Touting high performance, flexibility, craftsmanship, and good looks, today’s outdoor grills—many endorsed by celebrity chefs and social media influencers—are built to rival indoor ranges. As the centerpiece of outdoor kitchens, these sleek machines that do everything from sear to simmer are welcoming sinks, fridges, and a host of fancy extras, like kegerators, with open arms.

Rapidly, outdoor kitchens have become exterior rooms, and attractive ones at that. Aesthetically, these coveted entertaining areas are hitting high notes, as interior designers work their magic on curated courtyards and rooftop aeries from Maine to Montana—no longer just in the Sunbelt. Homeowners embrace their favorite restaurants’ wood fire cooking trend and use Wi-Fi to monitor their meals remotely. In short, what was once the backyard has moved front and center.

Fire Magic Grills

Fire Magic was founded in Southern California in 1937 in response to all the backyard grills rusting while exposed to the elements. Their weapon, superior-quality reinforced stainless steel that withstands temperature and climate challenges, is now also used to fashion customized name plates for owners of Fire Magic deluxe grills, a testament to the company’s impressive longevity and evolution.

Photograph by Mosaic Outdoor Living

Fire Magic’s ne plus ultra Echelon Diamond, the model most likely to arouse neighborhood envy, is divided into three cooking zones, each with a temperature monitor that allows simultaneous preparation of, say, steak, scallops, and veggies, each requiring a different amount of heat. “Having that kind of temperature control is a great asset,” notes Jerry Scott, senior vice president of R.H. Peterson Co., national distributor of Fire Magic grills. Plus, with its hot surface ignition system that’s impervious to snow and rain, inclement weather is not a deterrent. All Fire Magic Grills cast stainless burners carry a lifetime warranty.

According to Scott, an “exciting innovation” recently has been the Magic View Window option that allows the chef to check on grilled foods without lifting the hood and losing valuable heat. This large viewing space coupled with interior lighting makes cooking after dark a pleasure, as do other bells and whistles like high-BTU side cookers, sinks, ice-makers and a wide range of storage options, including a warming drawer that you can use to heat food, plates or even towels for shivering swimmers after a dip in the pool.

Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Russ Faulk, chief designer and head of product at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, says that his company’s mission is to build the best grill in the world. Period. Some would say Kalamazoo’s Hybrid Fire Grill–a sleek stainless-steel machine that cooks with wood, gas or charcoal and powered by heavy-duty cast bronze burners–has achieved this goal. “You can use it for everything from low-and-slow barbecue to oven-like roasting,” says Faulk whose favorite way to use this incredibly versatile Rolls Royce of grills is for wood-fired rotisserie, which is something competing grills don’t offer.

Photograph by Anthony Tahlier

In addition to its hybrid fire grills, Gaucho grills, cooktops, pizza ovens and smokers, Kalamazoo’s outdoor kitchen collection consists of two series of refrigeration and cabinetry, the Arcadia series with wood panels and 400 different colors that has a more modern vibe compared to their traditional but still very popular Signature series, which alone offers an array of 25 refrigeration pieces. All told, Kalamazoo has more than 800 different pieces in their modular collection to work with when they’re tapped for custom solutions. 

Photograph by Scott Thompson

Kalamazoo’s latest launch is a visually attractive take on a Kamado style-grill called Shokunin. “It’s a furnishing for your patio as much as it is a grill,” observes Faulk, adding that during a winter test cook that was monitored remotely, it maintained 250 degrees for 65 hours straight, completely unattended. He also has a soft spot for the undercounter smoker. “Nobody can tell it’s a smoker. “It looks like an undercounter refrigerator.”

Memphis Wood Fire Grills

Memphis got into the wood fire grill business about 10 years ago and hasn’t looked back. According to a recent survey by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), wood fire cooking is the fastest growing trend for grilling, and one of the most popular ways to cook with wood at home is with wood pellet grills. “It’s all we make because we absolutely believe in this type of cooking,” says company general manager Sharla Wagy, who roasts a turkey on her grill every Thanksgiving at her home in Minnesota. “The flavor and juiciness of the meats is so superior to anything you would get with a gas grill,” she adds, noting that the 100 percent natural wood pellets come in six different flavors, including apple, cherry, mesquite, and hickory. 

