Long summer days and lazy warm evenings make having an outdoor kitchen an absolute pleasure.
It’s the perfect setting for gatherings of family and friends – and the smell of barbecue and the taste of that homemade potato salad make the everyday cares of the world fade into the background.
But even the most glorious of summer’s will not last forever.
As the Fall days see the sunset earlier and earlier it is time to take action to prepare an outdoor kitchen for the long winter nights and inclement weather that the season will bring with it.
So what essential tasks need to be undertaken in order to ensure that a prized outdoor kitchen emerges into the Spring sunshine in perfect condition – let’s take a look.
Cod weather (especially when it falls below freezing) can wreak havoc with water pipes. Subzero temperatures will cause the water in pipes to freeze – and freezing water expands.
The last thing that any homeowner needs are preparing to host the first barbecue of the new summer season only to find out that the pipes supplying water to the outdoor kitchen have frozen and burst.
Not only is it annoying, but burst pipes can be costly to repair and replace. To avoid the problem first shut off the water supply to the outdoor kitchen.
Then drain the pipes (simply open the hot and cold faucets until the flow stops). It is essential to remember that refrigerators, sinks, ornamental fixtures, and ice makers also use a central water supply -make sure that each of these appliances and fixtures is prepared for the coming season.
Weatherproof the Grill.
One of the most important fixtures in an outdoor kitchen is the grill.
Some grills represent a significant investment on the part of the homeowners so ensuring that they are able to cope with the weather over winter is essential to protect that investment.
Protecting the grill from the elements is extremely important.
But some preparation prior to placing a correctly fitting grill cover is essential.
First, disconnect the grill from the gas supply.
Then it’s time to apply some elbow grease and some cleaning products.
Cleaning products that are specifically developed for use on grills are widely available and are an excellent investment. These cleaning products can be used on both the interior and exterior of the grill.
Make sure that all grease and grime is removed. Many people neglect the exterior of the grill, that is a mistake. grease on the exterior of the grill provides the perfect handhold for rust to start – and in areas where winter rainfall is prevalent, that can spell doom for a grill.
Make sure to remove the grates, clean those and the area underneath them. For stubborn grease use a degreasing product.
Wipe all cooking surfaces with vegetable oil as this will protect them from moisture and prevent rust.
If you are using cast iron cooking utensils then either take these into the house or at the very least also treat them with vegetable oil and store them out of the elements.
Once you have done all the preparation then place your grill cover over the grill safe in the knowledge that your grill will be in pristine condition when it comes time to fire up the burners for that inaugural summer barbecue.
Don’t Neglect the Refrigerator.
It is possibly one of the most horrifying experiences of any homeowners life when they open up the refrigerator in the outdoor kitchen to store the prime ribs that they will later be barbecuing for the first grill experience of the summer, only to find out that they neglected to clean out the refrigerator prior to the colder weather sets in.
Prior to winter really getting underway and those early sunsets becoming a fact of life empty the refrigerator of all its contents, switch it off at the main power supply point and get to work with some mild household detergent.
Wipe down all surfaces and remove the shelving to ensure that the bottom of that shelving is also cleaned properly.
Pay special attention to the freezer and if the refrigerator has a built-in ice-maker make sure that the ice receptacle is also cleaned properly.
Should the refrigerator feature a water dispenser make sure that the catch tray at the bottom of the dispenser is also cleaned and dried thoroughly?
Ensure that there is no standing water anywhere in the refrigerator.
Prepare Cabinets for Winter.
Many outdoor kitchens have stainless steel cabinets.
These should be treated in a similar way to the grill and wiped down with vegetable oil in order to prevent moisture buildup and rust. An alternative is to use a store-bought stainless steel polish which will alsop[rtect the finish of the cabinets. Wooden cabinets require extra care.
These should be oiled and sealed to prevent the wood swelling during the rainy season. Remember to remove any perishables from the cabinets.
It might also be a good idea to seal around cabinet doors using tape (ask your neighborhood hardware provider for advice on tape that will not damage finishes) this can prevent insects and other wildlife from seeking shelter in the cabinets during the colder months.
Finally, use a waterproof custom trap to protect cabinets from the worst of the weather.
Clean and Prepare the Firepit.
Fire Pits have become an increasingly popular feature in outdoor cooking areas, however, they also need some preparation to withstand the harsh winter conditions. If the firepit is powered by gas, disconnect it (after switching off the gas supply). Remove all debris that may have accumulated during the warmer months and if the firepit used wood or charcoal clean it thoroughly.
There are numerous companies that manufacture weatherproof fire pit covers and also those that supply custom covers – make use of one of these.
With a little forethought and care your outdoor kitchen will remain in pristine condition even when faced with the harshest winter weather.
It will stand ready for that first outdoor cooking and entertaining event of the new summer season.
Preparation will pay dividends in not only protecting a valuable financial investment – but also in ensuring that the outdoor kitchen provides the perfect setting for a gathering of friends and family when the weather warms.