Outdoor kitchens are probably the hottest design element when it comes to comprehensive landscaping plans in Central New Jersey. The trend began in California and the Southwest, where people can take advantage of abundant sunshine and warm temperatures all year long.

Outdoor kitchens are now enormously popular all across the country, but care must be taken in colder climates to make sure your outdoor kitchen can withstand the weather in the off-season. Outdoor kitchen design in New Jersey is going to be necessarily different, so it’s crucial to work with a landscape designer who understands local conditions and knows how to build something that will last in a place where rain, snow and even hurricanes can occur.

This means that not every article you read about design tips for outdoor kitchens will be appropriate for your home. If you live in New Jersey, take the following advice from the professionals who know the lay of the land.

1. Consider Weather in Your Design

You probably won’t be able to use your outdoor kitchen all year round in Central New Jersey, but you can get more use out of it during the shoulder seasons if you plan ahead. To protect your grills and other appliances, consider building your kitchen under a covered roof. This freestanding structure is like a permanent awning or porch roof that keeps your outdoor kitchen dry when it rains or snows. This makes care and maintenance much easier, and you’ll never have to run for cover when the raindrops start to fall.

Another key point to consider when it comes to planning your outdoor kitchen is the direction of prevailing winds. For most people, the wind comes from the west most of the time, though this could vary depending on your exact location. Keeping your outdoor kitchen downwind of your house offers extra fire safety and keeps excess smoke and cooking odors from ruining your home.

2. Choose Sturdy Materials

When your outdoor kitchen is subject to wet weather as well as cycles of freezing and thawing, it’s critical to build with materials that can stand up to the elements. You may love the look of Bluestone, for example, but it stains easily and can be damaged when used as a countertop. Granite countertops are a much better choice because they can withstand both icy weather and heat up to 2,000 degrees. There are many beautiful colors and veining patterns available, and a good granite counter can be beveled for a nice finishing touch.

Likewise, it’s critical to pave your outdoor kitchen floor with stone or other pavers that will resist cracking, even in icy conditions. Freezing and thawing are particularly hard on brick, which can heave up out of place. A knowledgeable landscaper will point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing patio pavers that will stand up to all four seasons in New Jersey.

3. Create Work Zones

Your outdoor kitchen should function just as well as your indoor one, so take care to plan out how you will move around in the space while you’re grilling and serving. It makes sense to design the layout of your countertops and appliances with different zones in mind to streamline things. For example, keep the grill and smoker together in the “hot” zone, but keep your sink and ice bin in a separate “wet” zone. You might also think about keeping your refrigerator, drink cooler and freezer in their own “cold” zone, and so on.

You can also think of your outdoor kitchen layout in the same terms you would an indoor kitchen — although perhaps on a smaller scale. The classic “work triangle” is another useful concept when you think about how you’ll move around in your outdoor kitchen. In this design, your cooking surface, food storage and a work surface should all be within a few steps of each other in a triangular layout. An island counter often helps make this happen.

4. Don’t Forget Convenience

Finally, make sure you plan for convenience for both the chef and your guests, or you won’t end up spending much time in your outdoor kitchen. For example, make sure you have adequate electrical outlets to accommodate an array of appliances.

For guests, adding a dedicated outlet and/or USB port for charging phones is helpful. You can also incorporate bar top seating so they can chat with you while you cook. If your seats are high bar stools, consider adding a footrest under the bar for extra comfort.

No matter what your taste, your outdoor kitchen design needs to be tailored to living in New Jersey. This means you absolutely have to work with a professional who understands everything about the land, climate and prevailing values of the area. When you work with an outstanding landscape architect, you’ll get outstanding results.

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