I love to cook, so much so that I've been doing it for a living for over 20 years. In recent years, I have become more and more interested in adding an outdoor kitchen to the homestead. I am still in the planning phase, but did get the area cleared out before winter hit Maine.
Anyone here have an outdoor kitchen they can share info about?
We have 40 acres in the north woods (zone 4), currently with a hunting cabin just big enough to sleep and keep warm with a wood stove in the colder seasons. You could call it seasonal occupancy, but we go up any time the weather will allow us to use the wilderness pit toilet without freezing off portions of our anatomy. For purposes of this discussion, a wilderness toilet is a box on top of a pit, and I made it fancy with a plastic tarp on a tripod to keep the snow off your back. Needless to say, our cooking facilities are...spartan.. though, since cooking takes longer, our shelter is actually more resistant to precipitation.
The first year, we had a 16'x20' tarp over an A-frame made of 3-4" diameter peeled balsam fir poles-2 on each end and one ridgepole, with 2 sawhorses and a sheet of 3/4" plywood for a counter. Serviceable, with open ends, the rain would blow in, and in the end, the ridgepole couldn't handle the weight of the snow that slid down, pulled down on the tarp and broke it. Considering the snow that year was 2 feet deep, I was surprised it survived that long. Kitchen v2 was moved to a shadier spot (the tarps stop visible light, but not infrared, so we still got hot). The pictures attached show the framework, where we used 3 pairs of fir poles and a much more robust ridgepole, covered with a 24x32' plastic tarp, and the finished "Mess Hall". We also used some poles for cross-bracing. The whole thing is tied together with paracord, and the ends of the center pair of poles were cut near to the ridgepole and then wrapped in scraps of tarp to keep them from poking through the cover. This is its third winter-I have had to recover it twice-the center pole points and couple spots on the side frame rubbed holes in the cover, and I noticed last summer that tree fungus was growing on the ridge pole there. To make it more comfortable in cold wet or windy weather, the back end had another large tarp tied at the ridgepole, and then to the sides of the end frame. I attach another tarp over the front end that keeps out most of the winter snow, though not all.
We can fit chairs in there, though I never took out the scaffold from the center, since we put the stove under it; friend gave us a "camping kitchen"-essentially a folding table with side shelves-that the stove goes on. We used a propane camping stove, and upgraded to a duck blind stove when the mice made a nest and had babies in the camping stove. We never store food in the "Mess Hall" (there are bears in the area), when we still had only a tent, it went back into vehicles.
We now have a 12x20' Amish-built cabin - really, just a shed, but it has 2 doors and 2 windows, and now it has insulation and a wood stove, as well as a bed and a cot. We think it is safe to keep food in there, and we use a big cooler for cold stuff, as well as storing food and cooking gear in a large plastic storage bin with a locking lid, just in case the mice find their way in and aren't repelled by the mothballs we have in the cabin corners. We have a really nice 8 foot long picnic table under a shady tree for prep and eating. We can cook almost everything we could at home-I use a dutch oven with charcoal for cake and biscuits, wrap other things in foil and roast over the coals of a wood fire, or just cook meat directly over the coals. With the duck blind stove, anything stove top is just like home. I did buy a BaseCamp wood-fired grill/cooker that also charges a battery pack, but that is more of curlicue than a central piece of kitchen equipment-great for grilling with wood trimmings from our woods, though, and reduces our charcoal consumption.
We either heat up wash water over a wood fire in a galvanized 20 gal garbage can or galvanized pail, or in a kettle on the propane or wood-fired stove. Put the wash water with dish detergent in a plastic dish pan (hot and cold to get comfortable temp) and there's your dishes. Use the old girl scout dunk bag to rinse, or just pour over. We make sure the food scraps are scraped off the dishes before washing, then when little food scraps wash off, we pour the used dish water onto the gravel driveway at least 100 ft away from camp, so as not to attract the bears. Eventually, I think a keyhole garden might be a great way to reuse the dish water, but I still would put it well away from the cabin until I saw if the bears or coyotes were attracted.