Photograph by Ted Hall

Memphis is one of the only manufacturers of built-in wood fire grills, a category that has seen tremendous growth in the last few years due to the popularity of outdoor kitchens that mimic their indoor counterparts. Memphis Grills are true convection ovens that bake cookies, and with the Memphis Mobile App and ITC you can monitor and adjust your grill and food temps from a distance. For aesthetic cohesion, the brand offers doors and drawers that match the stainless steel of their built-in grills. 

Smaller than many of its competitors, Memphis credits word-of-mouth for their high customer satisfaction rates. Accordingly, they have invested a lot of time and energy into developing a unique, intelligent temperature control system that is very accurate and dependable.

Coyote Outdoor Living

On the eve of Coyote Outdoor Living’s 10th anniversary in 2021, company president Jim Ginocchi is most proud of being on the front end of trends instead of following them. Innovations like the Rapidsear infrared burners, laser-cut signature grates, and a specially designed firebox distinguish Coyote as an industry leader and have earned them the endorsement of HGTV’s Kitchen Cousins, Farah Merhi of Inspire Me Home Décor, a number one design Instagram influencer, and celebrity chefs nationwide. This year, Coyote is introducing a next-generation pellet grill in response to industry expectation that this vertical is expected to grow faster than regular grills over the next five years. 

Courtesy of Coyote Outdoor Living

“A luxury indoor oven, outside” is how Ginocchi describes the Coyote Pellet Grill, which can be used for a variety of cooking techniques, including baking, and eliminates the need for a separate grill, smoker as well as searing components. Being electric and fueled by wood pellets, it’s a green product that will eliminate waste and emissions. “While enhancing flavors with a variety of pellets, you can still feel comfortable that you’re doing it in a way that respects the environment,” says Ginocchi. 

To truly duplicate the indoor entertaining experience outside, though, Coyote offers a variety of storage and refrigeration elements in addition to its grills. The company partners with RTA Outdoor Living to offer outdoor kitchens comprised of ready-to-assemble panels in a vast range of colors and finishes such as weathered wood and stacked stone. Most recently, US Business News presented Coyote Outdoor Living with a “Business Elite Award” for outdoor kitchen equipment design.

Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens

According to Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens’ State of the Industry Report, 63.7 percent of all designers surveyed confirmed a rising interest in outdoor living spaces among their clients, who spend, on average, $84,000 for an outdoor living space that includes an outdoor kitchen. 

Photograph by Steven Paul Whitsitt

Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens debuted in 2012, 33 years after Brown Jordan, predominantly an outdoor furniture manufacturer, began designing iconic high-end leisure furnishings. In less than a decade, “thanks to industry and material advancements,” the new company has been able to create outdoor living spaces that look like what homeowners have inside, notes Mitch Slater, president of Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens. Often, the styles they prefer are traditional and transitional, but, says Slater, “modular European styles have been trending, with a growing appetite for sleek, furniture-like designs.” 

Brown Jordan sees modular European styles trending. Photograph by Steven Paul Whitsitt

Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens State of the Industry Report also found that while neutral colors remain the most popular, nature-inspired hues (like deep blues and greens) are one of the most anticipated outdoor kitchen trends for 2020. In fact, more than 80 percent of Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens are now sold with a powder coat finish. ELEMENTS by TECNO is the latest collaboration from Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens and architect and designer Daniel Germani. The modular collection’s sleek, frameless design featuring accentuated legs complements thoughtful design elements like integrated handles, nested drawers, and cabinetry for storage, grills, refrigerators and trash. Homeowners can select a grill as a starting point and Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens will provide cabinetry that can also accommodate specialized cookers, such as side burners, smokers, pizza ovens, and more.