6 outdoor kitchen trends

            One sure way to save energy during the summer is to cook and eat outdoors. Here are six ways to spruce up your outdoor kitchens or dining area:

Add on. Outdoor living spaces, like patios, kitchen or covered porches, are getting larger and more elaborate. Especially as families are spending more time at home and skipping vacation trips this summer, a larger space can make sense.

Install an ice maker. Buckets and coolers of ice melt quickly, are messy to clean up and add an extra chore to the to-do list when preparing for company. Most outdoor ice makers are a little bit larger than a dorm refrigerator and can produce anywhere from 50 to 80 pounds of ice per day.

Splurge on the grill. The grill is the star of any patio’s show, so a round-top charcoal model might be too basic. The latest trend favors Kamado-style grills, which are ceramic and allow the family chef to cook at ultra-high temperatures. This type of grill can double as a pizza oven and meat smoker.

Build storage. The more dishes, utensils, cleaning supplies, seat cushions and condiments you can keep outside, the less work each cookout will be. Save lots of trips between the indoor and outdoor kitchens by installing weather-resistant, stainless steel cabinets, and elevate your patio design far above the standard stack of plastic storage bins.

Make cleanup easy. Tired of leaving your own party to rinse dishes so you can use them to serve the next course? Have a sink or outdoor-safe dishwasher built into outdoor cooking and dining area.

Turn up the heat. You won’t need a patio heater during the dog days of summer, but you will extend the seasonal life of your outdoor room if you install one. Family and guests will be able to dine outdoors as late summer and early autumn evenings turn crisp.