Do You Really Need That Gourmet Outdoor Kitchen?


Edouard Manet, “Dejeuner sur l’herbe”*

A recent search of kitchens on the internet turned up several articles on gourmet outdoor kitchens. These articles described in glowing terms a range of “necessities” for outside entertaining. Among these objects appeared the predictable favorites—comfortable seating, easy-to-clean tables, umbrellas for shade. But there was more. It seems that Harry and Henrietta Homeowner have moved beyond the Styrofoam cooler, charcoal grill, and paper towels of days gone by. Today’s outdoor kitchen is designed to duplicate, or perhaps even outdo, the cooking facilities inside the house. The modest cooler has been relegated to the garage in favor of an outdoor fridge and ice well sink. The charcoal grill has been replaced by a “professional” version powered by gas and made of stainless steel. Families were once content to revel in basic outdoor senses—the balmy warmth of the sun, the gentle twittering of birds, and the occasional crack of Johnny’s softball bat as he ran around the yard with friends. But now, apparently, it is essential to incorporate into this outdoor scheme a large flat-screen TV. And for those engaged in such modernization, it may also be worth considering a marble fireplace for the outdoor kitchen, to help create a living room atmosphere in their home’s backyard….

Far from contributing to the actual possibility of meal preparation, the proliferation of such “gourmet level” facilities stems from marketing pressure exerted on behalf of the manufacturers of kitchen-related appliances and building products. The desire for state-of-the-art equipment is not born of any genuine need—consider the very plain kitchens of many truly great cooks, even professionals—but from social one-upmanship and a culture which has persuaded people that consumption should be regarded as a patriotic duty, as well as one of life’s greatest pleasures.–Excerpted from The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History by Nancy R. Hiller, author of “Making Things Work

(It seems that what you really need is to put some clothes on.)

*’herbe#/media/File:Edouard_Manet_-_Luncheon_on_the_Grass_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg (public domain)

7 responses to “Do You Really Need That Gourmet Outdoor Kitchen?

  1. Thank you Nancy for posting this. You have hit the proverbial nail on the head. I live in the Atlanta metro area, and this crazy notion is running rampant among the crazy “I am rich ” suburbanites. Heck, as a professional cabinet maker and millworker, I’ll even help them build it if the price is right. But, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Just a matter of taste I guess. Me personally, I’m just anxiously waiting for my combination father’s day/birthday gift of an original Weber kettle charcoal grill. The premium model of course, because I have to keep up, don’t you know! All the best to you.

  2. I’m not in agreement here, she’s “ok” without her clothes.

  3. See also: university housing and “amenities.”

  4. That painting of Manet is one of my favorites. To see the painting in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris is a real treat. I myself prefer a simple charcoal grill where I use lump charcoal, not briquettes. And I grill outdoors to enjoy the woods and birds and lizards, not to watch TV. But never confuse need with advertising. The marketing folks want to sell things.

  5. very well written. I guess in our the western lifestyle the outdoor gourmet kitchen is just the very tip of the iceberg, but where does it stop? Do we really need hot water (considering that there are many truly clean people who only use cold water to wash)?
    This makes my head spin.
    I think what is considered “to much” or unnecessary very much depends on your perspective and situation and when looking at society as a whole it is definitely changing over time. So again, where does it stop? Should we all go back to to live in caves? Maybe there is a sweet spot somewhere between outdoor gourmet kitchen and cave, but is that sweet spot the same for everyone?
    So because I can’t really answer this question (not even for me) I think it would be better to focus on ethics because that way my motivation becomes much clearer and it goal no longer is to reach some perfect state but to constantly improve. Because honestly I can’t really think of any other good reason why wanting an outdoor gourmet kitchen with flat screen tv is any worse than wanting warm water for my shower.

    I guess I went a bit too far here sorry for that, but your post really made me think, thank you.

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