Why You Should Include Everything AND the Kitchen Sink in an Outdoor Kitchen
Tops on the list of regrets when planning an outdoor kitchen is not including enough countertop work surface. But, right up there on the roster of “woulda, shoulda, couldas” is not including a sink.
A sink makes any outdoor kitchen more functional, practical and convenient.
It’s a handy hand-washing station for the cook. And, eliminates the need for guests to track inside for pre-dinner handwashing and post-dinner scrubbing of sticky hands and faces, especially after a plate of saucy ribs.
You can use it to wash veggies and other ingredients for food prep, and wash platters that held raw meat, so you can reuse them for cooked meat without cross-contamination.
Washing barbecue tools and grilling accessories outdoors keeps the greasy mess out of the house. It’s an especially smart move if you plan to store this gear in the outdoor kitchen, otherwise you’ll be carrying everything inside to wash and then back out again to put away. Likewise, if you store plates, glasses and serving pieces in your outdoor kitchen, you might as well wash that stuff outdoors, too.
If you have an outdoor beverage station or bar, a sink is useful for making drinks, cleaning up barware and blenders, and washing fruit for garnishes.
An outdoor sink is great when you have a garden. You can rinse off just-picked fruits and veggies and keep dirt out of the house. You can also use the sink to prepare cut garden flowers for a vase.
Water: Hot or Not?
Once you decide you need a sink, the next question is, “how will you use it?” Thinking this through will help determine whether you want to have access to hot water and how you’ll drain the sink.
The simplest and least expensive option is to skip the hard-plumbing and just connect the sink to a garden hose attached to the outdoor spigot, and drain it into a bucket (using the “gray water” to water plants), or through a PVC pipe or hose into the landscaping, French drain or lawn.
This option limits how you will be able to use your sink. It’s fine for handwashing and rinsing vegetables, but since you will not have hot water, you won’t be able to use it to wash and sanitize dirty dishes, platters and grilling gear. Also, if waste water is being drained into the yard, you cannot rinse food scraps or greasy residue off plates, tools and utensils or it would attract pests. 90% of the time, not having hot water is not a problem for the use in an outdoor kitchen.
Location, Location, Location
If you’re planning to tie into indoor plumbing systems, it’s advantageous and cost-effective to position the outdoor sink close to the house.
To optimize workflow within the outdoor kitchen, situate the outdoor kitchen sink next to the outdoor dishwasher, if you have one, and near trash and recycle pullouts. National Kitchen & Bath Association guidelines recommend each leg of the refrigerator-stove (or in this case, grill)-sink work triangle be between four and nine feet, but these suggestions are not always feasible, or as critical to follow in an outdoor kitchen.
Do, however, plan to have a minimum of 20 to 24 inches of open counter surface on either side of the sink to accommodate a drain board, have room for food prep, or to set dirty dishes.
Keep in Mind
If your sink will be tied into plumbing systems, you may need to secure a plumbing permit. Be sure to check the requirements in your municipality.
Also, if you live where it gets cold, you will need to winterize (basically just turn off the water supply before a freeze) and drain the sink so pipes won’t freeze when outdoor temperatures plunge.
Size and Materials
Size options range from bar-size mini sinks to full-size kitchen sinks, but generally speaking, the larger the sink, the more practical and versatile it will be. Stainless steel sinks are durable in the elements, easy to clean, and coordinate with the grill and other appliances in an outdoor kitchen, but other finishes, like stone or copper, also are available and can be used to make a style statement.
The RSNK1, a full-size, drop-in, countertop sink made of double-lined 304-stainless steel, is a value-priced option from Renaissance Cooking Systems. Five inches deep, it comes with a hot and cold swing-angle faucet, strainer, and a lifetime warranty.
For a sophisticated indoor-kitchen look, the lifetime-warranted Undermount RSNK2 Sink is a smart choice. Its double-walled, 18-gauge, 304-stainless steel bowl – 18- by 23-inches in size and 9-inches deep – sports a brushed, fine-grain finish to mask scratches. And, its pull-down, hot and cold faucet in chrome-nickel is handy for scouring cookware and for rinsing off everything from just-picked garden veggies to greasy plates.
A cutting board sink cover is a handy add-on accessory worth considering. When the sink is not in use, it acts as a cover to keep leaves and debris from collecting, but becomes a practical cutting board when the outdoor kitchen is in action.
With natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, copper sinks add beauty, style and germ-fighting power to an outdoor kitchen. Their warm patina works in both rustic and modern designs and looks especially beautiful paired with islands or patios made of brick or earth-toned stone.
Over time, the copper material will weather and oxidize, and the color of the sink may take on deeper tones and a greenish patina. An occasional quick polish with beeswax or copper wax can help slow this process, but many believe the changing patina enhances its beauty and becomes an artistic element.
RCS offers two copper sinks, the RSNK3 15- x 15-inch, Drop-in Bar Sink, and the RSNK4 23- by 17-inch, Undermount Sink. Both feature 16-gauge copper in a hammered finish, and come with a single-handle hot and cold faucet, strainer and lifetime warranty. Both of these sinks would add natural beauty and warmth to any outdoor kitchen or bar.