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As temperatures rise and summer approaches, thoughts automatically turn to backyard barbecues and entertaining on the patio.
But, if you're looking to step up your backyard cooking game with outdoor appliances this year, where do you start?
Jayme Muller, a member of the design and sales team at RTA Outdoor Living, says not to get overwhelmed by the cost or the amount of work you're able to put into your outdoor space.
"Money-saving DIY options exist at various skill levels for those with limited space or budget who are looking to avoid traditional masonry work," said Muller, who recommends taking shortcuts like hunting for discount appliances or DIY outdoor kitchen kits, both of which can make big changes easier.
Muller says a well stocked outdoor space for cooking and entertaining has so many benefits, it's worth putting time and thought into.
"A well-outfitted outdoor kitchen allows for hosting outdoor gatherings without the typical stress and fear of missing out on all the best moments," Muller told Shop TODAY. "Cooking, eating and beverage refills all take place outside. The mess stays outside. And, the host is free to stay where the action is and enjoy the company with no dread of cleaning up the house later."
"Convenience is a key benefit," Muller continued. "Most Americans who grill would certainly grill more often if they had a centralized space with all of the necessary tools to prepare, cook and clean up afterward.
So what does Muller recommend aspiring backyard hosts have to make some delicious summer memories?
Grills and outdoor ovens
The star of any outdoor cooking space is the grill or outdoor oven. Whether you're hosting a neighborhood pizza night or grilling burgers by the pool, there are options to fit a variety of space limitations and cooking needs.
Muller recommends a good pellet grill and pizza oven to start.
"Why make room for a grill and a smoker when you can have the best of both all in one?" she said. "And wood-fired pizza ovens are more versatile than they sound and more accessible than ever. They still feel like a splurge but no longer have to be."
For standard grills, Muller recommends one that offers a bit of extra bang for your buck.
"To truly bring all the cooking outdoors, a side burner or power burner is ideal to simplify the food prep process," she explained.
This stainless steel grill has a built-in window for easy viewing, plus two side burners and a built-in thermometer.
Lightweight and portable, this gas-powered pizza oven from Ooni is a great way to make pizzas in only 60 seconds.
This durable aluminum grill doubles as a smoker. With a unique capsule shape and a four-point venting system, it's easy to control the temperature and choose between fast grilling or low and slow smoking.
Grill masters and their guests can sit around this unique grill from Solo and cook their meal together while they catch up.
This portable pizza oven cooks brick-oven-quality pizza in just 60 seconds and uses either wood or gas as fuel.
This roomy pellet grill has plenty of room for whatever meat you're smoking, from brisket to pork butts.
This affordable portable charcoal grilling system is also dishwasher safe, so clean-up is a snap.
This compact electric grill is made for indoor or outdoor use, making it a great option to pull double duty on the back patio or in the kitchen.
"If you typically question whether your meat is done, a meat thermometer offers valuable peace of mind," said Muller. "Easy-to-store utensils like tongs, a two-pronged fork, spatula and basting brush are a griller's best friends."
"And, don't forget extras like durable kabob skewers and grill baskets for veggies to add versatility to your grilled meals."
This wireless thermometer connects to the Yummly app via Bluetooth and tracks everything from the temperature of the meat to the ambient temperature inside the grill or smoker.
Tongs, a carving knife, a basting brush and more grilling tools come in this portable set.
This cast-iron press and griddle cut down on cook time by more than 50% by perfectly distributing weight onto the meal you're cooking and giving it a perfect sear.
This outdoor cookware set stores compactly, making it perfect to store beneath a grill or in outdoor cabinets. It's also made of sturdy stainless steel and comes with trivets, a serving spoon, a cutting board and a spatula.
Compatible with any grill, this temperature monitoring device from Weber uses an app to keep backyard chefs up to date on the temperature of their meat.
Multiple skewers can be cooked evenly on the grill with this set of nine stainless steel skewers, which sit vertically in their stand. The set even claims to be able to handle cooking a whole chicken!
Whether you're blending cocktails or having coffee on the patio, weather-safe appliances are a must-have for an outdoor kitchen. In fact, Muller says the idea of an outdoor kitchen is to go beyond grilling for a full outdoor food and beverage experience.
"This includes the ability to make all sorts of drinks to suit your taste," she explained, "coffee for two on the patio, smoothies for the family or mixed drinks with friends. Save time and hassle with a separate blender and coffee maker for use exclusively outdoors."
Available in colors to match any patio decor, this rechargeable mini blender makes everything from frozen drinks to chip dips.
This unbreakable stainless steel French coffee press comes with a travel bag and is perfect for outdoor use.
Once you've grilled up a delicious meal, it's time to serve your guests in style. Muller says when it comes to food prep and serving, it's the little touches that make a big difference.
"Chillable serving plates keep cold food at the right temperature, even in the heat," said Muller. "Serving trays help centralize food with fewer containers to clutter the counter and can easily be passed around. And quality steak knives ensure that the meat goes from grill to plate with minimal time and effort."
A beautiful way to serve up everything from beers to bottled water, this tabletop cooler even comes with a divided tray for lemons, limes and other garnishes.
If you're big on grilling steaks, this Viking steak knife set is a perfect addition to your outdoor dining setup.
Serving soup on the side? Want to keep a side dish warm? This crock from Stanley keeps things warm for 12 hours. And, if you're keeping a dip or other chilled item cool, the crock has you covered for 16 hours.
Not only is this serving board durable and easy to clean, it's also made from beautiful olive wood.
Simply freeze the lower half of this beautiful serving tray before plating appetizers to keep food cool longer.
Take those chilled whites and rosés to the next level with this wine chiller that's part stainless steel and part ice mold. Whether you add fruit to the ice or make things colorful with food dye, your guests will be impressed with this unique serving piece.
Pre-dinner cocktails? Serve drinks elegantly in this acacia wood and iron serving caddy.
Coolers and chillers
Spend more time enjoying your guests and less time worrying about keeping things cold with these coolers and chillers.
While outdoor fridges can be pricey, Muller says there are other alternatives.
"Whether or not there's food involved, cold drinks are essential for outdoor living," she said. "While a refrigerator makes sense for frequent use, the cooler option is perfect for low-key gatherings."
Perfect for serving up beers, sparkling waters or sodas, this giant Yeti ice bucket makes hosting a backyard barbecue simple.
Keep guests hydrated with this water jug from Stanley, which holds two gallons of liquid.
Hosting a bigger gathering? This cooler from Yeti can serve up six gallons of liquid.
Designed to keep dishes hot or cold for longer periods of time, this beautiful serving bowl from Viking would be perfect for serving up a flavorful salad. Hosting a backyard happy hour? It's also perfect as a beverage chiller.
Not only is this cooler tote from Riverbend Home perfect for food storage, but it also comes with a set of grilling tools that store conveniently in the front compartment.
Muller says there's more needed for an outdoor kitchen setup than just grills.
"If plumbing allows, easy access to running water for cooking and cleanup is a major convenience," said Muller. "Again, the beauty of an outdoor kitchen is the ability to bring all the indoor conveniences outside in one place."
This cooking station folds up when not in use and has features like an aluminum counter top, a soft shell sink and places to store cookware and utensils.
Need extra space to prep your meals? This aluminum folding table from Rio Gear is a great addition to any back yard setup.
This stylish bar cart is designed to match any outdoor space and is weather-resistant, making it a great place to store not only bar items, but also cookware.
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