Kitchens have become an American obsession. Homeowners are opening them to adjacent rooms, expanding them, outfitting them with luxurious materials, and equipping them with supercharged appliances. It should come as no surprise, then, that all of this culinary fervor has made its way onto the patio or that the outdoor kitchen is the hottest home trend to emerge since the home theater.
“People who remodeled their kitchens with commercial-grade appliances are now turning their attention to their backyards,” says Shaun Chinsky, brand manager of the new Vieluxe line of luxury gas grills from Weber-Stephen. “And they want grills that are consistent with the appliances they have in their kitchens.”
“Our outdoor customer is similar to the customer of our indoor kitchens,” adds Dave Becker, Viking’s vice president of product management. “There are those who want the best of everything for their home—whether they use it or not—and there are those who are really into cooking.”
To oblige, top manufacturers of professional appliances and grills have developed equipment capable of satisfying the most proficient cook, yet tough enough to withstand the elements. “We are finding that even folks who live in climates that don’t seem suitable for an outdoor kitchen are starting to build them,” says Chinsky. Consequently, corrosion-resistant stainless steel is de rigueur. According to Dan Lally, public relations director for Frontgate, whose Ultimate Grill catalog was at the forefront of this phenomenon, “Stainless steel can stand up outdoors. It will last season after season and still look good.”
For the chef, high-performance grills provide versatility and precise control. The $8,000 Vieluxe, for instance, has six powerful burners on its 56-inch frame to ensure even heating across the grill surface. Flare-ups have been virtually eliminated, integrated smokers mimic the down-home flavor of genuine barbecue, and searing infrared rotisserie elements impart the aroma and juicy results of a Tuscan bistecca. The carts sport such features as 14,000-Btu side burners and hinged or sliding extensions to prepare sauces and side dishes. For optimum customization, there is a growing selection of built-in components designed for installation in custom or prefabricated islands.
“People are looking for more than just a grill,” says KitchenAid marketing communications manager Julie Bizzis. “They want a full complement of outdoor products so they can really be engaged in the dinner party.” To that end, KitchenAid’s sleek outdoor Architect series includes freestanding and built-in bars complete with sink, serving cart, slide-in refrigerator, and ice maker. Dacor and Viking have added warming ovens to the mix. Viking has even introduced a coordinating “beverage dispenser” (aka beer tap). Vintage, a new player in this arena, even offers a stainless steel trash chute.
With top appliance makers beefing up their outdoor offerings, the alfresco kitchen has an alluring future. “I think it’s just getting started,” predicts Viking’s Becker.
“We’re working on an outdoor range with a grill on top and an oven underneath.” Over at KitchenAid, there are rumors of the ultimate luxury: an outdoor dishwasher.
Dacor, 800.772.7778, www.dacor.com;
Frontgate, 800.626.6488, www.frontgate.com;
KitchenAid, 888.886.8318, www.kitchenaid.com;
Vieluxe, 847.934.5700, www.vieluxe.com;
Viking Range Corp., 888.845.4641, www.vikingrange.com;
Vintage gas grills (BKE Supply), 800.998.8966