In Charlotte, outdoor entertaining happens year-round. Here are the necessities for a custom outdoor kitchen to take your outdoor barbecue to the next level.

Not so many decades ago, a backyard BBQ meant a few friends gathering on the weekend with folding lawn chairs scattered around a portable charcoal grill. Thankfully, today’s backyards have evolved into beautiful and relaxing outdoor entertaining areas that are centered around outdoor kitchens that rival what many folks have indoors. Here’s a look at a few of the new necessities for outdoor entertaining.

Turn up the heat.

Of course, you need a built-in grill as the center of an outdoor kitchen, but now there’s another outdoor cooking necessity – a pizza oven. These versatile cooking staples range in cost from a few hundred to several thousand dollars but are well worth the investment, since they can cook far more than just pizza. Online recipes we recently scoured ranged from chicken and seafood options to cherry cobbler, giving you far more delicious – and innovative – outdoor cooking options.

Chill out.

As kitchens become more functional, refrigeration has become a requirement. Options have evolved from small, dorm-sized refrigerators to high-tech refrigeration drawers that adjust depending on what you are storing in them at the time. That means you can keep fruits and vegetables for kabobs at their ideal temperature and humidity levels, which are far different than the requirements needed for your steaks and burgers.

Tap in.

As outdoor living areas have evolved into entertaining meccas, the need to have beverages readily available without walking back into the house to retrieve them is more pressing. Of course, there are kegerators and beer taps designed for outdoor use, but don’t overlook the wine drinkers among your friends. There are now myriad options for wine refrigeration designed to work outdoors. Some have dual compartments – one for wine and one for nonalcoholic beverages. Many come with locks to keep your beverages safe when you aren’t home, and some even have solid metal doors so passersby won’t be tempted to help themselves to your favorite vintages.

custom outdoor kitchen

Control the climate.

Down south, we tend to worry more about heat than cold, so don’t forget to build some shade for sun protection and ceiling fans for air circulation into your outdoor living spaces. Of course, the best remedy for a chilly night is an outdoor fireplace or fire pit. However, if you don’t want to invest in a permanent option, there are more and more portable heaters and fire pits that can help cozy up your outdoor space – and move out of the way when the weather is warm.

Light up the night.

Finally, don’t neglect lighting. While your BBQ may begin during daylight hours, there’s a good chance that it will continue past dark. Make certain any cooking areas are well lit – just as you would with an indoor kitchen – so chefs don’t have to struggle to see prep areas and don’t have to guess about whether or not what they have on the grill is ready to eat. Next, consider integrated LED lighting in steps and around railings for guest safety while more subtle lighting choices can provide ambiance to the overall area.

In many ways, the choices you now have when it comes to outdoor kitchens are beginning to mirror those you have inside your home. Just as you would inside, start with your major appliances in mind, ensure that there is smooth traffic flow for both cooks and guests, and consider the overall look, feel and function of each outdoor area (whether that’s food prep, guest seating and entertaining, or a combination of both) to achieve a space that works as beautifully as it looks.