For anyone who spends a lot of time (or want’s to spend more time) outside with a grill or BBQ smoker, I can appreciate the appeal of a dedicated outdoor kitchen. While many grills/smokers come with front and side shelves, food prep space on those selves is definitely at a premium. So with today’s post, I wanted to discuss some of your options when it comes to outdoor kitchen setups and pellet grills/smokers for both low and high budgets. Which options are going to be the best for you will obviously depend on your budget, but also how much time you have available for the project. So let’s get started!
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You may be in the market for the best pellet grill/smoker which will sit into an outdoor kitchen setup. You may already own a pellet grill/smoker and you are looking for ideas on cabinet solutions. Perhaps you are interested in the DIY route to build something very specific for your needs or you want to buy an outdoor kitchen setup off the shelf. With this post, I want to try and touch on each of those scenarios and give you some things to think about to get the best outdoor kitchen setup to suit your needs.
Introduction To Outdoor Kitchens For Pellet Grills/Smokers
When it comes to setting out and installing/building an outdoor kitchen you have a huge range of things to consider. For instance, are you purely looking for a larger area to prepare food and storage? Or, do you also want to integrate features such as outdoor sink/refrigerator as well? Obviously your budget is going to primarily dictate what you can do. But its a good to start with ideas of your ideal outdoor kitchen setup and then try and work out how you can make that happen with your available budget. So first off, let’s presume your cash strapped, you already own a pellet grill which you want to integrate into your own DIY outdoor kitchen build.
DIY Outdoor Kitchen Builds With Pellet Grills/Smokers
Before you start to go down the DIY route, you should consider a couple of things. First, just how confident are you in your DIY skills? Its not that the construction of an outdoor kitchen is the most complicated project. However, your DIY skill level will obviously dictate how long the project will take and the quality of the finished project. I do a lot of DIY, but I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, and still, when I start a project I underestimate how long its going to take me to complete. Unsurprisingly, the best place to find ideas for DIY outdoor kitchen builds is YouTube. Below I’ve provided just two examples I’ve watched which I think are worth paying attention too.
Perhaps you don’t want to go the fixed cabinet route, perhaps you still want to be able to move the pellet grill around the back yard. Therefore, I think you should watch the video above by Keegan on the movable cabinet he has made for his REC TEC RT-700 pellet grill. Now, he has removed the control panel from the side of the pellet grill. Therefore, before carrying out a project such as this you need to check if any modifications you want to carry out will invalidate the pellet grill warranty. Just something else to be aware of when carrying out a DIY outdoor kitchen project.
Another good example of a DIY outdoor kitchen setup I’ve come across is by Kinnon where he’s used fixed cabinets and stainless steel doors. Also, you will see he’s integrated a GMG Daniel Boone pellet grill along with a Weber gas grill. Now, you may be wondering why would you need two different grills? Well, as I’ve discussed many times in previous articles (such as pellet vs gas grills) each type of BBQ has strengths and weaknesses. I further explain this in my pellet grill disadvantages article. To put it in the simplest terms that GMG Daniel Boone pellet grill will provide the flavour, while the Weber gas grill can then be used to finish off the food with a nice sear. There is a lot more to it than that, but that’s the general gist of why you would maybe want to consider both a pellet and gas grill in your outdoor kitchen setup. Or maybe a pellet/gas combo grill, there are lots of combinations to consider.
Off The Shelf Outdoor Kitchen Cabinets, Sinks, Fridges Etc
So while DIY is the prefered option for some it does come with a few drawbacks. First, there is the time investment to design/make the outdoor kitchen. However, there is also the fact that you’re going to be making it out of wood. While as Kinnon has shown in the video above you can by stainless steel components (doors etc), more than likely the main structure will be fabricated from wood. Well, wood in an outdoor environment needs pretty frequent maintenance to keep rot at bay and to keep looking good. Therefore, you need to remember that. Before jumping up to a contractor coming in, or building a brick/stone outdoor kitchen you could consider an off the shelf stainless steel modular cabinet option.
As of writing this article the kitchen island modular cabinet products from Grilla Grills have only just come on to the market. Therefore, their sink/fridge modules are not available yet. But depending on when you’re reading this that may have changed. Anyway, the principle of this modular setup has several benefits. Depending on the particular outdoor kitchen setup it would likely cost more than a DIY build, however, its also likely to last much longer with less maintenance.
The Grilla Grills BBQ island is made from heavy-duty stainless steel cabinets with a black granite worktops. Hence, it will likely last much longer than a wood DIY build. However, as its modular, if you cannot afford an entire outdoor kitchen made with these cabinets you could mix them in with DIY elements as well. While Grilla Grills obviously designed their Gill Module to fit their own Silverbac pellet grill, any pellet grill up to 48″ can be used. For instance, take the scenario above of having both a pellet grill and gas grill in an outdoor kitchen setup, that could be accommodated with this modular cabinet system.
If you don’t already own a pellet grill for the outdoor kitchen you’re interested in building the Grilla Grills Silverbac is an excellent/affordable pellet grill to consider and can be purchased as a built-in unit without the lower cabinet or their all-terrain cart. However, they could actually be added to the grill at a later date needed. As mentioned in the promotional video above from Grilla Grills, being modular means you could easily take this outdoor kitchen set up with you when/if you moved home. Which I think is a really appealing feature of this setup, so that’s worth thinking about.
