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Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Details, Materials, and Ideas to Ponder

Posted On: April 03,2018 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

outdoor kitchen countertopYour outdoor kitchen countertop is an important detail of your overall outdoor kitchen space. It’s where you’ll prep and cook your food on your outdoor grill and will likely include a seating area for your family and friends to socialize.

When designed properly, outdoor kitchen countertops can be the showpiece of your kitchen.

But when not done properly, your countertops can turn your dream kitchen into a nightmare. The wrong choices can really have a negative impact. For instance, instead of enjoying time seated at the countertop, you can’t sit there because the dark stone you chose is burning hot. Or perhaps the spatial layout of your kitchen wasn’t taken into account and you barely have enough room to squeeze into the cooking space or move around in your U-shaped kitchen.

These are ultimately huge details when it comes to the overall enjoyment—and use—of your space and if not taken into account from the very beginning, can your affect your entire experience.

That’s why we’ve put together some of these important outdoor kitchen counter ideas to consider as you put together your dream space.

Choose Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Materials Wisely

Chances are, the best choice for your kitchen is going to be granite. Ninety percent of the outdoor kitchen countertops that we install are granite and for a good reason. Granite is highly durable, can hold up to UV light, and can also withstand extreme temperature and weather fluctuations. After all, for thousands of years, granite has withstood all sorts of conditions in nature. It will absolutely hold up in your outdoor kitchen.

granite outdoor kitchen countertop

But that’s not to say you are forbidden from trying something different. We have installed soapstone countertops, ensuring that the client was fully aware of the fact that it’s a softer stone and more prone to knicks and scratches. For one historic home, a flagstone countertop was fitting. We’ve even had some requests for concrete countertops.

Still, at the end of the day, granite is typically the wisest material choice for the vast majority of kitchens. It offers so many colors that you can still make a unique selection that suits your taste and style.

Choosing Color is More Than Preference

Unlike choosing the color of your indoor kitchen countertop where you can shop based on preference, choosing outdoor kitchen countertop colors has more to do than just selecting based on your personal style. Whether your kitchen is covered or uncovered is an important factor to consider in color selection.

In an uncovered outdoor kitchen, where your countertop will be receiving direct sunlight, a dark color will absorb a lot of heat and become hot to the touch. In this case, a lighter color is ideal. But if the countertop only receives filtered sunlight through a pergola or is completely covered by a pavilion, a darker color, such as this (shown) “Uba Tuba” granite is no problem.

Uba Tube granite outdoor kitchen countertop

Choosing a color that works for your space (and that you will love for many years to come) can feel like an overwhelming decision to some. But a design expert can guide you. At Earth, Turf, & Wood, our Registered Landscape Architect meets with clients at our local granite supply store to peruse all of the options and help pick the exact piece that will work best for your space. Even within the same type of granite, the appearance can vary with different patterns, veins, or coloring. Using the materials you’ve already selected (patio or cabinets), we can guide you through that process.

Your Countertop Edge Matters

Besides the color, you must also choose the countertop edge that you desire. While the edge may seem like a relatively unimportant detail, the truth is that it can have a big impact on the overall look of the countertop.

Here are some outdoor kitchen counter ideas for edges.

Ogee Edge

An ogee edge has a flowing design of arches. This example is a double-stack ogee edge, meaning it used two layers of granite (one piece layered under the main granite counter, just around the edges).

Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Double-Stack Ogee Edge Combination

Half Bullnose Edge

A half bullnose edge is a completely rounded edge that allows you to see a nice cross-section of the stone.

Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Half Bullnose Edge

Ogee and Bullnose Combined

In this example, the homeowners did two pieces of granite for upper and lower countertops and chose different edges for each for a truly unique look.

Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Double Stack Ogee & Demi  Bullnose Edge

Choose the Ideal Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Height

Generally speaking, the ideal outdoor kitchen counter height is typically 36 to 38 inches high. While 36 inches is considered standard, adding an outdoor refrigerator (as many people do), bumps the height to 38 inches.

multi-level granite outdoor kitchen countertop

Bear in mind that you don’t have to be limited to just one counter. Many homeowners want a multi-level countertop space, with a bar height counter, which may be as tall as 48 inches. Multi-height countertops make your kitchen space a lot more functional. You can be prepping and cooking food at the main counter while family and friends socialize with one another (and with you) from the bartop.

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Outdoor Kitchen Countertop Depth Matters, Too

When it comes to ensuring that you have enough functional space, your outdoor kitchen counter depth is critical. You must think in terms of how your countertops will be used and plan accordingly. If you need space to prep and cook, but also plan to have people seated on the other side of the counter, it’s going to need to be wide enough to be functional for everyone. This is definitely a scenario where a multi-level countertop could be helpful, assuming that the depth of each counter space provides enough room.

natural stone outdoor kitchen with granite countertop

Spatial considerations are also important as is the shape of your kitchen. The U-shape is often popular in outdoor kitchen designs as it allows you to have both work space and social space. But if not designed properly, that “U” can be crowded and not offer you enough space to move around. This can deter you from using the space as it was meant to be used.

Just like designing an indoor kitchen, you must give thought to the “triangle” that is formed between the cooking area, refrigerator, and sink (assuming you have all three in your outdoor kitchen). The workflow of those three zones is absolutely critical.

outdoor-kitchen-smoker-big-green-egg-2

While a U-shape is common, particularly with serious chefs, the most popular kitchen shape is actually the L-shape. This is just an easier flow and fits within most spaces. It also has the possibility of being less costly as it typically means less countertop space. Even with the L-shape, it’s important to be cognizant of your workflow triangle and how it’s laid out. As with all of our designs, form follows function.

Bringing it All Together

Hynson-pavilion-outdoor-kitchen-people-1At the end of the day, all of the elements of your outdoor kitchen must work together to create a space that not only looks spectacular but functions like it was meant to function.

Even a single detail gone awry can have the power to negatively impact the space as a whole.

When you’re investing a lot of money into an outdoor kitchen, you want everything to be perfect—and with a Registered Landscape Architect involved from the very beginning, it can be. Mistakes can be avoided and you can get the space you truly desire.

Among the numerous benefits that come with choosing the right outdoor kitchen countertop, you’ll have plenty of space for people to sit, plenty of space accounted for cooking, a countertop that remains cool even as the sun heats up, and all with the aesthetic appeal that makes your kitchen one-of-a-kind.

If you’d like to discuss adding a dream outdoor kitchen to your Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Hershey, or Reading, PA home, then contact us for a free consultation and get ready to bring that dream to life.

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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