Beat the Heat: Cook Outside

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WWOO cooking

Cooking outside used to be a common; stoves took a long time to heat up and would make the home uncomfortable. The logical thing to do was to move outside. Then electric and gas ranges became common, followed by the central air conditioner, so nobody thought twice about paying for electricity or gas to heat up the joint while cooking and then paying again to cool it off after.

Loucks Farm
 © Culinary Historians of Canada

One hundred and fifty years ago, the wealthy might have elaborate summer kitchens like the one above at the Loucks Farm at Upper Canada Village. The stove would be going all day for baking, preserving, stewing or roasting. You don't want that in your house.

 Dinosaurs and Robots

In the 50s, outdoor cooking became a recreational activity, all about men and barbecue. Sometimes the equipment expanded beyond the basics, such as with this General Electric Partio (above). It had a range, oven, rotisserie, and charcoal BBQ. President Dwight Eisenhower had one in Palm Springs and called it "the most fantastic thing you ever saw."

outdoor kitchen
 © NAHB Builders Show

If Ike was still visiting Palm Springs, the Partio would not get a look-in; the trend among the 1% these days is the monster outdoor kitchen with everything, fridges, ovens, blenders for margaritas, everything you would have inside plus the BBQ. They cost tens of thousands of dollars and are used a couple of times per year. Most are inelegant; some like the WWOO shown up top are stunning but still wretched excess.

Ike would have fretted about the kitchen-industrial complex ruining America.

Revolving Kitchen At Recycled 600 Sq. Foot Cabin Photo

Sometimes the architect can get really clever, like Fabio Galeazzo did in Sao Paulo; the entire kitchen rotates around a big column so that it can be either inside or out. This is clever but the plumbing can get complicated.

 © JokoDomus

Then there is the whole trend to the "loose fit" kitchen with separate pieces, any of which could be on casters and can be moved or rearranged at will (subject to service connections). The nicest is probably the CunKitchen from JokoDomus. You can push it anywhere.

The Kitchen is Changing and the Outdoor Kitchen Can Too

kitchen in micro apartment
Graham Hill

The penny dropped for me while writing about and then visiting the LifeEdited apartment of Treehugger founder Graham Hill's Life. I had written about what we can learn from camping equipment, how it is light and minimalist and kitchen equipment should follow. And Graham went and did it, eliminating the built-in range for portable induction elements that you plug-in as required. They are so efficient that you don't need anything bigger. Anyone with a balcony or a yard could just take this outside.


Japan's Snowpeak makes stunning, minimalist camping stoves and kitchen setups that one would happily use indoors (not the charcoal bbq of course).

Fold up stove

Kanz Outdoors Field Kitchen

Mark Bittman has noted that all you really need is "A stove, a sink, a refrigerator, some pots and pans, a knife and some serving spoons. All else is optional." As we move into smaller spaces and look for greater mobility, perhaps that stove, sink, and refrigerator can go smaller and more mobile as well.