Why can’t I use wood in my outdoor kitchen?

So you’ve chosen your grill, your outdoor-rated refrigerator, your 1290 cfm hood and you are ready to build your outdoor kitchen.  It is common to feel that you can build your outdoor kitchen out of the same materials your indoor kitchen is made from but you absolutely CANNOT do this.   Indoor appliances do not have the need for the high heat production of outdoor appliances due to the oasis that is your indoor environment and indoor appliances contain lots of insulation which protects your home from the heat they do produce.  Imagine an outdoor grill filled with insulation to protect it’s surroundings from heat and after a few years of the bugs, grease, rain, etc. getting on the insulation, it would be terrible and for that reason outdoor appliances are not insulated in most cases at all.  The heat they produce on the inside, that significantly higher heat, is unprotected on the outside of the appliance.  You simply cannot wrap that grill in a wooden cabinet and expect good things to happen.  That heat will slowly cook all the moisture out of the wood, lowering the flash point of that wood and after a few years (in most cases) it will either smolder into a fire or simply burst into a fire during or right after you use that grill.  For more information on this topic read “‘Pyrophoric Carbon’ and Long-term, Low-temperature Ignition of Wood”.

To give you a real life example of  what I am trying to explain, this kitchen (not one originally built by Fireside) performed perfectly for 4 years until it exploded into flames after being used it’s last time.

This kitchen performed perfectly for 4 years until it exploded into flames after being used it's last time.


That top piece of wood was actually touching the back of the grill and probably smoldered for about 6 months during the use of the grill before igniting.

Fortunately the owner was home and the fire dept arrived in 4 minutes saving this home bust costing about $18,000 in damage.

Fortunately the owner was home and the fire dept arrived in 4 minutes saving this home but costing about $18,000 in damage.

What do I need to do to avoid this happening in my home?

Among the areas of the home to pay special attention to in your project are the walls of the home adjacent, especially behind, the grill or grills.  Materials that are generally safe back walls to grills are stucco, stone, brick and a relatively new favorite is “Hardie” material.  It is a non-combustible fiber-concrete composite that really does have the look of wood.

There are many that simply do not like the look of most of the non-combustible materials listed and for them some of the newer products are really popular.  Materials like Marine Grade Plastic, Epoxy Resin and PVC are creating amazing cabinets that are stunning to the eye, last for many years fully exposed to weather and far more effective use of space.

Naturekast small kitchen

Epoxy resin and PVC cabinets with True refrigerator, Delta Heat grill and hot/cold water sink

Naturekast Memphis

Epoxy resin and PVC cabinets with granite counter tops and Memphis wood fired grill/smoker

Marine Grade Plastic with Hardi back wall

Marine Grade Plastic with Hardi back wall

If you require your builder to use entirely non-combustible materials, wrap your grill in non-combustible insulation liners and choose all outdoor-rated products made from companies using high grades of stainless steel then you can rest assure that you will have many years of consistent temperatures, be safe from fires and free of the challenges listed here.

If the cost of doing this project correctly with non-combustibles is simply not realistic for you then consider a refrigeration and serving area that is built in and use a portable cart model grill spaced safely away from any combustible materials.

Companies recommended for cooking appliances:

Twin Eagles, Delta Heat, FireMagic, AOG, TEC Infrared, EVO, Memphis Grills, Lynx

Grills that do not require heat insulation liners:

TEC Infrared, EVO

Companies recommended for refrigeration appliances:

True Residential, U Line, FireMagic, Twin Eagles, Delta Heat, Scotsman

Companies recommended for vent hoods:

Vent-a-Hood, Tradewinds, Umiphx, most other brands are using these companies hoods with their brand on them.

Looking for outdoor cabinets that are safe for your outdoor kitchen?  Read more at this link.

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