ARTICLE Joanna Mathers

There’s something deeply satisfying about cooking outside. The smell and sound of sizzling food seems to tap into our primal instinct for warmth and nourishment; and flame-grilled food tastes all the better when cooked and served in the fresh air.

The popularity of outdoor kitchens (as opposed to the simple backyard barbecue) has soared in recent years. New Zealanders are choosing to add al fresco dining areas to many new builds or renovations, and landscape designers and builders have risen to the challenge; creating all weather living spaces that are more than a match for their indoor counterparts.

Recently, there has been an increase in the availability of quality appliances and furnishings for open air eating. There is a raft of excellent products that can be used in outdoor kitchens, from barbecues with more bells and whistles than a regular oven, to sinks, fridges, and furniture.

Ideas to get you started creating an outdoor kitchen.

The basics: The type of outdoor kitchen you create will depend on the size of your section and, of course, your budget. A basic outdoor eating area doesn’t have to be expensive – a barbecue, some seating, and a sun umbrella will suffice if you only want to eat alfresco in summer. But a permanent outdoor room will require more space and a reasonable amount of money (upwards of $10,000 should be expected for a permanent kitchen).

Concrete and stainless steel outdoor kitchen with mini-fridges, sink and grill.

A flat area leading off a living room is ideal for an outdoor kitchen. But if your section is sloped you will need some excavations to create an even surface. You will also need to take into consideration any council restrictions (contact your council for details), proximity to your neighbours, and accessibility. If you want to include a large, purpose built kitchen unit it may have to be craned in; and the more inaccessible the site, the higher the cost.

Floor to ceiling: Your outdoor kitchen will need solid flooring and suitable covering on top. Tiles, such as slate or porcelain, are popular options for outdoor kitchens. They come in a range of colours and can be matched to the flooring in your indoor living areas. Slate is naturally textured, and looks great outdoors, but it’s somewhat cold and rather expensive.  Suppliers such as Original Stone stock a wide range of slate in many colours.

Porcelain tiles are very hard and don’t absorb much moisture, so they are pretty slip resistant. You will need to ensure that you use tiles that are specified for outdoor use, however; see Heritage Tiles and Jacobsens for options.  

Decking is another popular choice, especially for outdoor kitchens that flow on to pool areas. Wood like vitex (a durable hardwood) is ideal, but note that some barbecues and kitchen units are too heavy to be placed on decking.

Remember that some decking timber comes from areas where unsustainable logging is rife. Greenpeace has a good wood guide that can help you make a good decision around your decking choices.

Concrete may not seem the most attractive of flooring options, but Peter Fell has a range of coloured concrete that can be matched to any outdoor space. It can be patterned in a number of different ways to give the look of tiles, but is much cheaper.

Black stone, wood chimney with fire going.

What’s up top is equally important, especially when the weather gets bad. Opening roofs are ideal; they can be opened to let the sun in or closed to create a snuggly haven on rainy days. LouvreTec sell a range of aluminum opening roofs that are great for outdoor kitchens. The angles of the louvre are controlled with a button, and louvre blades come in a range of styles, including translucent, which allow the light to shine through when the roof is closed.

If you prefer a seamless look, your roof can be matched with your home’s existing roofing material. This is particularly effective when the entire roof is being replaced during a renovation. 

Outdoor cooking: Outdoor cooking appliances have come a long way since the ubiquitous charcoal barbecue. Pizza ovens, covered gas barbecues, braais and other cooking options are now readily available.

The of the most popular outdoor cookers is the big, freestanding cabinet type of gas barbecue. Masport’s 304 range of rustproof stainless steel barbecues (the name relates to the type of stainless steel that’s used) is a big seller, according to commercial manager Steve Huddleston. “There has definitely been a growth in the market for these barbecues,” he says. Featuring convection hoods, side burners, and wheels so the unit can be moved around to wherever it’s needed.

A little more expensive is the DCS range by Fisher and Paykel. These grills are of the standard required by professional cooks, and come with stainless steel burners. They are available either on carts or as “build in” models that can be incorporated into bespoke benches. They start at $5990, with the top model selling for around $10,500.

Braais ember-making unit chimney with large fishing cooking on grill.

Italian-made Al Forno wood-fired pizza ovens come in kitset form with all the materials needed to assemble. They start from $2600 for the basic model (Al Forno LIRA has a cooking space of 800mm x 700mm) and for $5700 (excluding GST) you can purchase the Al Forno Ligurian, which has a cooking space of 1100mm x 1100mm and can cook up to seven pizzas at a time.

Derived from the Afrikaans word for barbecue, braais have ember-making units that provide a continuous flow of embers, which are idea for cooking. Braais can either be freestanding, or set into chimneys depending on the look desired. A basic braai, including adjustable shelf, ash pan, pot hanger and two x 1.2m of flue is $2990 from Kiwibraai.

Bench spaces, sinks and fridges: Outdoor kitchens aren’t just about ovens. Benches, sinks and fridges are incorporated in many builds and enable you to have two distinct cooking spaces in your home. There are manufacturers who create bespoke outdoor kitchen units, and others who provide all-in-one units that can be easily popped in place.

Mike Fiolitakis is the owner of Woodfired Concepts. His company sells outdoor kitchen sets, complete with sinks, wood-fired ovens, cupboards and rotisseries, which are made from masonry in Greece.
“I’m Greek,” says Mike, “and these ovens are extremely popular over there. They create a lovely outdoor ambience even in an urban environment.”

The kitchen sets need to be assembled, but Mike says that this is a simple job for any handyperson. They should be installed on blocks or concrete, and are not really suitable for decks as they are heavy. The units retail from $9500 from Wood Fired Concepts.

Tec Tonic in Christchurch make bespoke kitchen modules for outdoor cooking. Crafted from fibreglass reinforced concrete, the modules include basic barbecue units, as well as sink, fridge and extended bench units. The units don’t come with barbecues, sinks or fridges as standard, but Tec Tonic can source these. The basic barbecue module is $2400; the sink module sells for $2900 (barbecue and sink are extra). 

Furniture: Once your outdoor kitchen is in place, it’s time to consider your furnishings. Attractive outdoor furniture can be expensive, but it’s worth investing in quality items that are built to last.

Cane-Line is a Danish design company who specialises in outdoor furnishings. They have from day beds and couches to dining chairs, all handwoven from weatherproof material. They’re luxury items, and this is reflected in the price – around $5000 for a day bed, with Newport  single dining chairs selling for $510. Exteriors in Newmarket stock the range.

For something more affordable, 4 Seasons has a wide selection out outdoor furniture. These include all-weather wicker sets such as the Eclipse II Wicker Lounger (around $799) and the Saturn table and four chair set (around $1299). They also stock wooden furniture; the Tasman Marine II setting (which is made from eucalyptus and has four chairs and a bench) sells for around $1900.

If you're interested in renovating your outdoor space, you might also want to read about 21st century swimming pools. 

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This article by Joanna Mathers featured on page 66 of Issue 008 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.
 

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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