Now, more than ever, outdoor kitchens are every home’s main entertaining space. Essential Algarve spoke to some of the region’s leading experts to discover the latest trends for cooking al fresco this summer
After a year of lockdown, our outdoor space has well and truly become a sanctuary, a place where we can entertain and socialise in safety. It is no wonder then that, in this new landscape of social distancing, people are committing larger budgets to fully equip their outdoor spaces to cater to cooking, entertaining, and everyday living.
“The market has witnessed a significant shift in the outdoor living market,” remarks Wanda Crawford of Curiosa Living, in Almancil, who is seeing an increasing demand for all-inclusive outdoor kitchens. “Due to the mandate to stay home, many are enjoying more time outside, which has motivated a host of homeowners to redesign their outdoor living kitchen spaces.” Keeping her finger on the pulse, she shares some interesting facts published in a survey carried out by American outdoor cabinet manufacturer Danver, according to which “82% of homeowners cited more of an interest in updating their outdoor living spaces than they did prior to the pandemic”.
Outdoor kitchens are now a necessity rather than a detail. They are an active extension of the home, and the possibilities are plenty. Homeowners are looking to create outdoor cooking and dining areas, and the trend is to upgrade existing spaces for more functionality and better aesthetics.
Designing an outdoor kitchen requires planning, especially when it comes to location and functionality. For Quinta do Lago based architect João Cabrita, “finding the best interconnecting position between the house and the garden is key, as well as a position which will enable to control sunlight and artificial lighting”. Outdoor kitchens require shade for daytime cooking, especially in the summer; directed spotlights for evening cooking; and soft ambiance lighting for the dining area.
Edwin Ter Harr of Importeco in Lagoa, agrees that finding the right outdoor location is important: “The proximity of the outdoor kitchen to the socialising area is essential. It’s a social thing — you don’t want to smoke out your guests with the barbecue; but you don’t want to be stuck in a faraway corner either.”
For their new entertaining arena, homeowners now want a space that mirrors the design and amenities of their primary kitchen, both in style and practicality, which must include a good worktop area for prepping, a sink and electricity for a fridge and other small complementary appliances. Fervent foodies are investing in outdoor kitchens equipped to impress their guests with their culinary skills and to host a professional chef for special events.
Worktops and storage are being upgraded and come in more modern and resistant materials, with cabinet colours ranging from the most popular silver grey, black and white to more original hues of anthracite and bolder colours such as red and olive green. “The quality of materials is changing. Some of it is almost better quality than indoor furniture”, notes Chris Winstanley of Moveison, in Lagos. Aluminium-coated cabinet doors and granite worktops are the favourites, as they are resistant to the elements, especially to sea salt air in coastal areas such as the Algarve.
Obviously, the piéce de résistance is the grill. The barbecue area has become a socially interactive space, the core of the whole outdoor experience. Gone are the days of the brick chimney and charcoal grill; barbecues are now beautifully designed pieces of equipment.
Having significantly evolved over the years, they have become a bit of an obsession for keen outdoor cooks who invest in top-of-the-range options, almost like they would in a high-end car. If you are not a barbecue aficionado yet, choosing the right one may be overwhelming.
The Big Green Egg certainly is a very practical option, and “has been a very popular component to incorporated into a new outdoor living space”, says Wanda Crawford. Acclaimed for its quality and versatility, this simple to use outdoor cooker offers more cooking options than all other conventional barbecues combined and can be complemented with endless accessories to take the outdoor cooking experience to a whole new level. Its fans cannot get enough of its smoking functionality, which turns outdoor cooking into an incredibly satisfying gastronomic experience.
Freestanding gas grills are the most popular, according to Edwin Ter Haar, who runs us through every option, as well as their pros and cons. “Gas is quick to light and easy is to control up to a certain point, but grease must be cleaned out regularly to avoid fires; charcoal takes longer to light and can be harder, or easier to control, depending on what kind of grill you have; electric grills are easy to start and relatively easy to clean. However, they are also relatively expensive to use, and not everyone feels like they are really barbecuing with them, but they can be very social. As for pellet grills, they are easy to use and create little smoke, but also need to be regularly cleaned.”
“The funny thing is that I have five different grills at home”, says the Dutchman. “A Kamado Joe charcoal grill and a hotplate type grill, which I use most. A pellet grill, a gas grill and a little portable charcoal grill. I really enjoy all of them, and the same dish comes out tasting slightly different on each one of them. Ultimately, keep in mind what you want and what you expect to cook. Everyone is different, and you need to know what you are likely to use and enjoy using.”
Also, when considering what type of barbecue to buy, do not forget about your flooring; it must be cleanable. “Especially with gas grills, they need cleaning and grease will fall on the floor. It’s best to have that in mind before you put your brand-new barbecue on a surface that is difficult to clean.”
On the lookout for new trends, Edwin is introducing a new product this season, the Qookingtable,”a Teppanyaki grill table that enables host and guests to cook together”, which is picking up followers all over Europe and seems to be a very social way of cooking.
As far as outdoor furniture trends go, high-end comfy lounge furniture, with big plump cushions, is in for 2021. More sofastyle outdoor furniture, such as cosy loveseats and armchairs, are trending. “People are prepared to spend more money for lasting equipment”, says Chris Winstanley, who represents brands such as award-winning Barlow Tyrie, famous for its quality teak furniture, and Dutch company 4 Seasons Outdoor, which makes stunning modular sofas designed to resist any weather, and which are very much the trend.
“Homeowners look for something stylish, resistant and easy to clean, that won’t rust or get damaged by sea salt air. Aluminium upholstered modular furniture is practical, resistant and stylish.” As for this summer’s colour palette, fabrics maintain last year’s muted tones, with light grey, anthracite, beige and ecru being the trend, resulting in a natural and timeless look you can adapt to any outdoor kitchen.