Things to Think About When Selecting Outdoor Appliances

Outdoor side burner with wok next to built-in grill.

Courtesy of Viking

Whether you're choosing a grill or planning a posh outdoor kitchen, keep in mind how much outdoor space you have and how many ways you need to use it.

To help focus your selection process, ask yourself the following questions. You also can print out the questionnaire and refer to it while visiting an appliance showroom or retail store.

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  1. What times of year will I be able to cook or dine outdoors?

  2. What kind of cooking will I want to do outdoors? How often, and what types of food?

  3. What kind of entertaining do I do? Large groups or small?

  4. Do I want a charcoal, gas or hybrid grill? Do I want a grill I need to monitor closely or one I can walk away from?

  5. Do I prefer a standard black or stainless steel grill, or do I want one with distinctive style?

  6. Do I need professional-style features, or are standard options acceptable?

  7. Will my grill require a ventilation system?

  8. Do I have the proper gas, plumbing and electric hook-ups for a built-in grill, icemaker, refrigerator or other outdoor appliance?

  9. How much outdoor space do I have? How much of it can I dedicate to cooking?

  10. Will food and beverage prep and cleanup take place outside as well?

  11. Are environmental considerations such as energy and water savings important to me?

  12. Will I need to be able to move the outdoor appliances, or can they be permanently installed?

  13. Do I need specialty items such as a warming drawer or beverage chiller?




Additional Outdoor Appliance Options


Courtesy of Viking

Other appliances like warming drawers make for a more complete outdoor kitchen.

While grills are still the dominant outdoor cooking species, there are other appliances to help you achieve outdoor kitchen nirvana. Outdoor kitchens can be as big or as small as you prefer. If you are planning a permanent outdoor kitchen — one with an island where a grill, warming drawer or oven can be built in — you'll want to take into consideration the sizes of the appliances before you begin building.


Baking outdoors? With today's outdoor wall ovens, as well as stone hearth and artisan ovens, you can bake fresh bread right next to your grilled salmon. A built-in outdoor convection oven will typically be around 18 inches wide by 18 inches deep; expect to pay about $2,000. Designer Ann Porter, of Kitchen Studio of Naples in Naples, Fla., points to pizza ovens as a "must-have" item for the outdoor kitchen owner who has it all: "These ovens are great for entertaining small crowds or large parties."


The Cost of Grilling

Deck Grill Arrangement

Courtesy of Viking

Extra features are typically found on more expensive grills.

Grill prices can range from $50 to $10,000, with factors like construction materials, fuel and size playing a big part in how much you'll pay.

If you want a charcoal grill, prices start at $50. Anything north of $200 is usually considered high end. Charcoal grills are normally either freestanding or portable; however, some are connected to a work station unit. Those models, as well as charcoal grills that come in exotic shapes, usually cost between $200 and $500. While you'll typically see charcoal grills constructed from aluminum, cast iron or porcelain enamel, ones that have stainless construction can be priced in the low four-figure range.

For gas grills, $200 is usually the starting price for full size units. Between $200 and $500, you'll find gas grills with plenty of options: construction that ranges from aluminum to stainless steel, Btu outputs up to 50,000, as much as 700 total square inches of space, side burners and rotisserie rods.

When it comes to grills in the $500 to $1,000 range, don't expect options to be better across the board. For instance, if space is what you want, there are grills in this price range with nearly 900 square inches to cook on. Others will have four or more burners and around 75,000 Btus. Options like side burners, rotisserie rods and smoker boxes will be available. Expect better construction in this price range, usually marked by high-grade, stainless steel parts. You'll also find grills with warranties of 10 or more years.

At $1,000 and up, you'll start finding grills with lifetime warranties and even higher grade parts. This price range also has more custom options, like infrared burners or laser-cut grates. Some models can be built into outdoor countertops, while the cart models feature more storage space and butcher block cutting boards on the side. Burners on these models can provide more than 100,000 Btus and over 1,000 square inches of cooking space. High-end grills are often built-to-order, not mass produced on an assembly line, and this is reflected in the price.



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Capital Cooking Performance Series

Grills Gone Wild Capital Cooking Performance Series
Courtesy of Capital Cooking

Mammoth-size backyard bashes call for a mammoth-size grill, and Capital Cooking's 52-inch performance series outdoor cooker fits the bill. It has over 100,000 Btus, reversible grates, a smoker box and a motorized rotisserie rod.

General Upkeep and Cleaning of Your Grill

Grill with Sloped Grates Cooking Assorted Foods

Courtesy of The Grillery

This grill features sloped grates that channel away most food residue, which makes cleaning easier.

Performing general maintenance and cleaning your grill on a regular basis will help maximize its longevity.

Anyone who has watched fat and grease drip onto burners and stick to grates knows that cleaning your grill after each use is imperative.

