Wow, how different our backyards are now, compared to even just a few years ago. Back then, outdoor cooking meant a couple of snags on the old barbecue and refrigeration was an Esky! But today, outdoor cooking and dining has been taken to a whole new level.
As TV's latest cooking show - Aussie Barbecue Heroes - gets underway this week, it seems a good time to consider your options for an outdoor kitchen.
Depending on the size of your yard - and your budget - the latest outdoor kitchens can be fully equipped with built-in-barbecues, pizza ovens, bar fridges, sinks, custom-made cabinetry and more.
In fact, with a top notch outdoor kitchen, you may never cook indoors again!
Work out a budget and stick to it
The first step is to work out the size of the space, and the size of your budget - and then stick to it! With all the wonderful gadgets and gizmos on the market today, it's easy to get carried away and over spend.
While most outdoor kitchens come in somewhere between $2,000 and $10,000, the sky's the limit is money is no object!
The items that push the price up are things like plumbing, wiring and lighting, so consider what items you consider essential. A simple outdoor kitchen can be built on a very reasonable budget, if you just require a built-in barbecue and bench top.
Pre-fabricated will save you heaps
An easy and reasonably-priced fix is to buy a pre-fabricated outdoor kitchen, and these are available from large hardware stores. For around $2,000, you can pick up a package with a barbecue, sink and granite bench tops.
Or you can opt for a custom-made kitchen, which will give your wallet a beating buy guarantees you'll get exactly what you want.
The biggest dilemma is usually whether to include a sink. Having a sink in your outdoor garden is recommended if you can afford it, as it's just so useful and saves carrying all the dirty dishes back through the house.
But be sure to get several quotes for the plumbing, as this can be very expensive. If you are building a new home, make sure the extra plumbing is included at the get-go as it will save time and money later.
The next decision is what you would like to cook on. Perhaps just a barbecue, or maybe a pizza oven, too? The secret here is this - if you know you are going to use the outdoor kitchen a lot, buy the best quality barbecue you can afford.
The cost of barbecues has dropped quite substantially and it is possible to get some fantastic deals on the deluxe models. A 4-6 burner is recommended. If you know you'll want to use it for roasts, too, a hood and rotisserie are useful accessories.
Choose the right materials
A very important point when building your outdoor kitchen is to choose the right materials. Remember, materials that look great indoors might not weather as well outside.
Stainless steel, granite and composite stone are great choices outside - attractive, durable and easy to clean.
Once all the basics are in place, you can 'dress' your outdoor kitchen, adding lighting, furnishings and accessories.
While ambient lighting is great for entertaining, you will probably want better lighting in the area where you will be cooking. And while you've got the electrician there, consider how many power points you may need, too.
And one thing's for sure - once you get your outdoor kitchen, you'll become the most popular chef on the street! And with the amazing range of outdoor kitchen accessories on the market, Christmas and birthday presents are taken care of forever!