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July 6, 2004 > Barbecue, Barbeque, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Q, B-B-Q or Outdoor Kitchen!

Barbecue, Barbeque, Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Q, B-B-Q or Outdoor Kitchen!

by Diane La Montaigne

Whatever you call it or how you spell it, to most, it usually means grilling. Over the past few years however, just about any kind of cooking can now be accomplished outdoors! Many people are replacing their BBQ on wheels for a custom backyard Barbecue or Kitchen.

If this is something you are considering, first decide what you want, a simple grill or a complex smoker. Do you want something that is little more then a fire pit or do you want a fully functional gas grill that would put to shame any standalone on the market. Part of this decision should be based on cost. For a very small price you can construct an attractive fire pit with a cooking grate.

Or you can sink a lot of money into a gas or electric grill with convection fans, multiple burners, storage cabinets, wine / beer refrigerators, sinks, tiled eating area - literally a full kitchen - outdoors!

The reality is that a charcoal or wood fired barbecue isn't that complex. You need a place for the fire that is well ventilated and a cooking grate to put the food on. This kind of grill can be constructed from bricks with a little know how, a masonry book from the library and some pre-made metal parts. However if you want to go with a gas grill, I would suggest purchasing a gas grill insert built for outdoor use. You can find these or order them from most any hardware store or local stove shop. These will come with plans to help you put it all together. Gas grill inserts usually come in one of two plans, drop-in or slide-in models. This requires a pretty simple structure to hold the grill in place.

Here are a couple of good rules to follow in planning your homemade barbecue:

  • Placement: Put your barbecue where it won't put other structures in danger from fire, and where it can stay for many years to come.
  • Appearance: Follow the design of house and yard so that your barbecue won't seem out of place and will fit into its surroundings.
  • Utility: Make your barbecue more than a barbecue. A well-designed barbecue will do more than cook food. Plan to use your outdoor kitchen's storage and table space year round. Gas-powered burners allow the cook to sauté, boil, and fry side dishes with no need to run in and out of the kitchen. Think about the maximum number of people you might cook for and let that guide your design as well.
  • When you've chosen your location, rope off the area to get a feel for the space the center will consume. Look at things like ease of use and placement. Test if it will inhibit movement through heavily used areas or obstruct a view?
  • Weather: Build your barbecue to withstand the elements particular to your part of the world. In order for your barbecue to last, a good enclosure may be necessary. If you're near the ocean or the bay, look at stainless steel and other materials that resist moisture and effects of salt air. If you have frequent winds, plan windbreaks to shelter your cooking area.
  • Maintenance: Make the barbeque easy to clean and repair. You don't want to find out that you need to cut through stone or bricks to replace a part. Plan for easy clean-out access for ash removal if you will be burning wood. Use electrical conduits to ensure that wires are protected from the elements or breakage. Gas lines should be inspected by a professional to make sure they are safe.

Codes and Regulations
There are local ordinances in some areas that restrict or impose conditions on outdoor fire. Save time and frustration by checking with your local planning department before finalizing construction plans and beginning to build the unit. If you plan to build a fire pit or open fireplace, your local fire department is a good place to obtain information on what and when you can burn.

Some areas restrict how close you can build to your property line, so understanding local zoning laws is a smart idea. Depending on the size of your project, particularly if you are adding electrical and or plumbing, you might even need a building permit.
Once you have settled on a basic design and are ready for a final plan, it might be a good idea to employ an architect or draftsperson to help draw or at least check your plans. This will assist with the purchase of materials if you are doing the job yourself, or give a contractor a very clear picture of what you want before it is built (and mistakes are made).

A very important part of your outdoor BBQ/Kitchen plans should include some enhancing landscape as shown in some of the examples. If you don't have a green thumb there are professionals in your area that can help with this as well.

The heart of the home may have just moved outside!!!
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