Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet predicts outdoor kitchen trends

It’s the time of year when everyone is making their predictions for 2009 – and, as the leader in outdoor kitchens, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet has something to say as well. Trends in outdoor kitchens typically begin at the most upscale end of the market and then permeate their way down. Because of this, Kalamazoo is uniquely positioned to see where the design trends are headed.
Bringing the Outside In
Outdoor kitchens began as a trend of bringing the indoors outside, but now homeowners are bringing the outdoor kitchen inside, or at least under a roof. More and more outdoor kitchens are sheltered by an architectural structure – either attached to the home or as a free-standing pavilion. A full roof on an outdoor kitchen provides a number of advantages:
– Keeping out the rain
– A convenient attachment point for outdoor kitchen lighting which is often a design challenge
– Hanging ceiling fans cool the kitchen in the summer and help discourage insects
– A roof partially contains the heat from radiant heaters so the kitchen is more comfortable in the spring and fall or even winter
– Curtain-like roll-down screens can help with insects
– A roof can keep die-hard outdoor cooks from having to clear off snow before grilling in the winter
Kalamazoo is seeing a significant increase in outdoor kitchens designed under a sheltering structure. The first wave was pergolas, which provided not only shade but also increased definition of the space. Pergolas have now saturated the market all the way to entry-level outdoor kitchens and prefabricated spaces. Full roofs have taken over at the upscale end of the market; some even have a retracting roof.
Features Abound
At the infancy of this still-growing trend, an “outdoor kitchen” was really just a built-in grill. Built-in grills have predictably filtered down to the less expensive end of the market, while the top end of the market has continued to add functionality. Even some of the least expensive outdoor kitchens feature beverage chillers and a sink these days. Therefore, Kalamazoo continues to see the trickling down effect and new luxuries added at the top end. Here are a few of the features to be seeing this year in upscale kitchens, and at more modest levels in years to come:
– Separate wine chillers for whites versus reds, each maintaining the right temperatures
– Freezers and freezer drawers: with the right units, ice cream can be served from the outdoor -kitchen even in a Tucson July
– Keg tappers serving multiple kinds of beer with up to three taps on Kalamazoo 48″ units
– Pizza ovens continuing to grow in popularity
– Wok burners are broadening the types of outdoor cooking, as are lobster and crab boilers
– Specialized storage and a broader variety of outdoor kitchen cabinets

Artisanal Cooking Techniques
There was a time when everyone assumed an outdoor kitchen featured a gas grill at its heart. Not anymore, thanks to the artisanal cooking trend. Artisanal cooking expresses a reverence for the best ingredients used in simple combinations, prepared exceptionally well. This trend started in popular restaurants and then made its way into people’s homes. Kalamazoo is now seeing the artisanal cooking trend make its way into the outdoor kitchen.
People are taking greater joy in preparing exceptional food at home, and an outdoor kitchen has become the ideal place to do this. Cooking outdoors is more fun, and food cooked on a grill simply tastes better. Even just eating food outdoors is more relaxing.
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet sees the artisanal cooking trend influencing the equipment choices for outdoor kitchens. People are appreciating not just the flavor of food cooked over a real wood fire, but also the whole experience of cooking with wood. Kalamazoo’s top-of-the-line hybrid grill cooks with any combination of charcoal, wood and gas. Not only is it best-selling grill, but in 2008 it outsold Kalamazoo’s gas-only grills by nearly 10-to-1. It is not very often that a company’s best selling grill is its most expensive model. While Kalamazoo’s hybrid grills combine the convenience of gas with the experience of wood, Kalamazoo is also witnessing dedicated wood-burning grills gaining a foothold in the market, so other manufacturers are reacting to this trend as well.
Further evidence of the outdoor artisanal cooking trend can be found in the popularity of pizza ovens. This trend is already fully established in outdoor kitchens, but this year Kalamazoo expects outdoor pizza ovens to make strong strides in more modest outdoor kitchens and extend down-market.
More Design Professionals from Broader Disciplines
The first design professionals Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet saw working on outdoor kitchens in large numbers were Landscape Architects and other landscape designers. In 2008, Kalamazoo saw an increasing number of homeowners turning to interior designers to design their outdoor living spaces. Kalamazoo offers outdoor kitchen training programs to a variety of design professional organizations, including the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) whose members are keenly interested in getting in on the action. The increased interest from non-landscape-related professions is only surprising in that it took so long to take hold. Kalamazoo expects 2009 to be the year when designers of different backgrounds begin to combine their expertise for even more fantastic outdoor kitchen projects. Equipment for outdoor kitchens and design information is available from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. Call 1.800.868.1699 to speak with an outdoor kitchen design expert.