Hot off the grill

It’s the grill master’s dream: a top-of-the-line grill such as a Gemini PT 750 RSBI, a stainless-steel refrigerator, a wood-fired pizza oven and one-piece flagstone bar, altogether in one, well-designed place. Nestled in a brick patio or raised porch and surrounded, not by walls, but a gently sloping lawn edged with flowers and native grasses. It’s everyone’s favorite room in the house, but it’s not in the house, and it’s not even a room.

It’s the ultimate outdoor kitchen, and it’s all yours for $20,000 to $30,000.

Jennifer Cruger of Niwot and her family have just finished their first full summer as the proud owners of a kitchen outdoors. Today, they spend a lot of time entertaining in their back yard. But their one-half-acre yard backing up to open space, with an umbrella shading the uncovered deck and 18-year-old Webber grill placed awkwardly near the back door, wasn’t a place anybody made a point of visiting two years ago.

They weren’t doing much with their “absolutely beautiful back yard,” until they had the outdoor kitchen built, Cruger said. For them, the outdoor kitchen brought together the best of indoor and outdoor cooking, extended living space, provided Jennifer Cruger a break from cooking, and has even given the family a new reason to hang out together.

“Now when we sit outside and cook outside, we’re separated from the phone and the computer. We have the best family conversations outside, and meals last longer,” she said.

High points of the L-shaped kitchen are the red-stained cedar pergola that provides shade, a brick wall holding up the flagstone counter/bar and three stools where people sit to talk to the cook. The grill and the refrigerator are in use much of the year, even in the winter, as are the fire pit and hot tub. One of her favorite parts of the outdoor kitchen is that her husband, Glenn, has become a major meal-maker. It’s opened up a whole new world of Father’s Day grilling-related gifts, she said. “I still have to be the sous chef, but that’s all right,” Cruger said.

David Petersen, owner of Outdoor Structure Co. LLC, based in Firestone, completed the work on their kitchen in July 2010. Petersen also developed and designed the outdoor kitchen of Mike DiGiovanni of Brighton.

While DiGiovanni’s project was less expensive, ($12,000), he said he loves the way it has transformed his backyard into a more useable space.

“It’s been a huge incentive to spend more time outside in the backyard,” he said.

His outdoor kitchen features a four-burner grill with one side burner set into brick that matches the brick at the front of the house, and a refrigerator. Positioned on a concrete patio at house level and covered by a pergola set with low-wattage lighting, the outdoor kitchen is the gathering spot for the DiGiovanni family. He and his family use their outdoor kitchen, or some part of it, 10 months out of the year, DiGiovanni said.

“All my friends and family, even if they have seen it before, comment on it again,” he said. “Everybody loves the way it looks.”

Outdoor kitchens are a great choice for people who love to entertain and to cook outside, said Tom Sunderland, president of Native Edge Associates Inc of Boulder. His company has a long history designing and building outdoor kitchens in Boulder County. Since 2003, they’ve averaged about one a year.

“It’s a social gathering place just like the kitchen, but it’s outside,” he said. “There’s a bar there, and people hang out. Outdoor kitchens really give the barbeque a home. It’s a place where the grill lives,” he said.

An outdoor kitchen with all the bells and whistles would have stainless-steel appliances, side burners, storage space and masonry, he said. A complete outdoor kitchen includes grill, refrigerator, sink, storage and countertop island.

Sunderland warns against tile counters in Colorado, as cold winters and hot summers will play havoc with grout. Deck placement of an outdoor kitchen makes counters particularly vulnerable to expansion and contraction. On a concrete patio, it’s not as big of an issue, but because of the vagaries of climate, counters should be as close to one piece as possible. Native Edge Associates uses polished sandstone with 3-inch-thick countertops to provide a rustic-feeling environment. His website promotes outdoor kitchens as a better way to get a return on your investment than indoor kitchen and bathroom remodels.


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