Wood-Fired Cooking is Catching on Like Wildfire

Some Italian restaurants like Chicago’s legendary Spiaggia have been cooking with wood for decades. Why? Because that’s the way it’s done in the old country. And if you want that authentic old-world taste, cooking with wood is the way to go. It infuses each dish with a flavor you just can’t get any other way.

In more recent years, chefs across the country have embraced wood-fired cooking for anything from roasted root vegetables to grilled calamari. And brick oven pizza joints seem to be popping up all over town. You can smell the wood-fired ovens for blocks, drawing people in with the enticing aromas. With the continued trend of gourmet cooking at home, it was only a matter of time before wood-fired cooking would become the next outdoor living phenomenon. Enter the residential brick oven.

Several years ago, Belgard anticipated this trend and partnered with Chicago Brick Oven to create a line of brick ovens clad in Belgard hardscape products that would blend seamlessly with other Belgard product lines to create fabulous outdoor kitchens with the added option of a matching wood-fired brick oven.

SRA_STOCKTON_RES_BEL2015_Patio_OutdoorKitchen_MegaLafitt_BristolPizzaOven_001B_previewBristol Brick Oven

Constructed with Weston Stone® wall block and accents of Urbana® Stone pavers, the Bristol Brick Oven makes a statement and adds major flair to wood-fired cooking. With a built-in wood box and large capacity oven, the Bristol oven is the outdoor chef’s dream and coordinates with other pieces from the Belgard Elements Bristol Series, including a grill island, fireplace, and various modular outdoor bar and kitchen pieces. Color options include the warm tones of Gascony Tan (shown) and cool gray tones of Cotswold Mist.

NFD_E_RES_BEL2015_Patios_Steps_Walls_OutdoorKitchens_Urbana_MegaArbel_Bullnose_Celtik_MegaBergerac_BordeauxElements_MidnightCopingBordeaux Brick Oven

The Bordeaux Series of the Belgard Elements line offers a smaller footprint and is clad with the contemporary stacked-stone look of Lamina® Stone veneer. The Bordeaux Brick Oven also includes a built-in wood box and is trimmed with accents of polished Cordova Stone™, available in either the Midnight (shown) or Buff trim options. Other coordinating pieces from the Bordeaux Series include a grill island and a fireplace with optional matching wood boxes. Both the Bristol and Bordeaux ovens can include optional low-voltage hardscape lighting.

MLR_RES_BEL2014_Patios_OutdoorKitchens_Urbana_WestonWall_AnchorHighlandWall_BullnoseCoping_ChicagoBrickOven_001_previewCounter Top and Mobile Ovens

With four versions to choose from, the counter top brick oven can easily turn any outdoor kitchen into a gourmet cooking space without the time and expense of a full custom installation. The counter top oven is available in copper or silver finish with either a dome (shown) or pyramid roof line. Durable steel carts are also available to convert the counter top model into a portable oven that can be re-positioned as needed around your outdoor living space. Hybrid models are also available that allow cooking with either gas, wood, or a combination of both heat sources simultaneously.

TailgaterHero-e1412618458661Tailgater Brick Oven

Take your passion for wood-fired cooking on the road with Belgard’s towable Tailgater package, making it possible to take the unmatched experience of wood-fired cooking and entertaining to collegiate and professional football games, motorsport events, music concerts, festivals, and more. The Tailgater brick oven is available in both the wood-burning model and the hybrid gas/wood model .

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For more information, contact a local dealer or installer or visit the brick oven page on Belgard.com.

Rise of the Outdoor Chef

Remember the days when outdoor cooking basically referred to your father grilling up a few burgers? Perhaps he went the fancier route and threw some steaks on the grill, or even a tuna steak if he wanted to get really fancy. The rest of the family prepared the sides inside or just waited patiently for the ole’ man to finish. Well it’s 2016 now, and while some traditionalists choose to keep their sacred bygone grilling rituals intact, the rest of us are moving forward into a new generation of gourmet outdoor cooking. With outdoor kitchens gaining in popularity, it’s no longer just dad out there by himself. Meal preparation has become a community event with a team of chefs prepping, grilling, or just hanging out to enjoy a glass of wine and camaraderie. Yes, outdoor cooking has become a team sport, and why shouldn’t it be? Everyone likes a good party, and this year, you can be the envy of the neighborhood with some exciting cooking techniques you can use in 2016.

