Outdoor Kitchen Island Options

Get tips on finding an outdoor kitchen island that is exquisite and functional.

CI-Napolean_outdoor-kitchen-lake_s4x3 Photography courtesy of Napoleon

A grill island is as close to one-stop shopping as it gets when you're designing an outdoor kitchen. You don't have to worry about the work triangle, it's easy to keep the grill away from combustible materials, and an island creates a natural entertaining focal point. There are a few important decisions to make.

Prefab vs. Custom

A prefab island is certainly the easiest and least expensive option. For $2,500 you can get a 5" prefab grill island with a tile top, built-in grill, side burner and access door. If you're handy, you may even be able to install it yourself.

If you have a little more to spend, you'll be able to customize the surface with stone instead of tile, pick real or faux stone cladding instead of masonry, and choose the amenities. Sounds easy, but the professionals point out a few downfalls with prefab.

"People think custom islands are more expensive than the prefabs on the market, but the costs are comparable," says landscape architect Steve Chepurny of Beechwood Landscape Architecture. "If you do go with pre-fab, make sure the materials are right for your climate, because in cold-winter areas, tile tops will probably crack."

Whether you choose prefab or custom, you'll also have to decide which way to orient the island. If one side is for cooking and the other for entertaining, you may need to plan shade on at least one side, so neither the cook nor the guests will be staring into the glare of the setting sun.

Smoke is another concern. An overhead range hood is an option if the island will have overhead shelter, which can trap smoke and cooking odors. It's also a good idea to divide the countertop of the island. A raised counter on the entertaining side of the island will create a natural bar, and shield the cooking and prep zone from view of adjacent seating areas.

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