10 Must-Have Features in Your Minnesota Outdoor Kitchen

by | May 7, 2024 | Home Remodeling, Kitchen Design and Remodeling, Outdoor Kitchens, Remodeling | 0 comments

Creating an outdoor kitchen for your Minnesota home blends the joys of nature with the convenience of modern living. Whether it’s grilling under the summer sun, gathering for an al fresco dinner with friends, or simply enjoying the tranquility of your own backyard, an outdoor kitchen can significantly enhance your living space. Here is a detailed exploration of 10 essential features from our outdoor kitchen designers that every outdoor kitchen in the Twin Cities area should have:

1. High-Quality Grill and Pizza Oven

Built-in grill and workstation with sink in an outdoor kitchen.

The centerpiece of most outdoor kitchens is the grill island. Whether you prefer the quick convenience of a gas grill, the flavor of charcoal, the versatility of a pellet grill, or the romanticism of an outdoor pizza oven, choosing a high-quality model is essential. Look for built-in grills that offer excellent heat control, durable construction, and sufficient cooking space in the grill area to accommodate both small family dinners and larger gatherings.

  • Gas Grills: These are prized for their convenience and quick heat-up times, offering precise temperature control and easy cleanup. They can run on natural gas or propane.
  • Charcoal Grills: Known for imparting a smoky flavor, charcoal grills require more time and skill but are favored by purists for the taste they impart to food.
  • Pellet Grills: Combining the ease of a gas grill with the flavor benefits of a charcoal grill, pellet grills use wood pellets and electronic controls to regulate the cooking temperature.
  • Electric Grills: Ideal for places where open flames are restricted, electric grills can be used on balconies or small patios, providing a viable option without the need for fuel.
  • Pizza Oven: A pizza oven is a must-have feature in any outdoor kitchen, transforming simple gatherings into memorable culinary events. Its ability to reach high temperatures quickly ensures perfectly crispy crusts and melted toppings, making it ideal for hosting pizza nights under the stars.

Each type of grill has its benefits and limitations, catering to different styles and preferences in outdoor cooking.

2. Weather-Resistant Cabinetry

An outdoor kitchen with a decorative louver hood over the stove and grill.

Courtesy of NatureKast

Outdoor kitchen cabinets need to withstand varying weather conditions, including intense sun, rain, and possibly snow. Materials such as marine-grade polymer, high density foam, stainless steel, and teak are popular choices for their durability and resistance to warping, rust, and water damage. Proper cabinetry not only provides storage but also helps define the style and functionality of your outdoor kitchen.

When designing cabinet configurations for an outdoor kitchen, consider both functionality and aesthetic appeal. Base cabinets are essential for storing large items and can be customized with drawers for tools and accessories. Wall-mounted cabinets maximize vertical space and are ideal for smaller areas. For versatility, incorporate pull-out cabinets that offer easy access to items at the back and corner cabinets to utilize every inch of available space. Open shelving is another stylish option for easy access and display of decorative items.

3. Durable Countertops

An L-shaped outdoor kitchen design with stainless steel appliances built in stone.

Choosing the right outdoor kitchen countertop material is crucial for both aesthetics and functionality. Products made from granite, soapstone, concrete, and sintered stone are excellent options for their ability to withstand outdoor conditions. These materials resist heat, stains, and scratches, ensuring your outdoor kitchen remains beautiful and functional for years.

To maintain the durability and appearance of countertops in your outdoor kitchen, regular cleaning and periodic maintenance are essential. Use mild soap and warm water for routine cleaning, avoiding harsh chemicals that can damage the surface. For natural stone countertops like granite or marble, apply a sealant annually to protect against stains and weather elements, ensuring long-lasting beauty and functionality.

4. Refrigeration

An outdoor kitchen with large windows, cabinets and appliances.

Courtesy of NatureKast

To keep ingredients fresh and drinks cold, incorporating a kitchen appliance like refrigeration is a must. Outdoor-rated refrigerators are designed to cope with temperature fluctuations and humidity. Options range from under-counter units to full-sized fridges, depending on your space and needs.

5. Sinks and Plumbing

Light gray weatherproof cabinets in designer outdoor kitchen.

Courtesy of NatureKast

Having a sink in your outdoor kitchen adds convenience for food preparation and cleanup. Ensure your design includes plumbing for cold and possibly hot water. This feature can significantly enhance the functionality of your outdoor kitchen, making it easier to rinse vegetables, wash utensils, or simply wash your hands while cooking.

When planning plumbing for an outdoor kitchen, consider both water supply and drainage. Ensure access to both hot and cold water, which will enhance the kitchen’s functionality for cooking and cleaning. Use insulated pipes to prevent freezing in colder climates and include a shut-off valve for easy maintenance and winterization. Position the sink strategically to make it accessible yet not disruptive to the flow of the kitchen layout. Additionally, ensure proper drainage by connecting the sink to your home’s wastewater system or installing an efficient dry well, preventing water buildup and potential damage to your outdoor kitchen structure and surrounding area.

6. Adequate Lighting

Contemporary outdoor kitchen design incorporating stone, natural wood and a water feature.

Lighting in an outdoor kitchen and entertainment area is crucial for both functionality and ambiance. It can be divided into three main types: task, ambient, and accent lighting. Task lighting is essential for safety and ease of use in cooking areas, such as over grills and worktops. Options include weatherproof LED strips and under-cabinet spots that provide bright, focused illumination.

Ambient lighting creates a welcoming atmosphere for open air dining and can be achieved through overhead festoon lights, wall-mounted lanterns, or even tabletop lanterns that offer a softer glow for dining and socializing areas.

Accent lighting highlights architectural features or landscaping around the outdoor kitchen, like ground-level LED uplighting or solar-powered stakes along pathways.

