat with everyone. By picking swivel chairs you allow your guests to turn around and check on the children periodically while keeping the cook amongst the social gathering. You might add a few clusters of seating off to the side for those who want a more intimate choice.
It’s never fun to be constantly bumped into while you eat. Take high traffic areas into consideration when you set up the furniture. Patio Production suggests that you allow 30”-48” of aisle space in high traffic areas. In areas with less foot traffic, they say that 24” suffices.
Patio furniture is generally pretty light so don’t forget that if you have it set one way it can always be rearranged if you don’t like it.
Keep the Kids Happy
Children are a lot of fun at an outdoor party, but they can get in the way of people trying to cook or serve food. You want to keep them happy and safe. Try these outdoor activities so they can stay amused while the adults socialize or take part in the cooking.
- Put together a play kitchen so they can pretend to cook alongside you
- Play croquet, cornhole, or other backyard game
- Hire an entertainer such as a magician, costumed character, or wildlife presenter
- Set up an outdoor scavenger hunt
Keep Critters at Bay
Mosquitos and flies can annoy guests and even spread disease. Luckily Good Housekeeping found a great list of repellents to keep away the unwanted visitors. Stay on top of trash or any spilled food, perhaps with the help of hired staff, to avoid attracting ants, birds, or even small mammals to the party.
If you have pets or invite your guests to bring theirs, plan ahead. Designate an enclosed pet area if necessary, and make sure they don’t eat any dropped food that could harm them. In addition, find out in advance if any guests have allergies or fears about dogs that could put a damper on their experience.
Spring and summer are great excuses to get out and have fun with your friends and family. So if you’ve invested in a luxury outdoor kitchen, show it off! There’s no better way to share your space than by hosting a gathering.
PHOTO: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain