Outdoor cooking has become a multi-billion dollar business in the United States. Here are the hottest trends fresh off the grill.
It started so simply. In the era of black and white TV, dear old dad hovered over the charcoal grill, torching burgers and hot dogs. Much later came larger cart-style grills burning either charcoal or propane gas, and with it came a whole genre of gourmet recipes developed for outdoor cooking. Today, outdoor kitchens can rival the indoor counterpart in functionality and luxury. TV shows, books and videos abound for transforming you into a grill gourmand.
Outdoor living space. A well-designed outdoor cooking area should be ensconced in an appealing living space such as a spacious patio or deck. A built-in kitchen should rise from that base in a rock or decking material that matches or complements the base. Cabinets, made of stainless steel or other weather-resistant material, provide storage and a stainless steel grill crowns the top. A propane tank stores in a cabinet under the grill, or consider a natural gas supply line installed by a professional.
The center of it all: the grill. Today’s grills come with as many as a dozen burners with over 40,000 BTUs, warming racks, smokers on the side and warming surfaces for sauces and side dishes. If you like the convenience of propane, but still love the aroma of charcoal, how about having both with a hybrid grill? Your counter-cabinet space can house a deep fryer, and one of the latest trends, a brick, ceramic or stainless steel pizza oven.
More than just a grill. The grill is still the centerpiece, but the accoutrements of an indoor kitchen play a supporting role: granite counter tops, a built-in sink, a cutting board-prep surface, a mini refrigerator, a wine cooler. Increasingly, the outdoor kitchen can do anything the indoor one can do.
Don’t bust your budget. All of these wow-inducing features may be outside your budget. Not to worry. You can still have a nice stainless steel grill for an affordable price from a home improvement center or specialty shop. Even a built-in unit need not cost thousands, particularly if you are a DIY-type who can design and build your own. Research plans online for one that suits you and your bank account.