The Complete Guide to Built-in Grills for Outdoor Kitchens

A Guide to Built-in Grills: How to Choose a Built-In Grill for Outdoor Kitchens

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 buying a built-in grill.

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

1. Built-In Grill Dimensions: Size and Space

Choosing the right size for your built-in grill is crucial. It's not just about the grill size itself, but also how it fits into your outdoor kitchen or patio space. For expansive outdoor kitchens, a larger grill is ideal, while compact patios benefit from a more modest-sized 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.

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.

You can expect to leave about 4-6 inches of space between a 36-inch grill and other appliances. This means the grill could occupy up to 42 inches of your counter space, a significant portion to consider in your layout planning.

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? Planning these elements in advance ensures a well-equipped outdoor kitchen.

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).

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.

2. Cooking Surface Area

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. For larger events, consider the convenience of a built-in warming rack or an additional warming drawer, enhancing the functionality of your outdoor kitchen. An extra warming drawer is a smart addition, promoting self-service while keeping guests safely away from the grill's heat. It streamlines the cooking process, allowing you to focus on grilling without interruptions.

3. 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, consider a larger grill. The expanded cooking surface not only allows you to prepare substantial quantities of food simultaneously but also complements the utility of a warming rack or drawer. This setup ensures you can efficiently cater to a bigger crowd.

4. 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.

When selecting a built-in grill for your outdoor kitchen, it's crucial to consider grills that are to be placed in areas with combustible materials. These jackets should match the brand of grill to ensure compatibility. Since many grill manufacturers produce tailored insulated jackets for their models, it's advisable to buy both the grill and its corresponding jacket from the same brand. 

5. Plans for Expansion

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).

Modern construction techniques allow for modifications in almost any material, so it's possible to adapt as needed. Taking the time to ponder these possibilities before finalizing your outdoor kitchen design can be invaluable.

Budget Considerations

When selecting a built-in grill for your outdoor kitchen, budget plays a pivotal role in guiding your decision. It's essential to balance cost with quality, ensuring you invest in a grill that not only meets your culinary needs but also aligns with your financial constraints. Understanding the range of choices available helps in making an informed decision that enhances your outdoor cooking experience without straining your wallet.

Best Budget-Friendly Option

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. This grill stands out as an excellent choice for those seeking quality at an affordable price. Backed by the renowned craftsmanship of Twin Eagles, it promises durability and performance, complemented by a variety of accessories for a complete grilling experience.

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 manufacturers 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 manufactures 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 Option

Alfresco 36" ALXE Built-in Grill

When looking for a luxury built-in grill, you really can’t do any better than Alfresco, Twin Eagles, or Lynx. Much like Delta Heat and Twin Eagles, Lynx has a lower-priced (but still high-quality) line called Sedona.

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 of 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.

Do You Have Questions About Built-In Grills? We Are Here to Help

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 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.

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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