(Family Features)--Building an outdoor kitchen is a significant investment that can be rewarding for years to come. It's important to take advantage of nice days and temperate seasons as much as possible, no matter in which part of the country you live. However, with proper planning and preparation, you can fully maximize the enjoyment of your outdoor kitchen all year long, even when temperatures drop.
There are ways to do it, and many homeowners are catching on. In fact, a majority of grill and smoker owners (61 percent) enjoy grilling year-round, according to the Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association.
These tips and ideas for design and entertaining from Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, can help you make the most of your outdoor kitchen throughout the cooler fall and winter seasons.
Fall: Keep the grill fired up
Weekends are everything in the fall. Kids are back in school, football games are in full swing and everyone is trying to extend grilling season with one last barbecue.
Rather than hanging in a parking lot for the big game, throw a "home-gate" party in your outdoor kitchen. Many homeowners are outfitting their spaces with outdoor TVs and speaker systems that rival watching at popular neighborhood pubs. All you need to decide is what will be on the menu.
Autumn is all about smoky wood fires, so try capturing that atmosphere by grilling over a large wood-fired grill, such as an Argentine-style grill. You can impress your guests with all of the flavors you can only achieve with a wood fire.
Remember temperatures can fluctuate from cool to hot in the fall, so make sure you have portable shade for when you want to stay cool and stowed for when you need to warm up.
In terms of maintenance, sink covers offer much-needed protection against seeds, petals and falling leaves.
Winter: No need to hibernate
November officially kicks off the holiday season. Your holiday get-togethers can stand out from the pack by bringing outside flavors into the warm comfort of your home.
The intense flavor of slow-roasted meats is the perfect pairing with wintertime. Also known as indirect grilling, food is placed in an area without fire below it and cooking is done with the grill hood closed. Add the flavor of a wood fire for "smoke roasting." This is a perfect way to prepare a beef or pork roast for the holidays. Purpose-built smokers, such as Kalamazoo's Smoker Cabinet that uses a gravity-fed charcoal fire for heat, are ideal for smoking the Thanksgiving turkey. This also frees up your indoor oven for other holiday dishes.
Be the hero of the holiday party by surprising your guests with delicious, slow-cooked brisket or roasted ham, but keep your outdoor grill or smoker conveniently located adjacent to your indoor kitchen and within close proximity to the back door for quick, easy access, reducing your time out in the cold.
With shorter days, you'll need to consider lighting. Make sure you have plenty of task lighting to not only see your food on the grill, but also transport it back inside when it's done cooking.
Infrared space heaters go a long way toward making winter grilling more comfortable. One of the last things you want is a delay for the big meal because you're simply not warm enough to cook effectively.
Instead of allowing your outdoor kitchen to go unused during the cooler months, take steps to make it useful year-round.
Published with permission from RISMedia.