As homeowners get more and more savvy about their outdoor spaces, alfresco kitchens are becoming more elaborate, stylish and functional - often to the point that they are the preferred area for cooking and entertaining.
Infresco's Troy Franse said that while alfresco kitchens were once tucked away in the corner of the backyard, today it was more likely to form the hub of an outdoor entertaining area.
"Nowadays, the outdoor kitchen is fully fitted with all the gadgets and has more features than any indoor kitchen," he said.
Byron Hoy, of Ferguson Alfresco Lifestyle, agreed that the popularity of outdoor cooking had come to challenge indoor kitchens.
"The Australian market is moving the percentage of cooking investment from internal kitchen to outside alfresco area," he said.
In line with the trend, Mr Franse said there was now a massive range of appliances and accessories available.
"Outdoor kitchens are more about entertaining with unique items that are not usually found in a typical kitchen," he said.
"These include kegerators, pizza ovens, smokers, ice wells and ice machines."
Such is the popularity of outdoor kitchens that big appliance retailers such as Kitchen Headquarters are opening specialised divisions to cater to the demand.
"There's a very strong trend to use the outdoor kitchen as much as possible in the summer months," Kitchen Headquarters' Spiros Scafidas said.
"As a result of this we are seeing an exit of the traditional barbecue and the introduction of a fully functional outdoor kitchen in its place. These include built-in units with a strong extractor, a sink and tap, a wine/beverage centre with outdoor fridges and even specifically designed dishwashers for the outdoors."
Mr Hoy said the best outdoor kitchens featured stainless-steel cooking surfaces because they were non-porous and able to stand up to the elements.
He said new marine-grade products were also a great choice for finishing surfaces on doors, while stone and glass splashbacks added interest, colour and texture.
"If you want to get serious, you can add in remote-located fridge and exhaust motors, which provide the same results as the ordinary options but without the annoying noise."
Matt Lihou, of Australian Outdoor Kitchens, said interest in polished concrete as benchtops was on the rise.
"We used to make three or four a year and we are now making three or four a month," he said.
He said some clients had nothing but luxury in mind when it came to planning their outdoor kitchen.
"People who want a larger outdoor kitchen with better quality appliances and finishes will pay anywhere up to $30,000 or more," he said.
"If you are a real foodie and don't mind spending some time, a smoker or wood-fired pizza oven can be a great asset to play around with. If your budget allows, the next inclusions should be a beverage fridge and a hot/cold connected sink.
"One of the most favoured items in my outdoor kitchen is a beer keg system. We always have two taps running in summer; one might have a cider or a ginger beer and we recently filled one keg up with a margarita mix.
"For the ultimate in resort backyards, we have been involved in numerous swim-up pool bars."
And if you're short on space, you need not miss out on the fun of cooking outside, according to Mr Scafidas.
"Small mobile units such as the BeefEater Bugg are great for small areas," he said. "It is just a matter of looking around for something that fits and working out the basic requirements.
"These days, anything is possible."
Follow the rules
Mr Lihou said one of the pitfalls of installing an outdoor kitchen was not giving it proper thought.
“Many people consider an outdoor kitchen as an afterthought,” he said. “If not properly planned, it may lead to additional costs or unnecessary compromises.
“The one single thing I can recommend is to seek professional design advice before attempting a yard makeover or renovation that will incorporate an outdoor kitchen.
“Even local councils may not properly inform you of the gas regulations pertaining to barbecue placement. Regulations can be a little complicated and when you do something that does not conform, you put yourself in danger or at risk of the insurance companies if anything does go wrong.”
Mr Franse said enclosed alfresco areas required more knowledge of rules and regulations. “In Australia there are strict regulations that inhibit the use of barbecues in areas that are 50 per cent or more enclosed,” he said.“Infresco manufactures a range of stainless- steel barbecues which are approved for indoor use with a suitable range hood and we also do exhaust hoods, pizza ovens and wok burners.”