  • Much like self-cleaning ovens, many grills can be cleaned by closing the lid and cranking up the heat, which turns most of the residue to ash.

  • You'll also need to clean off the grates-a good wire brush will usually do the trick, just make sure it is soft enough to not scratch the grates or chip off enamel.

Cleaning out the bottom of your grill can be a bigger task than just brushing off the grates, especially if you let residue build up at the bottom of your grill for a few weeks. To avoid this mess, some gas grills feature drip trays. These trays catch food drippings and can be easily removed and clean after cooking.

A more detailed cleaning and check up of your grill should take place at least one time during each grilling season, but ideally closer to monthly.

"We believe grills should be cleaned after every use, and a complete detail and check up should be performed at least once a month," says Rich Kalsi, president of Capital Cooking, a manufacturer that specializes in high-end grills and other cooking appliances. "A check up means adjusting the burners, checking orifices for deterioration, ensuring the valves turn smoothly and making sure there are no loose connections in the wiring. You would be amazed how many consumers aren't shy about spending $7,000 for a grill but refuse to perform the necessary 'labor of love' to ensure their machines are performing as they should be."



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How important is it for home chefs to have cooktops with the amount of Btus you’d find in a restaurant kitchen?

Chef Matthews: High heat is definitely important, but consistent and controllable heat is almost more important to me.

Chef Selland: On this little four-burner range we have (at home) each burner has 15,000 Btus. I’d like more, but I do think that’s a good number for most people; it’s enough power to cook things and sear things and get things hot really fast.

Chef Subido: At home I don’t think you need as many Btus as pro chefs need. I know companies brag about how many Btus their appliances have, but the things that are cooked at home don’t need to be cooked at the same speed as at restaurants. There isn’t a la carte ordering going on [at home].

Verdict: Having a cooktop that brings more heat and has more Btus than the average cooktop isn’t a bad thing. Most cooktops and ranges now feature a high-heat burner with 11,000 to 16,000 Btus.


Types of Heat: Gas Ranges

Range Ideas For Every Kitchen Types of Heat Gas Ranges
Photo Courtesy of Dacor

The rangetop is where gas ranges truly shine. Gas flames react immediately to changes in temperature settings, giving you fairly precise control over the temperature when you're searing meat or simmering sauces. Most gas rangetops will have between four and six burners, and some models have one burner with more Btus to get hotter than the others (for searing) and a different burner with a low power level and low heat, optimal for simmering.

Sealed BurnerSomething to Consider: Gas burners will either be sealed or unsealed. A sealed burner (see photo to the left) means that the area where the gas is ignited is covered. A rangetop with sealed burners is usually easier to clean, because food and dirt cannot fall into the ignition area.

What was the biggest change you saw in kitchen appliances during the last decade?


Chef Holmes: Professional kitchens haven’t really changed. I know in the home, more people do want a professional kitchen, and I think that’s maybe because of the exposure of chefs and cooking shows on television.

Chef Selland: In the last decade more ranges with a lot more power became available. I think it’s great that a lot of restaurant-type appliances have been made for home use.

Chef Subido: I think the biggest improvement I saw was that more manufacturers started making energy-efficient appliances. It was good to see energy saving become a priority.

Verdict: From 2000 to 2010, kitchen appliances have offered more professional features and have become more efficient. Since we don’t foresee a dark ages of kitchen appliance innovation, expect these trends to continue.


Do you prefer to have a range or a separate cooktop and oven?

Chef Holmes: Professionally I like having a range because often times I’ll be searing something in a pan and finishing the dish in the oven.

Chef Vizethann: In my home they are separate. And I don’t mind that at all. But in a commercial kitchen you almost always find a range.

Verdict: Ranges were preferred for restaurant kitchens. As Chef Holmes alluded to, ranges make it easy to transfer a pan from the cooktop into the oven, or vice versa. At home it can come down to a matter of style and what is most functional for your kitchen layout. None of our chefs stated there was a difference in performance from one to the other.


When you’re cooking at home, are microwaves shunned or are they saviors?

Chef Holmes: I refuse to have a microwave in my kitchen, in both my home and my restaurant kitchen. Maybe there are decent microwaves out there now, but that type of cooking is just weird to me.

Chef Selland: I think if you do use them to do any sort of cooking, it’s going to cook things really unevenly. With just a little bit of effort you can cook anything without it and it’ll turn out much better.

Chef Subido: I’m proud to say I don’t use a microwave at home or at my restaurant. My microwave at home broke two years ago, and I just never replaced it.

Verdict: Our chefs pretty much stayed away from microwaves in both their homes and their restaurant kitchens, although a few mentioned a microwave is useful for melting butter or warming up coffee. It’s certainly not breaking news, but if taste is a higher priority than convenience, then a microwave might be an unnecessary appliance.