With summer here and Christmas mere weeks away, Aussies will no doubt be out in force in their gardens. And today, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms are very much in vogue – and continue to evolve. Just like with swimming pools, there's a trend towards integration – integrating outdoor rooms into a home's design, thus extending the living space and making the ultimate entertaining and relaxation area.
What better way to spend the day or evening? Having a swim in your pool and then dining alfresco! An outdoor kitchen will add another dimension to your home, family meals and entertaining.
"Australians take their outdoor settings very seriously," says Robert Caulfield, managing director of building advisory service, Archicentre. "For them, this is the place to kick back for eight months of the year."
No longer just a cleared-out corner where Dad flips burgers, the trend is for large, centrally located custom spaces with countertops and stainless steel appliances that have their design, longevity and practicality considered before purchase. Many companies now offer modular outdoor kitchens that are ready for assembly in your backyard.
"People are building quality homes or undertaking quality renovations with a view to stay in the same home until retirement and beyond," says John McGran from Lifestyle Barbeques. "They therefore want to be sure they won't have to replace their outdoor set up after a few years."
Today's outdoor kitchens are customised and designed to suit homeowners' individual needs. They include cooking equipment, storage options, refrigeration and dishwashers. You can choose from large hooded barbecues, Teppanyaki plates, smokers and roasters, wok burners, or an integrated gas, electric or wood-burning pizza oven. And weather-tight cabinetry can be found in an array of sleek, seamless styles.
Or if you don't want all the bells and whistles, you can take a minimalist approach and choose from an ever-evolving variety of barbecues.
So what makes a good barbecue? According to the experts, the recipe for a great barbecue is functional design, solid construction and stylish looks.
Look for a reliable ignition system that doesn't require batteries. Consider a flexible modular design which includes rust-free surfaces that are easy to use and clean, and a solid, commercial-quality construction. Look for materials such as stainless steel or porcelain enamel, high heat output for instant searing and demanding cooking requirements and a vaporising grid system for reduced flare-ups.
Location is everything. Gas fuelled centres need to be near an outlet and positioned so as to avoid smoke billowing out over your guests. It's also important to protect it from prolonged exposure.
"Consider a roof over the area – while a lot of outdoor kitchens will stand up to the elements it does mean a lot of cleaning unless it's roofed," says John from Lifestyle Barbeques. "Arm yourself with a list of requirements when you begin shopping around. You need to know the dimensions of the area and a list of inclusions in the configuration."
So when experiencing the Australian great outdoors, remember: there is nothing better than the sweet smell of a sizzling steak and a side of potato salad to be washed down with an icy cold drink on a hot summer's day. Now get outdoors and get grilling!
Lifting the hood
BeefEater Barbecue's annual in-depth study exploring the what, when, where, why and how Australians cook outdoors turned up some major findings: