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Backyard kitchens with cooking surfaces, sinks, bars and storage areas are all the rage in the growing outdoor living trend. Concrete countertops are being noticed as the number one material that is both highly functional as well as decorative for taking cooking and entertaining activities outdoors.

Designing with concrete countertops outdoors is also attractive because of their easy maintenance and vast design flexibility. Here are some tips from HGTV's favorite garden artisan, Scott Cohen, on how to build with today's most popular cast concrete countertop finishes.

Outdoor Kitchen Information
Outdoor Kitchen Pictures Browse our gallery of outdoor kitchen pictures for inspiration and ideas for your own backyard.
Embed Glass in Concrete Learn about how glass can be added to concrete countertops to create a unique finish for your outdoor kitchen.
Outdoor Kitchen Layouts Discover how to properly configure and size an outdoor kitchen to meet your entertaining and dining needs.
Concrete Style Guides Download these design sheets for outdoor living ideas in modern, old-world, or traditional design schemes.
Outdoor Living Ideas Get behind-the-scenes info on outrageous outdoor kitchens and more from across the country.
Outdoor Kitchen Videos Watch a collection of short videos with design ideas for creating beautiful outdoor kitchens.

Choosing the Right Place for an Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen Placement
Time: 03:14
Outdoor kitchen ideas. Visit several beautiful backyards with designer/contractor Scott Cohen to see where the kitchen was placed and why. Get design ideas here.

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Take advantage of these five tips for choosing the location of an outdoor kitchen. Wherever you plan to grill or entertain should be strategically placed. Overlooking this important step can take the fun and convenience out of your outdoor environment.

Views: It is crucial to consider views and sight lines when choosing placement for the counters.

  • House window and door views from rooms that face the rear yard.
  • Guests views when standing or sitting at counters
  • Chef's view - after all, we are usually most concerned about taking care of client #1
  • Privacy from neighbors: Screen views with trees, hedges and shrubbery to provide privacy while respecting your neighbors.

Wind: Smoke blows downwind of the grill. Be a good neighbor and plan accordingly.

  • Consider that smoke will blow downwind of prevailing (found most commonly or having the most power or effect in an area) wind location.
  • Consider proximity to windows, doors or balconies that are downwind
  • Always place dining patios upwind of smoke when possible.

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Sun and Shade: Outdoor cooking often takes place during the day in hot summer months. Place your outdoor kitchen under existing shade or plan on adding new sources of shade to provide comfort year-round.

  • Natural shade from trees and vines is best because they ventilate easily. As an added bonus vines and trees "transpire," evaporate moisture to cool themselves, creating their own natural misting system.
  • Shade trellis may be required, check local building codes, setbacks, homeowners associations, etc. Consider sun angles when placing shade bars.
  • Use built-in umbrella stands to add shade options over your barbeque countertops. These inexpensive pre-fabricated pvc units work great for standard size umbrellas, but will not fit an oversize umbrella. They are often sold as volleyball net stands through any swimming pool supplier.

Proximity to the house: Keep your outdoor kitchen close to the indoor kitchen to avoid long hikes to get more BBQ sauce.

  • Keep it closer to the indoor kitchen - While grilling on the BBQ you will want to be able to monitor the cooking of the food. The further away the grill, the less likely you will have time to return inside to visit with guests and you'll end up staying out working the grill all by yourself.
  • Typically food prep takes place indoors, so trips are required to grill outside. When the grill is a long hike from the indoor kitchen, return trips indoors to get more beer or BBQ sauce can create a disaster as you burn dinner.

Access to Utilities: Gas and electric lines may play a part in choosing the ultimate location of your grilling center.

How to Design a Trendy Outdoor Kitchen

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Dividing backyard space into outdoor "rooms" is a growing trend in landscape and hardscape design with the biggest focus being on the outdoor kitchen. No longer just a barbeque counter or the lone charcoal grill, the outdoor kitchen is growing in size and functionality as it steals the spotlight and becomes a main focal point in the backyard. In this article, Scott Cohen, HGTV's favorite Garden Artisan, shares his insight on how to design today's trendy outdoor kitchens.

Nowadays outdoor kitchens are a more elaborate extension of the indoor kitchen and far more sophisticated than a simple charcoal grill. Outdoor kitchens need to be sized appropriately for the space available while meeting the entertaining and dining needs of the homeowner.

Start with this list of questions to help define the parameters for your design:

Outdoor Kitchens & Barbecue Grills
Time: 03:39
Outdoor kitchens are the hottest trend in backyard entertaining and can range in complexity from a simple gas grill flanked by concrete countertops to elaborate, fully equipped kitchens.

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  • Entertaining needs: These questions will help you size the counter.
    • How often do you grill?
    • How many people do you entertain on a regular basis outdoors?
    • At big parties?
    • Will you need to be able to accommodate a bartender and/or caterer?

  • Equipment Wish List
    • How large of a grill do you plan to use?
    • What outdoor kitchen accessories and appliances do you want to include in your layout?

  • Configuration
  • Placement
    • Is there an area in the yard that you think would perform best for the outdoor kitchen?
    • From which direction does the prevailing wind come?
    • What are the sun and shade angles in the yard ?

Best Outdoor Countertops - Concrete, Granite or Tile?

While concrete is not the only option for outdoor kitchen countertops, it is a favorite for a variety of reasons.

Granite Tile Concrete
Fewer grout lines Concrete counters do not have the many grout lines that tile counters are plagued with. The lack of grout lines makes concrete counters easier to seal and keep clean than tile. No Yes No
Endless edge details There are many Styrofoam forms that are inexpensive and easy to use to create a wide variety of different concrete countertop edge details. Granite edge details get expensive when thicker than 1 inch. No No Yes
Cast in any shape Concrete can be cast in any shape and practically any size No No Yes
Weather resistant Concrete countertops can be formulated to withstand freezing better than granite. Good Good Excellent
Color choices Coloring options with concrete are nearly endless with integral color, staining, or both. Yes Yes unlimited
Accepts embeds Concrete countertops can be personalized with unique embedded items such as pebbles, recycled glass and seashells. No No Yes

Outdoor Kitchen Appliances and Accessories

Don't design your outdoor kitchen without considering some of the latest accessories that can take it over the top. Today's outdoor kitchens function just like in the home making grilling and entertaining easy and fun. With specially made outdoor equipment, you can enjoy the comforts of having all the tools and appliances you need to cook, grill, wine and dine from your outdoor sanctuary.

Side Burners
BBQ Storage Doors
Outdoor Drawers
Outdoor Sink
Outdoor Cocktail Station

When it comes to cooking outdoors, these options just scratch the surface. You can also have flat top grills, pellet grills, kamado grills, pizza ovens and more. These can be either freestanding or built-in to your outdoor kitchen to create a seamless look. And don't forget an outdoor refrigerator to keep cold drinks on hand when grilling.

Related: Outdoor Fireplaces