The Complete Guide to Built-in Grills

Building an outdoor kitchen — complete with a built-in grill — is often a dream come true. Regardless of how much you spend on your outdoor cooking space, it feels luxurious. The problem, really, is deciding what grill you should choose. There are just so many options, brands, and considerations involved. How do you know which grill is suited for you?

Never fear: we have you covered. We’ve helped many people find the grill and accessories that suit them best, and we can help you, too.

Here’s what you need to think about when planning your outdoor kitchen space, which grill you should buy, and what you need to consider before making a decision.

Considerations When Buying a Built-In Grill

There are many things to consider when you’re trying to select a built-in grill for your outdoor kitchen space, such as the amount of space you have available, how large your island or peninsula will be, what materials it will be made from, the amount of cooking surface area required for your purposes, and what your future plans for expansion may include.

Planning an Outdoor Kitchen

Size and Space When Planning a Built In Grill

Perhaps the biggest consideration when selecting a grill for your outdoor kitchen is the size of it. Within this consideration, you’ll also need to keep in mind the size of the space in which you intend to use it. Large outdoor kitchen spaces can accommodate a larger built-in grill, whereas smaller patio spaces may be better served with a smaller grill.

The “standard” size for built-in grills is really more of a range. Most people choose a built-in grill between 34 and 40 inches. This is simply a matter of comfort — this is a size that most people are already used to in a freestanding grill. On the smaller end of the scale, this will give you three burners, and on the high end, it could give you four to five.

Of course, that’s not to say that people don’t choose smaller or bigger grills for their outdoor kitchen space — they can and often do. Again, it depends on how much space they have (among other factors).

If your counter space will be limited and your outdoor kitchen island or peninsula is only ten feet long, you have to be more selective about the size of the grill you choose. Remember that a 36-inch grill is about three feet wide, which is quickly approaching one-third of your counter space. Furthermore, a built-in grill cannot go on the exact end of the island — it will need to be a few inches in from the edge to make sure it is seated properly and stable.

For a 36-inch built-in grill, you should expect a 4-6-inches between appliances (give or take, depending on the exact grill and its weight, the materials your island is made from). If that’s the case, you’re now talking about a good 42 inches of space, which is a full third of your counter space. Of course, this ratio might be perfectly fine with you, but you won’t know until you map out your plans with accurate measurements.

Furthermore, you’ll need to make sure there is enough space for your grill hood to open. This speaks to the depth of your outdoor kitchen counter. Generally, we recommend at least 3.75 inches behind the surface of the grill to make sure the hood can open and not bump into anything else (like a wall or a fence). The exact requirements here will depend on the exact grill you purchase, but for planning purposes, leaving about 4 inches should suffice.

Putting your layout into a physical (or digital) drawing will also help you determine what other accessories you’ll be able to fit into your outdoor kitchen space. Fitting a storage cabinet under your built-in grill is an easy enough decision, but do you also want a sink? What about a cooler? Do you have a need for an extra side burner?

Twin Eagles 54" Grill

By contrast, if your outdoor kitchen space has (or will have) a peninsula that boasts 15 feet of countertop space, you have a large family or you entertain a lot, a larger option like the Twin Eagles 54-inch Built-In grill might be a good one to consider. One bonus of larger grills such as this one is that it allows you to create different cooking zones, so if you need to cook meat at a different temperature than you’d want to grill buns, you can do that all in one space, as opposed to needing a side burner, or waiting for the grill to cool down enough to toast the buns.

Cooking Surface Area on Built-in Grills

Another consideration in the size of the built-in grill you choose must be the physical area of the cooking surface itself. You should assume that the cooking surface is at least two inches smaller than the advertised size of the grill. In the case of this Bonfire 34-inch Built-in grill, the cooking surface is 32 inches by 19 inches, giving you 608 square inches of cooking surface area. The only brand (we know of) that sizes their grill completely based on the cooking surface is FireMagic and American Outdoor Grill. Both of these brands are Made in the USA by RH Peterson.

This is more than enough space to cook a family dinner, and could definitely handle a small party. Of course, for a larger party, you could always use the built-in warming rack, or purchase a warming drawer that could be installed in a different section of your outdoor kitchen island.

We’re always fans of the extra warming drawer because then people can serve themselves, as opposed to getting in your way while you’re grilling. It’s also safer because it keeps people away from the flames or extreme heat of the grill.

Intended Use

Outdoor Kitchen Planning

Another major factor in your built-in grill selection is the way in which you intend to use it. Are you planning to host major parties or gatherings on a frequent basis? Does your large family come over once per month for dinner? Do you live in a moderate climate and grill at least once per week? All intended uses are valid and wonderful, but they may affect your built-in grill selection.

If you plan to use your grill for your own personal family use — perhaps only four to six people at a time — then a smaller grill will suffice. Anything from a 30-inch to a 36-inch would be perfectly fine. In the event that you have a larger gathering, you can use the internal warming rack to keep food warm.

However, if you have a large family who comes over once per month (or week) for dinner, a larger grill may better suit your needs. Even with a warming rack or drawer, it will be helpful for you to be able to cook large amounts of food at a time, and a larger cooking surface area will lend itself to that goal.