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Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl (Courtesy Time, Inc.)

YOU WOOD NOT BELIEVE

Puns aside, if you have never grilled with a wood plank, you’re missing out. Paul Bunyon should have been a chef. He would have been a great addition to your All-Star grilling team. At your next gathering, enhance the flavor of your favorite meats by grilling them on top of a wood plank made of hickory or maple. If you truly want an unforgettable experience, try grilling a fillet of redfish or salmon on top of a cedar plank. It may become your favorite meal. However, feel free to experiment with different seasonings and wood planks to find your next signature dish. Make it your own, or check out this recipe for Cedar Plank Salmon with Mango Kiwi Salsa to get you started.

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Photo: Himalita Authentic Himalayan Salt

HIMALAYAN VACATION

While it may be impractical to pop over to Tibet, you can bring the taste of Himalayan minerals to your next party by purchasing yourself a Himalayan salt block. This is another easy tool you can use to show off to that neighbor who always wants to one-up you. All you do is place the salt block on your grill, let it heat up to the desired temperature, and throw your food on top. Your meal will come out with a hint of salt that goes well with so many different foods. Let’s see Susan top that.

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Photo: SOS Shells

CHARGRILLIN’ TIME

While raw oysters may not be everyone’s cup of tea, chargrilled oysters are amazing. Made famous in New Orleans, it can be a real pain to chargrill your own oysters on the half shell. Luckily, thanks to SOS Shells, you and your new team of outdoor chefs can channel your inner Cajun. These reusable, stainless steel shells are perfect for chargrilling oysters, shrimp, scallops, vegetables or more. They are extremely easy to use and are great gadget to break out at your next grill party. For more information on chargrilling, check out our chargrilling blog.

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Photo: Sur La Table

GADGETS GALORE

While we’re on the gadget subject, in order to truly become a gourmet outdoor chef, you’re going to need to invest in some additional tools of the trade. It’s hard to make smoked almond and honey brie without a cast iron brie baker. And if you’re going to make bacon-wrapped goat cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers, it’s a whole lot easier with a chili pepper grill rack and pepper corer. You can certainly use foil to cook both of those gourmet appetizers, but it gets a little messy. Luckily, there are no shortage of companies that offer great gadgets for the outdoor chef. For a plethora of gourmet outdoor cooking gadgets, check out Sur La Table or Crate & Barrel.

Build Custom Outdoor Kitchens and Fireplaces with Less Hassle

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Custom outdoor kitchens and living rooms continue to gain in popularity all across the nation. The modular design of the Belgard Elements collection allows you to create a custom look in a fraction of the time and for significantly less cost than building from scratch on site. Couple that with the fact that homeowners can spread the cost out over time with Belgard Preferred Payment same-as-cash options, and designer outdoor living spaces suddenly become much more affordable for a wider range of homeowners.

Belgard Elements are built in a controlled factory setting and shipped in pieces on pallets and install in a matter of hours, once the footings are in place. Constructed with Belgard pavers and walls and coordinating Echelon Masonry, the Belgard Elements line blends seamlessly with Belgard patios and poolscapes to create beautifully cohesive outdoor living designs.

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But, don’t just take our word for it! See what contractors across the country are saying:

Clint Tucker, Sugar Hill Outdoors – Auburn, GA

“Belgard Elements are easy to move with a forklift. You pop two stones out, run the forklift under the base of the fireplace, or the log boxes, take them to where you created the footing, set it into place, and they’re ready to go. On one project, we installed a fireplace with matching woodboxes, a very nice grill island with a stainless steel grill, and a brick oven with a log box underneath. Had we done this with a more traditional masonry product, it would have taken close to a month. All of that would be out of most people’s price range if it was done in true masonry.”

John Brightenstine, The Paver Company – Rancho Cordova, CA

“Belgard Elements really add a wow factor. And because they’re made with Belgard products, they coordinate with other Belgard hardscapes to tie everything together.”

Andrew Vear, PaverCrafters – Reno, NV

“So often with a lot of custom construction projects, everything takes two weeks. Installing an Elements fireplace takes about two hours because the modules are prebuilt. It looks exactly as it does in the catalog. You just can’t build anything like that by hand. And, I don’t have to go shopping for any other materials. Everything that I need is right in the kit.”

