The Pleasure of Outdoor Living
The outdoor kitchen, or summer kitchen, has been a part of Mediterranean living for a thousand years. Summer heat and allure of outdoor living have been driving chefs and families to cook in wood-fired Pizza Ovens and grills, prepare food outside of the kitchen and eat and entertain friends in a cool, shady and perhaps breezy spot. Like many places in North America, the Mediterranean summers are hot, and getting out of the house is the right thing to do.
Farmhouses outdoor kitchens from Provence to Tuscany feature Pizza Ovens, Outdoor Fireplaces, grills, sinks and work surfaces set in garden, courtyards and covered terraces. Today, with the availability of a new generation of outdoor-ready kitchen appliances, including stainless steel grills, sinks, refrigerators, warming drawers, space heaters and even kitchen cabinets, the outdoor kitchen is becoming more popular in the states.
Still, with all this innovation, don't forget the three anchors of a traditional outdoor kitchen: the pizza oven, a wood coal grill and a true wood burning fireplace. Mix the old with the new, and you will build the best outdoor kitchen found anywhere in the world.
Getting Started -- Don't Go Too Far
Our experience is that you are going to love having an outdoor kitchen so much, that you will end up using it exclusively during the summer, and frequently in the spring and autumn. Heck, we used our outdoor kitchen in Italy this year for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Years Eve dinners, despite the fact that it was getting below freezing over night. That is why our first rule is to make sure that you do not put your outdoor kitchen too far from your house. No matter how efficient you try to be, and the size of serving trays you employ, there are always trips back and forth. Don't make it a trek.
Allow for Ample Counter Space
Like your indoor kitchen, make sure that you have sufficient counter spaces for preparation and serving. We find that we always end up doing a reasonable amount of food prep outside, near the pizza oven and grill, and it is never fun having to juggle pans and cutting boards to find an open spot to work.
Also, invest some time in ensuring that you have an efficient work triangle (or however you foresee actually using your equipment) -- just as you would for your indoor kitchen. It's no fun having to walk around an island to get from your oven to the refrigerator, just as it isn't fun having to walk from one end of the outdoor kitchen to another to carry a freshly made pizza to the pizza oven.
Forno Bravo Calore: True Refractory Outdoor Fireplace
Finally, choose a counter material that is easy to clean and holds up to the elements. While it can be very expensive, slab granite is a great option. It cleans up fast, and does not have any grout joints to worry about. Think about how difficult it is to keep your indoor kitchen counters looking clean, then imagine combing food, morning dew, and outdoor dirt and dust.
We have a great source for pre-fabricated granite kitchen counters in Northern California, which are perfect the outdoor kitchen installation. Contact us if you would like more information.
Provence Farmhouse Outdoor Kitchen
Prepare for Guests
Just at the indoor kitchen is a magnet for guests at any party, your outdoor kitchen in general, and our pizza oven in specific, are going to become the focal point for your entire property. On a summer evening, everyone will be attracted to the fire and smells coming from your pizza oven. Someone once explained to me that fire excites our basic instinct for eating -- and you will find you pizza oven rivaling even the best view for the center of attention. In the winter and cool evenings, your pizza oven and outdoor fireplace provide warmth and a feeling a well-being. I have heard the pizza oven described to be the cool wealth equivalent of a swimming pool.What all of this means is that you have to plan on having lots of guests in your outdoor kitchen. Plan for where you want them when you are cooking, where they can sit and watch, where they make their own pizza, and where they can just hang out and enjoy the space. If you think it is difficult getting a pizza peel with a fresh, sticky pizza from one side of your outdoor kitchen to the pizza oven when you are alone -- think about doing it through a crowd.
Building Your Infrastructure
There are a number of ways of creating the "bones" or "cabinets" for your outdoor kitchen, including concrete blocks, metal frame and concrete board and outdoor kitchen cabinets. We have seen all three done successfully, and which you pick should depend on how sophisticated your cabinet and counter lay-out is, what your shelf and storage needs are, budget and the experience of your builder.
Back to the Basics
We think that the pizza oven is the heart and soul of any outdoor kitchen. While we all enjoy the convenience and consistent performance that you get from a modern stainless steel propane grill, nothing can compare with experience and food you get with wood-fire oven cooking. We know people who have never lit their (expensive) grills again after they installed their brick oven, so make sure you install a large enough Forno Bravo oven so that your wood-fired cooking does not become a bottleneck. Refer to our Oven Selection Guide for more information on picking the right size oven.
Also, consider installing an old-fashion masonry grill for cooking with real wood coals. Your brick oven is an unlimited source of the world's best charcoal -- the coals that build up in your pizza oven. Wood coal grilling is so great, there are even a number of high-end BBQ companies selling "real" wood charcoal as a luxury item. While I personally would not spend the money to buy boutique charcoal, I have a great time using my own -- you can taste the difference.
Finally, consider installing an Outdoor Fireplace. Forno Bravo carries a line of high-end true refractory fireplaces that do a great job of storing and reflecting the heat from a true wood fire. Unlike inserts that never seem to heat up, and let most of your heat go up the chimney, these wonderful outdoor fireplaces hold their heat for hours. In fact, they are made from the same high-tech refractory material that makes our oven the World's Best Pizza Ovens.
Build your Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets
Select and install your Outdoor Kitchen Counters
The basics of Outdoor Kitchen Design
Sample Outdoor Kitchen Layout
Essential Outdoor Kitchen Components
Protect and define your Outdoor Kitchen space with an Arbor