Each type of lighting should be chosen with durability and weather resistance in mind, ensuring that they withstand outdoor conditions while enhancing the overall usability and enjoyment of the space.

7. Comfortable Seating Areas

Comfortable outdoor seating on a patio on a backyard deck in Minnesota.

For an outdoor kitchen designed for entertaining, seating options should be both comfortable and weather-resistant to ensure they endure various elements. Start with a spacious outdoor dining set, featuring a large table and chairs made from durable materials like teak, metal, or synthetic resin, which are known for their longevity and minimal maintenance needs. These materials resist decay, rust, and fading, making them ideal for outdoor use.

Adding a variety of seating styles can enhance the functionality and aesthetic appeal of your outdoor living space. Consider incorporating a built-in bench wrapped around the perimeter of the kitchen area, providing ample seating without taking up too much space. For more casual gatherings, scatter some stylish all-weather wicker lounge chairs and sofas with water-resistant cushions around the area.

Include a few bar stools near the cooking zone so guests can interact with the host while meals are being prepared, creating an inviting and social atmosphere that encourages conversation and enjoyment.

8. Protective Covering

A pergola and covered back patio and outdoor kitchen in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, designing an outdoor kitchen requires careful consideration of weather-resistant coverings due to its harsh winters and variable climate. A sturdy pergola or gazebo provides a solid framework that can support heavy-duty retractable awnings or waterproof tarps. These structures offer necessary protection from snow, rain, and intense sun. For added warmth during colder months, installing clear vinyl curtains can create a wind barrier without sacrificing visibility. Durable materials like treated wood, stainless steel, or powder-coated aluminum are essential for the framework to withstand moisture and temperature fluctuations. Additionally, consider a built-in roof overhang for more permanent shelter and structural integrity.

9. Entertainment Systems

An outdoor entertainment center with a tv and comfortable seating in a Minnesota backyard.

For those who love to entertain, equipping your outdoor kitchen with audio and visual systems can enhance the experience. Weatherproof speakers and outdoor TVs that can withstand the elements will make your kitchen the perfect spot for gatherings, celebrations, or relaxed family nights.

First, choose weather-resistant components designed to withstand elements such as moisture, dust, and temperature fluctuations. Choose high-quality outdoor speakers, waterproof TVs, and robust mounting hardware. Second, consider the placement of speakers and screens to optimize sound and viewing quality without disturbing neighbors. Ensure all wiring is safely installed and protected against environmental damage. Finally, integrate the system with your indoor entertainment system for seamless control and connectivity, enhancing the overall experience of cooking and socializing outdoors.

10. Fire Features

An covered outdoor patio with seating and statement stone fireplace.

Adding a fire pit or outdoor fireplace not only provides warmth on chilly evenings but also creates a cozy, inviting ambiance. This feature can serve as a focal point in your outdoor kitchen design, offering light and heat as well as an interactive way for guests to roast marshmallows or enjoy a quiet moment by the fire.

  • Fire Pits: Fire pits are a versatile option, available in various styles ranging from modern gas-powered designs to traditional wood-burning setups. They serve as a central gathering spot and can be built-in or portable, depending on space and preference.
  • Outdoor Fireplaces: A full-sized outdoor fireplace acts as a stunning focal point. Constructed from materials like stone, brick, or concrete, these backyard fireplaces provide warmth and a cozy place to gather around, extending the usability of outdoor kitchens into cooler months.
  • Fire Tables: Fire tables combine functionality and style, offering a tabletop surface around a central fire feature. They are typically gas-powered and provide a convenient place for guests to set down drinks or small plates while enjoying the warmth.
  • Chimineas: Originating from Mexico, chimineas are freestanding fire features with a bulbous body and a narrow chimney. They are usually made of clay, metal, or cast iron and are ideal for smaller spaces, adding charm and warmth to any outdoor setting.

Design Considerations for an Outdoor Kitchen in Minnesota

When designing an outdoor kitchen in Minnesota, where winters are harsh and temperatures frequently drop below freezing, several key considerations must be addressed to protect the investment from the elements. First, choosing materials that can withstand extreme cold, moisture, and freeze-thaw cycles is crucial. Stainless steel for appliances and stone or concrete for countertops are excellent choices due to their durability and resistance to weather-related wear and tear.

Proper insulation and winterization of water lines are also essential to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Installing shut-off valves and draining water lines before the first freeze can save significant repair costs and troubles. Additionally, incorporating a roof, pergola, or some other form of overhead cover can shield the area from snow and ice, extending the usability of the space during colder months.

Finally, consider the placement of your outdoor kitchen. Locating it in an outdoor space that receives natural shelter from prevailing winds and benefits from exposure to the winter sun can also help minimize direct exposure to severe weather. Using protective covers for grills, refrigerators, and countertops when the kitchen is not in use during the winter months will also help prolong the life of these items. These strategies ensure that your outdoor kitchen remains a functional and enjoyable space year-round in Minnesota’s challenging climate.

Let Sawhill Design and Build Your Minnesota Outdoor Kitchen

An outdoor kitchen is more than just a place to cook—it’s a hub of social interaction, relaxation, and enjoyment, blending the comforts of indoor amenities with the beauty of the outdoors. Incorporating these must-have features will ensure that your outdoor kitchen is both functional and enjoyable, providing a lasting addition to your home that enhances both its value and your lifestyle. Each element, from the practicality of sinks and refrigeration to the ambiance of lighting and fire features, contributes to creating a space that is truly a pleasure to use.

Let Sawhill custom design and build your dream outdoor kitchen in the Minneapolis area from start to finish. Our team of experienced home remodelers know what it takes to create a beautiful, functional kitchen, indoors and out. Contact us today for a design consultation or make an appointment to visit our showroom.