Cooking outside

Last updated on June 3rd, 2022 at 02:51 am

When Dan Hoppe and his family moved earlier this year into a newly built home in Eagle, they hired Mukwonago-based Bret Achtenhagen’s Seasonal Services to do the landscaping and build an outdoor kitchen. The outdoor kitchen has a gas grill built into a brick wall, a sink and a brick counter top. A gas line and water pipes were extended from the house. The outdoor kitchen cost about $11,000, said Hoppe, who is the managing director at Country Springs Hotel in Waukesha.


“It’s a nice way to entertain family or friends, or just a nice place for hanging out on a quiet night,” Hoppe said. “It gives you an alternative to being indoors. It came out better than we anticipated it to be. I would definitely recommend it to anybody.”


According to area landscapers, an increasing number of Wisconsin families are building outdoor kitchens, even though the cold winter months and cool early spring months keep many Wisconsinites indoors for much of the year.


“It’s pretty popular right now,” said Roger Northouse, president of Milwaukee-based Northouse Landscape Co. “I see it as a bit of a response back to the 50s and 60s, when people had the old barbeque pit (in their backyards) made out of bricks and mortar. People are getting back to that with the built-in grill, but they are taking it much farther.”


Outdoor kitchens can cost between $10,000 and $50,000, according to area landscapers. The features in an outdoor kitchen can include a gas grill, a sink, a refrigerator, Freestanding Wine Coolers, an icemaker, a keg tapper, countertops with granite or other high-quality materials, stone or brick patios and firepits.


For many outdoor kitchens, gas lines and plumbing are extended from the house to the outdoor grill and sink. Some include a cover or a pergola to provide shade.


The outdoor kitchen is becoming a popular feature for well-to-do homeowners.


“It really is a very popular trend right now,” said Bret Achtenhagen, owner of Bret Achtenhagen’s Seasonal Services Ltd. “Money is no object. The more glitz and glam and stainless steel we can give them, the better. I think the main reason is people are spending more time at home again. They’re building enormous homes where they want to be able to entertain.”


Outdoor kitchens have become more popular in recent years as more people are looking for ways to improve their homes, said Russ Waters, kitchen designer for Wisconsin Kitchen Mart. HGTV and home improvement magazines have sparked interest in outdoor kitchens by showing how nice they can be, he said.


“That’s a huge reason the interest has grown,” Waters said.


In addition, kitchen appliance manufacturers created equipment that can be kept outdoors, and then they started marketing it aggressively.


“There was no interest (in outdoor kitchens) 10 years ago,” Waters said. “It is something that took off a couple of years ago. It was pushed along by the fact that a lot of manufacturers, including Wolf, Sub-Zero, DCS and Viking came up with outdoor equipment. All they had to do was come up with equipment that can get wet.”


Outdoor kitchens first became popular in the Western and Southern parts of the country, where the weather is warmer and people can spend more of the year outside comfortably. The trend has caught on in the Midwest, but Waters said our colder weather will limit the popularity of outdoor kitchens here.


“I think you are going to see that it limits the growth (in our area) to a much smaller percentage of homes,” he said.


However, Wisconsinites are notoriously hearty and many still grill in the cold. Hoppe said he uses his grill year-round. Propane outdoor heaters and firepits are extending the use of outdoor kitchens, Achtenhagen said.


“We see people very active with their patios to Thanksgiving and beyond,” he said.


People adding outdoor kitchens to their homes want to provide a nice outdoor space for entertaining and are taking the backyard barbeque to the next level.


“It’s one of those things that gives you a chance to show off in front of your family and friends,” said Rick Kwiatkowski, a sales representative for Milwaukee-based U-Line Corp., which manufactures under-the-counter refrigerator products. “It’s not the old days when people had the old pot Weber grill. The trend has gone away from that, I’d say for eight years.”


An outdoor kitchen with a refrigerator makes the backyard barbeque easier for the party hosts, Kwiatkowski said.


“People aren’t running back and forth to the house for this stuff,” he said. “It’s all self-contained.”


The outdoor kitchen is just part of a trend in recent years of people investing more money in their homes, because they are choosing to spend more time there with their families, Achtenhagen said. The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had a big affect on that trend, he said.


“People are spending more time at home again,” Achtenhagen said. “After 911, we noticed that more people started to reinvest in remodeling their homes. More people are slowing down a bit to spend more time with the family. We have really seen a significant, I don’t know if you want to call it cocooning, but people are asking us to create an environment that can be more multi-functional. It’s not just a yard anymore. It’s a trend that is evolving and it’s evolving at a rapid pace.”

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