Pack up the Weber, put down the tongs and pick up on the latest trends. Barbecues are bigger and better than ever before.
“There’s a paradigm shift to having full outdoor kitchens,” said Jonathan Spears of Sage Design Studios. “People, particularly in our hot climate, want to keep the heat out of the house by cooking outside, get some fresh air and enjoy their backyards.”
From outdoor lighting that keeps the area cool to warming drawers that keep your food hot while you finish the main course, there are quite a few options to take the family dinner outdoors.
“There are many new and improved grill features that are really affordable now,” he said.
Spears’ design company installs full kitchens outdoors that have amenities many outdoor cooking enthusiasts overlook.
“A lot of people don’t think about needing storage outdoors for all your utensils, pans, having a little sink on your barbecue (island) so you don’t have to run inside with grease or sauce dripping,” said Spears, who is famous among his friends for his aged bone-in rib-eye steak with olive oil and garlic tossed asparagus on the grill. “These are the types of things that make it easier to want to cook outdoors.”
While dedicated outdoor kitchens are becoming more and more popular, there also is a call for spaces where friends and family can chat and chill, he said.
“You need to have good flow from the barbecue to where you are eating or relaxing,” he said.
An easy way to increase the ambience of your backyard while decreasing energy output is with LED lights. They can make the outdoors more welcoming, ensuring that the barbecue gets used more than the occasional summer weekend.
Spears recently replaced his aging, fragile Malibu lights with LED lights.
“I was replacing bulbs every six months with the Malibus,” Spears said. “With LED you have 10 years before the fixture goes out and the (LED) bulb is $5. You get a warmer look so you aren’t bleaching out people’s skin color under that harsh light and you’re saving energy.”
Spending a little time and money on creating an outdoor space is rewarding and often not as expensive as many may think.
“The price versus need is finally starting to come into reality for a lot of people who just want to have a nicer outdoor space,” he said.
Backyards, patios and courtyards have become more of an extension of the home, said Terence Thornton, outdoor living designer for Laguna Pool &Spa and Landscaping.
“Taking your cooking al fresco on your outdoor kitchen allows you to enjoy being outside,” said Thornton, who cooks everything from a Nutella and banana dessert to a Grand Marnier turkey on his upscale grill. “The cleanup is so much easier, just take out the hose and go to town.”
More clients are looking for that rustic, barbecue taste as the weather gets warmer, said Brittney Melnick, owner of B With a Twist Catering, who offered a few grilling tips.
“Summer is a great time for grilling,” she said. “I love to make corn on the cob in the husk. You just soak the corn in the husk in some water for about 30 minutes. Then put it on the grill, turning occasionally, for another 30 minutes. Kabobs are also a great outdoor meal to make with the family. Pineapple is amazing on the grill with a brown sugar butter sauce. It pairs well with pork or ham.”
And don’t overlook those dishes that you usually cook or bake indoors.
“Pizzas are also a perfect summer grilling activity for the whole family or having parties with friends,” Melnick said. “Everyone can choose their own toppings. Try one with ricotta, arugula and prosciutto for a fresh summer taste.”