Best Pellet Grills For Outdoor Kitchens – Things To Think About
Above we have looked at a few nice examples of wood pellet grills being integrated into DIY and off-the-shelf outdoor kitchen setups. I now want to go into a bit more detail on the pellet grills themselves. In terms of, what features do you really want to try and get if you are going for an outdoor kitchen setup? Hence, this pellet grill is going to live outside in the elements. However, there are other things to consider, such as if you just want to integrate purely a pellet grill (no gas grill) into your outdoor kitchen build you need to consider grilling/searing performance.
If You Can Afford It, Go For A Stainless Steel Pellet Grill
So if we look at the two pellet grill examples above of the REC TEC and Grilla Grill. Both of those pellet grill brands do use quite a bit of stainless steel. The Grilla Grill has stainless steel internals, and so does the REC TEC, but it also has a stainless steel cooking chamber unlike the Grilla Grill (but its more money). However, if your budget can stretch up over $2,000 you can start to consider a full stainless steel pellet grill. Which it should be pretty obvious is going to be better suited to an outdoor kitchen setup, especially if you live in a climate where above average rain/high humidity is a factor.
There are a couple of full stainless steel pellet grills available for just under $2,000. However, none of those models are available as built-in units suitable for an outdoor kitchen setup and their lower cabinets don’t look easily removable for a DIY ‘make it fit’ option. The only exception to this is probably the Louisiana Grill Estate Series 860. However, its hard to recommend this pellet grill for a couple of reasons. First, it doesn’t appear to have a PID controller, which for a pellet grill close to $2,000 isn’t great. Second, its got some very average reviews as you can see through the link below.
For higher specification (and notable higher-priced) built-in full stainless steel pellet grills your options are either Memphis, Coyote or Twin Eagles. The Twin Eagles are by far the most expensive, but it also has the best feature set of the three brands. Also, Twin Eagles are the only brand of the three which is actually made in the USA. Which obviously increases manufacturing costs, but has the benefit of enabling higher quality control while also supporting domestic manufacturing jobs.
Important! Not All Stainless Steel Is Created Equal
As I discuss in my article on the best stainless steel pellet grills, you need to appreciate not all stainless steel, is well, stainless. Lower grades (201 or 430) can still suffer from corrosion/pitting. It will last much longer than painted carbon steel, however its not as good at resisting the elements as 304-grade stainless steel. Hence, while brands such as Memphis offer both 430 and 304-grade stainless steel grills, they recommend 304 units for coastal climates. The reason being salty sea air is one of the most corrosive environments for a grill. Though, as you probably have guessed a 304-grade stainless steel pellet grill will cost you more than a 430 grade.
How Capable Is The Pellet Grill At Grilling/Searing?
In one of the DIY outdoor kitchen examples above both a pellet grill and gas grill was built into the setup. As I discussed above its often because the strengths of most pellet grills are for going ‘low and slow’ to add flavour to food, while the key strength of a gas grill is in high-temperature searing/grilling. Well, what about if you are looking into an outdoor kitchen setup but you just want a pellet grill to do it all? Well, at the premium end of the market (hence full stainless steel pellets above), yes they generally all have good grilling/searing performance. However, at the lower end of the market depending on the specific pellet grill, it might not hit those high temps (above 450 degrees) quite as easily.
I discuss this more in my article on which pellet grills get the hottest, but really there are a couple of key features to look out for on a pellet grill which will provide good grilling/searing performance. You will want to consider direct-flame access and a thick grate material such as cast-iron. You can also consider an aftermarket upgrade such a GrillGrates which can help to improve the searing performance on any pellet grill. The point being it is possible to get a pellet grill which can do both low and slow and grilling well. Then again, there are appealing aspects of having access to both a pellet grill and a gas grill in your outdoor kitchen setup. Something to think about.
How Well Can The Pellet Grill Hold On To Its Heat? (Is It Insulated?)
So if you are going to the expensive of either buying an off the self outdoor kitchen, a DIY build or getting in the contractors I’m willing to guess you want to be able to use your built-in pellet grill as much as possible right? Well, unless you live in a climate that’s warm all year round you need to look into how well your chosen pellet grill will hold onto its heat during the colder winter months. As I’ve discussed in a previous article on insulated blankets for pellet grills, keeping in the heat is not just about reducing pellet usage, it will actually produce better BBQ. Now, while insulated blankets are great at keeping in the heat, they are really a band-aid solution. First and foremost, you want to try and get a pellet grill that is built to hold on to its heat.
At the budget end of the market, Grilla Grills have integrated twin-wall construction into their pellet grills which helps to keep in heat around the combustion chamber, however, the upper half of the grill is not twin-wall. The Traeger Timberline is fully twin-wall insulated, though that’s not really suited to an outdoor kitchen setup without some serious modification and warranty invalidation. Pretty much all of the full stainless steel built-in pellet grills referenced above use twin-wall construction. Though check that before you pick any particular model if its a feature you will think you will need. So again, that’s just something else to think about.
Conclusions On The Best Pellet Grills For Outdoor Kitchens
As you can see from the above, when it comes to choosing the best pellet grill (and best outdoor kitchen options) there is a lot to think about. If you already own a pellet grill you may be able to modify/adapt it to suit an outdoor kitchen, but if its still under warranty carefully think that one. If you’re in the market for a pellet grill to suit an outdoor kitchen, ideally you will want to choose a purpose-made built-in unit and ideally, a fully stainless steel built-in pellet grill if your budget will allow. Though as shown above with those excellent DIY efforts, even if your budget is limited if you have the time (and skill) its still possible to knock up an outdoor kitchen which can be very functional and impressive to friends and family.
That’s it! I hope my comments above and the other videos etc have helped you to decide which route you want to go with for your outdoor kitchen and pellet grill choice. I have lots and lots of other pellet grill/smoker related articles in my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide, so please check that out. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.