Outdoor Kitchens – Choosing Countertops

Outdoor kitchens are exciting because they bring some of our most beloved activities – cooking and eating – into the great outdoors. A lot goes into the planning and design of an outdoor kitchen, even when it comes to the counters. Before you build an outdoor kitchen this year, know what kind of countertop material is best for your home.

What to Look for In an Outdoor Countertop

For an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to choose a countertop material with the right qualities. Not all materials are created equal. Some wear faster than others, and some are simply not suitable for an outdoor environment.

Durability. Your outdoor kitchen is regularly exposed to summer sun, rain, snow and ice. Stay away from counters that may crack or deteriorate when exposed to temperature extremes. The best outdoor counters require little or no maintenance (other than regular cleaning).

Beauty. Outdoor kitchens are 100% luxury – so we recommend the most beautiful, stylish counters you can find. Consider the colors and patterns in the surrounding landscape or on your deck as you choose the colors and patterns for your counters. Some materials come in as many colors and patterns as you can imagine, so keep an open mind when trying to picture what could be.

Which Materials Are Best?

There are so many popular and attractive materials to choose from that making a decision can be hard. We recommend viewing each possible material in person before making a decision. Touching each sample, seeing the slabs up close and discussing your favorite materials with a professional can help make your decision easier.

Quartz

With the look of natural stone but the durability of a man-made material, quartz is a dream countertop material for most homeowners. Because it’s man-made, homeowners can pick almost any color or pattern they want, and match their counters to nearly any surface or object in the vicinity.

Quartz is almost the ideal material for an outdoor kitchen because it’s so incredibly durable, low-maintenance and long-lasting. You’ll never have to seal your quartz counters. Quartz is also stain-resistant, so there’s no need to fret about that dollop of melted butter or dressing that goes unnoticed after your afternoon barbecue.

Constant exposure to sunlight can cause damage to this man-made material. If you’re going to use quartz in an outdoor kitchen, keep it covered and in shade throughout the day.

Pros:

  • Stain-resistant
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Low maintenance, no sealing required
  • Available in a variety of colors and patterns
  • Can be made to mimic the look of many natural stones, like marble and granite

Cons:

  • Should not be exposed to constant sunlight

Soapstone

Elegant, understated, and sophisticated – this natural stone comes in shades of gray and cream. It’s so dense that it’s non-porous, which means you never have to seal it or worry about bird droppings permeating the surface. It’s also impervious to freeze/thaw cycles. It’s not sensitive to the sun, so you can install soapstone counters in the open air or under a covering.

Soapstone develops a patina that darkens its surface over time. Oiling the soapstone will help this patina develop evenly, but you don’t have to apply oil. There’s no way to stop the soapstone from darkening, so be prepared. Some people like this patina, others do not.

Though it is dense, soapstone is also fairly soft, so it scratches easily. It must be protected from sharp knives, heavy cast iron and other materials that could mar its surface.

Pros:

  • Stain-resistant
  • Low maintenance, no sealing required
  • Develops a patina that some people like
  • Will not be damaged by regular exposure to the sun

Cons:

  • Develops a patina that some people don’t like
  • Scratches fairly easily

Granite

Granite is a very popular countertop material outdoors because of its beauty and durability. In fact, granite was considered the most desirable countertop material – indoors or outdoors – for many years. It comes in flecked patterns that can hide dirt and crumbs, so it looks great outside even when it hasn’t been cleaned or used in days.

Granite is also very scratch-resistant, so it’s a good choice if you’re very hard on your counters. And, even when exposed to regular sunlight, granite does not easily fade or stain.

The one complaint some homeowners may have about granite is that it needs regular sealing. If a seal is not regularly applied, it will absorb water, which can make it vulnerable to freeze/thaw cycles. Sealing granite is not hard, but it does need to be done periodically as the old seal wears off.

Pros:

  • Stain-resistant when properly sealed
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Available in a variety of colors and patterns

Cons: 

  • Needs regular sealing

How to Maintain Your Outdoor Countertops

Maintenance is important for outdoor furnishings and fixtures – especially if they’re used for cooking and food preparation. Above all else, outdoor countertops must be kept clean or you could subject yourself and your loved ones to food-borne illnesses.

Cleaning

If your outdoor counters are made from natural stone, we recommend cleaning them with a natural stone cleaner with anti-bacterial properties. Talk to your stone fabricator to find out which cleaning product is best.

If your counters are made from quartz, use an anti-bacterial, non-acidic, non-abrasive cleaner. You can also use warm water mixed with dishwashing liquid.

Clean your counters before every use, after every use, and in between if you’re cutting up raw meats or handling foods that could contaminate your counters with germs.

Sealing

If you own granite (or marble) countertops, apply sealant according to the instructions. Some counters need to be resealed every 6 months, others can go for a year without resealing. You’ll be able to tell when your counters need to be sealed again because they’ll start absorbing water. Pour a tablespoon of water on the surface and leave the water to sit for 15 minutes. If the water leaves a stain after it’s cleaned up, it’s time to re-seal.

Test your counters regularly to decide whether they need sealing. Check out our recent article for more in-depth instructions.

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