Built -in Grills and Surrounding Materials

Many islands (whether indoor or outdoor) are made with some kind of combustible (flammable) material. Oftentimes, this is something as simple as wood. In these cases, it’s very important for you to have an non-combustible barrier between the grill and the flammable material — since we’re talking about literally cooking with fire here, we need to make sure that safety comes first. For built-in grills that are placed in a combustible outdoor kitchen, this safety precaution is called an insulated jacket.

Not every outdoor island or peninsula will contain flammable materials — some are made from cinder blocks or concrete board and covered with stucco. Regardless, it’s important to understand exactly what materials are being used so you can plan accordingly.

Insulated jackets must be made to the exact specifications of the built-in grill you’re purchasing. As such, most grill manufacturers also make insulated jackets to sell alongside their grills. To ensure the best fit, we recommend purchasing a grill and a jacket from the same manufacturer.

Plans for Expansion and Built-in Grills

Something that’s always good to keep in mind when purchasing a built-in grill is if you have plans to expand in the future. For example, if you have space for a 15-foot peninsula, but aren’t sure if you want to add in warming drawers or extra storage, plan like you might.

Work with your contractors to make sure doing so is possible, should the need arise. This may mean cutting the holes and placing temporary plates over them — it will depend on the material your peninsula is made from (or not, because you can cut through almost anything anymore).

Regardless, give the matter some thought before you finalize your plans. It may not impact your decision, but it’s always better to plan ahead.

The Best Built-In Grill For an Outdoor Kitchen 

Best Budget Built-In Grill

Delta Heat 32" Grill with Rotisserie

We talk a lot about how much we love the Delta Heat brand. As far as budget-friendly built-in grills goes, they make a 32-inch model that is as good as it gets.

Manufactured in the USA, Delta Heat is a subsidiary of the high quality, reliable grill manufacturer Twin Eagles. One of the main reasons we love this brand is that the quality and attention to detail Twin Eagles pours into their grills is also applied to Delta Heat. You’re getting the same high quality product but at a lower price point — and you don’t really have to give up much. You can even add in a searing burner so you can caramelize vegetables (or anything else you can think of).

Delta Heat also makes plenty of accessories and essentials that pair perfectly with their grills. Whether you need side burners, insulated jackets, storage space, or coolers, this brand has you covered.

NOTE : Keep in mind that when you build-in a grill you are "married to the cutout" of that unit. No two grill manufactures will have the same cutouts. For example Alfresco, Lynx and Twin Eagles all have different specs. You want to be sure, when planning, that you are going to do this once. Why? Say you purchase an imported grill and they change who manufacturers their product and the part is not longer available? That grill will most likely be garbage and finding an exact fit will be even more impossible. Island modifications are costly. It will save you in the long run by purchasing quality appliances for your outdoor kitchen. 

Best Luxury Built-In Grill

Alfresco 36" ALXE Built-in Grill

When you’re looking for a luxury built-in grill, you really can’t do any better than AlfrescoTwin Eagles or Lynx, much like Delta Heat and Twin Eagles, Lynx has a lower priced (but still high quality) line called Sedona. Again, this brand is not only trustworthy, but it’s beautiful.

We love their Sedona by Lynx 36-inch model because it’s still on the affordable end of the price spectrum, but is higher quality than the lower priced models. This grill comes with three 23,000 BTU burners and nearly 900 square inches in viable cooking surface space.

And of course, Sedona makes plenty of accessories and essentials that help complete your outdoor kitchen space. You won't need to go inside to grab anything — your outdoor space will have everything you could ever need, such as a cooler, storage, a sink, and even a warming drawer.

What Questions Do You Still Have about Built-in Grills?

Making a decision about a built-in grill for your outdoor kitchen space is a difficult task. It may seem like you don’t have many options available to you (number of burners and size), but the truth is, there is a lot more in the details than you might expect. Simple things like interior lighting and LED-lit knobs can provide an added sense of value and luxury that you might not have thought of previously.

These details are an important part of what we do every day. We’re not looking to sell you the most expensive or the largest built-in grill. Our goal is to find the best grill for you and your household.

To that end, there are a lot of considerations you must take into account, and that’s where we come in. While we can provide information for you, there’s no way we could anticipate every single possible question or scenario. So as you’re researching built-in grills for your outdoor kitchen space, remember that we’re here to answer your questions, discuss your goals, and walk through whatever situations you’re trying to figure out.

At the BBQ Depot, one of our main goals is to provide exceptional customer service to every single person who calls us. We’d rather spend time on the phone with you determining what will best suit your needs than sell someone a grill they’re not happy with.

We hope you’ll find that we’re a one-stop shop for all your grilling needs. We carry more than a dozen brands of high-quality grills (both built-in and freestanding) and the accessories that each brand makes to supplement your grilling needs. This includes essentials like briquettes and trays, spare knobs, U-burners and insulating jackets, in addition to the extras that can create the outdoor kitchen of your dreams.

No matter what your goals are, we’re confident we can help. Contact us today to learn how we can help you create an outdoor kitchen space that belongs on the cover of a magazine. 

by Tracy Hollander on 19th Dec 2020
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