Now that sun-drenched Colorado days are here to stay, it’s time to move the dinner plans outdoors where you can enjoy simple meals with family—or entertain friends well after sunset. Let’s face it, once you start thinking about on-the-fly festive outdoor occasions on the deck with a cold drink in hand, you’re bound to consider moving the entire kitchen space out there too.

If you’re toying with the idea of a budget-friendly outdoor kitchen, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. For starters, how many people will your space accommodate? Elaborate outdoor kitchens require lots of room for grills, a pizza oven and refrigeration—not to mention seating for your guests.

If you have a smaller space, rest assured, you can still pull it off with plenty of function and style. It just takes some planning.

Grilling Style

The Big Green Egg has long been considered one of the most versatile grill options. Stefano Tinti/

The Big Green Egg has long been considered one of the most versatile grill options. Stefano Tinti/

When it comes to grills, no doubt, you could easily drop thousands on these high-end behemoths. So if you’re tight on space and cash, why not test your barbecue skills with some budget-friendly options? 

Whether you decide on gas, charcoal or a mixture of both grill types, first determine what you like to cook. Take large juicy pork butts, for example. Ask any barbecue master—these juicy blocks of meat prefer it low and slow—as in low heat for a long time says Brett Stephenson, co-owner of Orchards Ace Hardware in Loveland. It’s an ideal cut for a grill with slow cooking capability.

Save the steaks for a traditional gas grill, suggests Stephenson. With slow cooking, grill temperatures generally fluctuate between 225 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the grilling experts.

Ultimately, your budget will determine which type of grill or grills you end up with. Stephenson says it’s common for grill masters and barbecue aficionados to own more than one—like gas and charcoal grills.

Spending money

“People buying for outdoor kitchens are buying mid to upper sized grills,” says Stephenson. He says they typically run about $700 to $2500.

But you can certainly find grills for much less.

The classic charcoal fueled kettle grill will always have a special place in American barbecue.

The classic charcoal fueled kettle grill will always have a special place in American barbecue.

If you like the idea of something versatile—with grilling—slow cooking and baking, a popular option is the Big Green Egg, says Stephenson. Load it up with natural lump charcoal (derived from oak and hickory) and cook meats slowly to build up layers of tastiness into your barbecue dish. Or fire it up with higher temps to sear steaks.  It reaches up to 750 F.  Got a hankering for fire grilled pizza or gooey apple cobbler? Use the Egg’s oven feature for pies and breads.

“It adds a ton of flavor to poultry, pork and seafood,” says Stephenson. The Big Green Egg also comes in many sizes. The large size (18.25 inches) retails for about $849. It holds 12 burgers or seven rib racks. If you’re accustomed to entertaining or feeding a small army—consider a larger Egg.

Compared to customized outdoor grills that practically take your order and cook it too, the Weber brand offers budget friendly gas and charcoal grills that easily transform a few slabs of raw meat into a savory mouth-watering feast.

Stephenson said Weber gas grills start around $549. Though they offer plenty of other options, including the Weber classic kettle style grill—that resembles a hamburger. 

To this day, my dad grills his famous chicken drummies and thighs on that trusty basic black Weber kettle style grill—along with good ol’ fashioned Kingsford charcoal. 

Car buffs and Motown natives might be interested to know—Kingsford has roots to the Henry Ford family. Back in the day, the company was named Ford Charcoal.

For added flavor, charcoal grill masters soak hickory or apple wood chips in water (for several hours) and place them in foil along with the charcoal. Weber charcoal kettle grills start around $80.

Outdoor ambiance


A terracotta chiminea is an attractive alternative to a traditional firepit,

especially for smaller spaces.

On those cool breezy nights just after dusk, you might warm up the space with a fire pit or clay backed chiminea. Both of these crowd pleasers add flair whether you’re entertaining guests or simply want that relaxing vibe that goes with a crackling fire. Lowe’s home improvement stores carry a terracotta chiminea for about $80.

And when it’s time to add a touch of Larimer Square to your backyard decor, complete the vintage look with the right lights. Specifically, string lights with a vintage Edison-style bulb, says Stephenson. 

String lights of this sort, with their exposed filament, is one hot look with classic roots. But they aren’t all the same. Cord length and thickness determines the price. Also, LED bulbs are a bit pricier, says Stephenson. Generally, a 48 foot string of 24 lights goes for about $79.

Patio seating and tables can span quite a wide range of size, style and pricing, but if you’re the DIY type, grab some reclaimed or new lumber from Habitat for Humanity ReStore and get to know Pinterest. You can find plans, construction and finishing tips for just about any style of outdoor dining set, including those with hidden storage and ice buckets or a sandbox for the kids. Reclaimed lumber will save you money, the piece will be completely customized and you can be proud of your handiwork.

Taking your budget, the size of your space, and your intended use into consideration, you can have fun creating a cozy space for your outdoor kitchen.

– By Elise Oberliesen, Longmont Magazine