Rod Trahan, La Pavers – New Orleans, LA

“Outdoor kitchens are gaining popularity in our area. The Elements line has the potential to go through the roof. It’s faster, safer and cheaper to install and ties in with the pavers. Building this project by hand would have taken at least three or four times longer. Plus this way, the customer knows exactly what they’re getting.”

For more on the benefits of Belgard Elements, check out our Belgard Elements Outdoor Kitchens blog.

The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

Are you the ultimate backyard tailgater? If so, you need an ultimate outdoor kitchen to match. An outdoor kitchen that doesn’t just say you’re an occasional griller who has mastered burgers and dogs, but a grillmaster whose steaks are the perfect medium-rare, who has his own home brew on tap in the outdoor kegerator, and who isn’t afraid to sport his “King of the Grill” apron.

So what are the elements of an ultimate outdoor kitchen? Here a few of the pieces we’d put in ours:

Grill

Whether it’s gas or charcoal, there is one thing fans of both can agree on – it’s all about the grill. This outdoor kitchen MVP has the biggest job during your tailgate so make sure you invest in a grill that you will love for years to come.

Brick Oven

The grill’s lesser known sidekick is the brick oven. Slowly building up its stats as a player to watch, the brick oven is perfect for homemade pizzas, appetizers and anything else you want baked with that wood-fired taste.

Sink

Every great chef knows the importance of hand washing, especially when you’re handling raw meats. Running inside can be incredibly inconvenient. Install a sink in your outdoor kitchen to save time and trouble.

Mini Fridge

Remember those college dorm room days of grabbing sodas from the mini fridge? It was so nice to have a cold beverage right at your fingertips. Installing a mini fridge in your outdoor kitchen is just as useful, especially when you’re entertaining, because it’s also great for storing prepped foods and condiments.

Kegerator

Whether you’re a home brewer or just a fan of your local craft beer company, a kegerator makes enjoying a cold, refreshing beer easier than ever.

Bar Island

With cold beer on tap, you’re halfway there to making your outdoor kitchen your friends’ new favorite bar. A bar island creates the ideal gathering place to cheer on your favorite team.

Lighting

Creating the ultimate outdoor kitchen and then ignoring lighting is like fumbling what could have been the game-winning touchdown. Consider overhead lighting for when overtime and the setting sun collide.

Ice Maker

The clutch player in our ultimate outdoor kitchen, the ice maker is always ready to go so your indoor freezer can take a knee.

Outdoor Kitchen Trends

Belgard Hardscapes - GMS

The popularity of the outdoor kitchen is undeniable. In many areas of the country, kitchens are becoming a standard element of the home design in new construction, particularly in median level homes and above, and can range from a simple built-in grill to full-scale gourmet kitchens that rival in quality and scale to the indoor kitchen. In fact, it’s not unusual in today’s outdoor living culture to spend more money on the construction of the outdoor kitchen than the indoor kitchen, considering that all of the building materials and appliances need to be sturdy enough to survive outdoor conditions, including moisture, harsh sunlight, and a wide range of critters.

In the continued evolution of this developing phenomenon, here are a few of today’s hottest outdoor kitchen trends:

Cooking SurfacesMultiple Cooking Surfaces

Outdoor entertaining is optimal for large groups because the very nature of the open setting allows for large numbers of people to gather without feeling crowded. However, entertaining large groups requires large amounts of food, which makes multiple cooking surfaces a must. Options can include both charcoal and gas grills, standard cooking burners, fryer burners, brick ovens, and even standard ovens. Many don’t consider including a brick oven due to the mistaken belief that brick ovens are only useful for cooking bread or pizza, however brick oven owners know that anything can be cooked in a brick oven that can be cooked in a standard oven. For brick oven recipe ideas, click here.

imageCreate Functional Zones

Outdoor kitchens with different functional zones allow for multiple cooking, prep, and entertaining activities to occur simultaneously. Today’s outdoor kitchens incorporate lots of counter space for food prep and serving, in addition to extra counter space for creating a communal environment so that the guests can visit with the hosts during food prep and cooking. One popular trend is to incorporate a multi-level counter top, with one level functioning as the prep area, and the higher level functioning as the serving surface or bar area.

