Your new house has an awesome outdoor kitchen, or maybe you just had one installed, either way you’re all set to grill outside all summer (and maybe into the fall and winter, too). Have you stopped to consider all the things that it takes to keep an outdoor kitchen running smoothly? Remember there’s live electricity, gas lines, appliances and other things that are going to require regular effort.
An outdoor kitchen can be the best investment you’ve ever made, but you definitely should be considering how an outdoor kitchen is different from an indoor kitchen.
Outdoor Versus Indoor Kitchens: The Big Differences
There’s nothing wrong with an outdoor kitchen, they’re not inherently dangerous or troublesome, they’re just different than an indoor kitchen. Heck, some of the early pioneers had outdoor kitchens before it was cool. At the end of the day, though, the two are fairly different, so let’s take a look at the biggest stuff.
Exposure to the Elements
Your indoor kitchen is around 72 degrees Fahrenheit or so all the time, day in and day out. Depending on where you live, your outdoor kitchen could be exposed to some really extreme weather, swinging from below freezing in the winter to above 100 degrees F in the summer. It’s a lot for gaskets, plumbing and wiring to bear.
Maintenance and regular health checks are vital for your outdoor kitchen, otherwise you could have catastrophic failures without warning. In addition, ensure that all your outdoor kitchen components are approved for outdoor usage — if anything is not, replace it right away or plan for it to have a shortened lifespan.
Levels of Cleanliness
Look, no one is judging you here, but your outdoor kitchen is a lot dirtier than your indoor one. It’s partially because your indoor kitchen is inside, protected from blowing pollen, dust and the various types of insects and animals that happen to run around at night in your backyard. But, there’s also the fact that you neglect to clean your grill as often as you should and you leave the grease catch full.
You can’t keep an outdoor kitchen squeaky clean, but you should always, always, always clean that grill from top to bottom. Not only does grease left in the catcher underneath attract mammals that you’d not normally invite into your kitchen, but the dirtier the grill is, the worse it will perform when it’s time to cook.
Counters and Floors
Inside kitchens are pretty easy to maintain. You clean the tile, vinyl or hardwoods with a regular household floor cleaner and wipe the counters with a wet sponge. No problem! Your outside kitchen, as you may have guessed, is a bit more complicated. So many outside kitchens use stone like granite for counters because of this material’s ability to withstand heat and, of course, because they look amazing next to the pool. The “floor” of that kitchen is often concrete or stone. Not exactly the kind of thing you just mop and go with.
First, make sure your granite counters are sealed every three to five years to protect them from the worst the sun can deal out. Next, make sure you always sweep your patio clear of grass clippings, blown dirt and other plant materials to prevent weeds from popping up where they can find footing. Lastly, make sure to power wash that patio at least once a year to remove stains, grease and mildew.
Obviously, your indoor kitchen should need little to no winterizing since it’s both serviced by a modern heating system and protected from the cold by at least one wall and the insulation therein. Even in a very old house, the most you might need to do is turn on heat tape that’s wrapped around plumbing to prevent frozen pipes. Your outdoor kitchen, though, will need a lot of care ahead of the cold.
Remember to disconnect all your appliances from their various services. Turn the gas off to the grill, empty and disconnect the fridge, drain and winterize the water lines running to the sink. Cover your patio furniture or bring it inside. Cover the grill and other appliances, too, if your outdoor kitchen lacks a permanent roof (a sail or solar cloth isn’t the same thing). If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that only freezes once in a while, you can wait to disconnect everything until just before the storm comes, provided you’re still using the kitchen regularly.