My key considerations for camp cooking fall along the lines of food safety first, and keeping a bear-free camp. I'm pretty flexible about what I need to have to cook, having camped since I was a child. Any stable flat surface is a counter; adjust cooking methods to fit the heat source-and you really can't go wrong with a cast iron dutch oven if you have either charcoal or a wood fire gone to coals. Cooking like this takes some practice, maybe a little more time, and if you are someone who is uncomfortable improvising in a recipe, you won't be happy until you make a more kitchen-like setting for yourself. The biggest thing I miss up there is my microwave, but we are off-grid, and a microwave just won't run on a pair of deep-cycle 12V batteries and a 100 watt solar panel. For the future, I am slowly building an earth oven, but I keep getting attacked by sloth and sit in my chair reading while the birds chirp, and then it is winter again for too many months. We also thought we could just get the Amish fellows to build us another shed, but again, that is money that maybe we need to spend on a permanent home for our retirement...
I'm currently planning to build an outdoor kitchen at my place. Going to split it into a couple different phases. Phase 1 will involve building a large 300ish square feet patio using recycled concrete blocks from my neighbors old garage foundation that I broke up and stacked at my place last year. Phase 1 will also involve a fire pit circle and building a hugel bed all around the patio with a few paths leading out from the patio area. Phase 2 will involve building a cover over part of the patio to provide some rain cover. Phase 3 will involve building a cabinet/counter setup under the covered part of the patio. This will also include room for a gas grill and hopefully some sort of wood burning oven. There will also be a sink installed at this point.
The goal with this is to be able to do all of our cooking during late spring through early fall. I'm also hoping that my family will end up spending most of our time outside during the summers. The kitchen will have power and water. The power will just be connected through our outdoor outlet on the side of the house and the water will be run through our outdoor faucet. The kitchen will be unhooked from water and power during the cold time of the year. Both the water and power will be run through underground pipes but it will be setup to be very easy to unhook from both ends. The water from the sink will drain out into a drainage basin filled with mulch and surrounded by plants.
There will also be a picnic table and some outdoor chairs and such. We would like to be able to host extended family and friends without any issues. The covered section will have grape vines or some other climbing plant over at least part of it and the hugel bed around it will be planted with a bunch of different plants. There will also eventually be a wood fired pizza oven and an area for my camping hammock.
I should be able to finish phase 1 by the end of June this year with the hope of finishing phase 2 next year and phase 3 the following. I would like to have it all finished by the end of 2020. I'm also building an outdoor play area for my son that will be next to the patio/kitchen area that will be finished this year.
Our house is fairly small so I really want this to turn into an outdoor living area essentially with a play area, a small grass area, a living area with seating, the fire pit area for hanging out, and the kitchen area. All in all it would add a lot to our house and really make it easier to host larger gatherings without feeling cramped! :)
My outdoor kitchen has been working for 40 years. Its located in my "tuscany" courtyard that is still unfinished.
I have a BBQ set up, a gas Oven, a sink 12 foot long with a large bowl.
All my tools hang on the back wall, I have a shelf behind the sink 6 inches wide and it holds all the small stuff, condiments etc.
The table and cahies can face the sink or an open fire I have opposite the sink etc.
We sit there summer or winter.
Lately, with 45 degree days I have added shade cloth over the iron roof and fitted a misting system to keep us cool, in winter I light small firs that we can cook on and sit fairly closely to.
I am sick of seeing people have fires so big you need to stand 12 feet away.
Its just wasteful.
I had some tenants once who used my 2 years suppy of wood in 8 weeks and complained the courtyard was not big enough to allow them to sit away from the fire.
I was not amused
John Daley Bendigo, Australia
The Enemy of progress is the hope of a perfect plan
Those are lovely, Anne. It dawned on me that I used a 2-burner propane cooktop quite a bit this summer and took this picture to show how I had three crock pots, and the propane cooktop going in order to create a big meal for folks here. It kept the heat out of the kitchen so the house stayed cool on a hot summer day.
We have rocket cookers (j-tube or TLUD style), too, though the propane cooktop was a little quicker to use and we've been a bit low on firewood this year.
This table is on the north side of our library/garage building, so it's usually shaded most of the day. And there is an outlet conveniently located on that exterior wall.
We had some visitors tell us that they'd like an outdoor kitchen that is completely screened in to keep the bugs out! With the yellow jackets we had this summer, that would have been nice. I have at times set up a fan at one end of this table just to keep the hornets or flies off the cooking pots and food.
A sink would be handy here, of course. Some day, we hope to more thoroughly redo this space between the Fisher Price House and the library/garage, perhaps with a roof for the rocket oven which needs protection from the elements.