One Thing Led to Another This Portland, Oregon, dining area grew out of a simple need to replace some rotted decking near the pool. When landscape designer John Herbst, of John Herbst Jr. and Associates, was surveying the damage, the owner brought up the idea of a built-in cooking area. The requirements were relatively straightforward. The area had to include a grill that was close to the house but not directly visible from inside. And the layout had to be kept simple, yet include a shelter overhead to keep the cook out of the weather. First, Herbst removed a 17x11-ft. area of decking and replaced it with exposed aggregate concrete with brick expansion joints. This gave the owners a surface tough enough to stand up to the spills and splatters associated with outdoor cooking. The brick also ties the patio to the built-in cooking area. A screening fence erected on both sides of the built-in shields the cooking/dining area from the rest of the yard. The pergola consists of 4x10s trimmed down by an inch, with a top made of 2x3s spaced 6 in. apart. A sheet of 1/8-in.-thick clear plastic is nailed to the top to let sunlight through but keep out the rain. Choosing a Grill
The main grill types are charcoal and gas (natural gas or liquid propane). Charcoal units range from $80 to $500. Those at the high end, like Weber's Performer series, include work shelves, charcoal-storage areas and autoignition systems. Gas units offer more advantages. Many can be built into an incombustible surround for a more permanent appearance. They also provide greater control over cooking temperatures. Good-quality gas grills start at about $200 and top out in the $4,000 range. That's a big spread, but you can narrow it once you determine what you need. Remember, the price of a grill rises as the size of the cooking surface, BTU output and extras increase. Even for $200, expect 350 sq. in. of cooking surface and 22,000 Btu of cooking power. That compares with 10,000 to 12,000 Btu for the typical indoor range or cooktop. Grills in this price category come in an aluminum housing attached to a portable cart. Some companies to check out include Char-Broil, Sunbeam and Thermos. What do you get for $4,000? A built-in unit that pumps out 60,000 Btu, has more than 800 sq. in. of cooking surface and such conveniences as side burners and a built-in rotisserie. Also expect a stronger, more durable stainless-steel housing. If you like the built-in look, smaller versions of premium units are available. Traditional grill companies, such as DCS, Ducane, Lynx, Napoleon and Weber, offer stainless-steel or porcelain-enamel units that are suitable for built-in installations. These produce 40,000 to 50,000 Btu, have 400-plus sq. in. of cooking surface and start at around $1,600. And because indoor-range companies, like Viking and GE, now market outdoor grills, prices should drop in this category. For built-in grills, you'll also need a surround. If you choose one made of combustible material, make sure the grill is designed for zero-clearance installations where it can touch the surround safely. Or, include a stainless-steel sleeve (about $500) in your plans. Sleeves are available from grill manufacturers. Whichever grill you choose, you'll get the best deals by shopping for one at the very end of the outdoor-cooking season or just before it starts. Another way to stretch your budget is to make sure the grill you buy can be detached from its storage cart. Use it this year and then buy the surround next summer. A Short Run
The side of the house can be an ideal location for an outdoor kitchen. There's no need to excavate trenches for gas and electricity lines, and the house itself provides some shelter for the appliances. And when yard space is at a premium, an open space along the wall of the house might be the only spot available for a permanent kitchen. The owners of this California kitchen opted for an "inside" look so the area can be closed off during inclement weather. Though most outdoor grills don't require a vent hood, one is needed here to keep the space from getting smoke-filled. The folding louver doors keep postmeal messes out of sight and allow the owner to button up the area during the winter months.
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