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Sue Doerfler
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 27, 2005 12:00 AM

Outdoor dream kitchens
A charcoal grill just isn't enough. Even a gas barbecue cart comes up short.

Today's outdoor kitchens rival their indoor counterparts with numerous built-in appliances and gadgets galore. Outdoor kitchen islands are jam-packed with features from built-in grills and ovens to side burners and refrigerators. You can even get the kitchen sink.

"It's like bringing the kitchen outside," said Steve Rousseau, who works at BBQ Hut in Scottsdale.

Outdoor kitchens are increasingly popular among Valley homeowners, said Mike Jones, manager of Barbeques Galore in Phoenix. About 75 percent of his business is outdoor kitchen islands. "We're in the climate for it," he said.

Nationally, more than 14 million grills were sold last year, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, which is based in Arlington, Va. Even more people will set up outdoor cooking areas this year: 15 million grills are expected to be sold in 2005.

Adding an outdoor kitchen can be a major investment, starting at around $5,000 and easily going higher with fancy grills and pizza ovens. Whether you are adding a complete kitchen or simply upgrading your grill, here are six things to consider.

Island: Outdoor islands can be anything from simple, tile-topped stucco bases to granite-tile U-shaped islands with seating.

Like the indoor version, the outdoor island is where the action is. It's where everyone hangs out, waiting, grilling, conversing, smelling the sizzling hamburgers.

Grill: The grill is the most important part of an outdoor kitchen. Choose one with ample surface area so you can cook meat and veggies at the same time.

Other appliances: You wouldn't think about having an indoor kitchen without a refrigerator. The same is true with an outdoor kitchen. Other appliance choices include ovens, side burners, wok burners, pizza ovens and burners that sear meat and lock in the juices.

Dining: No kitchen is complete without a nearby table and chairs. Make comfort a priority. Get an umbrella for the table so you don't get baked by the sun.

Lighting: Go for fun, funky or mood-setting. Hang string lights from the patio rafters for atmosphere or use candles to create a cozy look. Make sure you have enough light to ensure your food is adequately cooked.

Gadgets: Kitchens of any kind need gadgets. For outdoor kitchens, think music systems, bartending centers and fancy sets of grilling tools. Also available: digital thermometers that let you check the meat's temperature without having to open the grill lid and wood chips that add old-fashioned charcoal-like barbecue flavor to gas-grilled food.

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