imageLight the Way

In any kitchen, proper lighting is key to functionality. However, the modern outdoor kitchen needs to function as both a kitchen and an entertainment space. Popular lighting options include outdoor rated pendants, uplighting into the rafters, and under cabinet lights. Installing dimmer switches allows for brighter lighting during cooking and lower ambient light when the cooking is done. Also, low voltage lights installed directly onto the exterior of the cabinetry is a popular way to provide additional ambiance. Other trending lighting options include nearby fire features like outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables. For other outdoor lighting ideas, click here.

imageCreature Comforts

The modern family is accustomed to being constantly plugged in. Naturally, this trend has moved outdoors. The trendy outdoor kitchen is fully equipped with all of the comforts of the home’s interior, including comfortable furniture, outdoor rated audio speakers, televisions, fans, gas heaters, wi-fi, and retractable solar screens for shielding guest during sunnier times of day. Specialty outdoor appliances are also rising in popularity, like kegerators, wine refrigerators, and bar style roll-top beverage coolers.

Product Highlight:
Belgard Elements Kitchens

The outdoor kitchen craze continues to sweep the nation, and there’s no quicker way to build a stunning and durable outdoor kitchen than with the Belgard Elements Collection. Belgard Elements are modular outdoor kitchen and living room pieces that are built in a factory setting using Belgard pavers and retaining wall blocks, shipped in pieces on a pallet, and quickly installed on site with the use of a forklift. This quick and easy installation method saves time and money, allowing the construction of an outdoor kitchen in minutes or hours that would take days or weeks to build from scratch on site. This means fewer headaches and a shorter disruption of your daily life.

Bristol Series

Bristol Kitchen2 There are two styles available for outdoor kitchens, the first is the Bristol Series (shown above), which is constructed with tumbled Weston Stone® and trimmed with the flagstone look of Arbel® pavers. The combination of these hardscapes creates a striking look that blends well with any style of home or landscaping. The countertop is made of polished terrazzo, for a maintenance free surface that resists outdoor stains and cleans easily.

Bristol ColorsBristol Options

The Bristol Series is available in two color palettes: the warm earth tones of Gascony Tan or the cool gray tones of Cotswold Mist. There are a variety of pieces available within the series, including a grill island, brick oven, and a selection of straight and L-shaped kitchen pieces that can include accessories like sinks, burners, grills, appliances, and stainless drawers or cabinet doors. Accent low voltage hardscape lighting can also be installed prior to delivery.

Matching LIving Room PIeces

For those who want to create a more expansive outdoor living space, the Bristol Series also includes modular living room pieces, including an outdoor fireplace with option hearth and wood boxes, as well as motorized water features. And because the Bristol series is constructed with Belgard Hardscapes, patios, garden walls, fire pits, and seat walls can be constructed with the same materials to create a cohesive outdoor living design.

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Bordeaux Series

Bordeaux MaterialsThe Bordeaux Series is slightly smaller and more lightweight and is constructed with Lamina™ stacked-stone veneer. The smooth limestone finish of Cordova Stone™ is used both for trim accents and the countertop surface. The combination of rustic stacked-stone and beveled limestone creates a contemporary look that complements both rural and urban settings. The smaller footprint of the Bordeaux Series allows for installation in locations with tighter access.

Bordeaux options

The newest series in the Elements collection, the Bordeaux Series currently includes grill island and brick oven kitchen pieces. The grill island comes outfitted with a stainless gas grill and matching cabinet doors.

Matching Living Room Pieces

Living room pieces available in the Bordeaux Series include an outdoor fireplace and optional wood boxes. As with the kitchen pieces, the Bordeaux living room pieces offer a smaller footprint and height and are a more lightweight option than the Bristol Series. Both the Bristol and Bordeaux fireplaces can be constructed as gas-burning or wood-burning.

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InstallationInstallation

Belgard Elements are shipped in pieces on pallets and installed on-site with the help of a forklift. The site must have adequate access and be properly prepped to support the weight of these structures. To find a Belgard Authorized Contractor in your area who can help you design and install your Belgard Elements Kitchen, visit our contractor locator page.