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By: Jean Dunkerley
Grills and other outdoor cooking appliances only got more popular in the outdoor kitchens of 2014, and look to continue as a hot trend in 2015.

After all, nearly all homeowners have at least one grill in their backyard and almost 40 percent say it’s the most important fixture on their patio (and 32 percent say they can’t live without it!) according to the Saber Grills 2014 Outdoor Living Survey. “Multiple grills and outdoor cookers are quickly becoming the norm,” says Wayne Franks, owner of the Houston outdoor living space design firm Outdoor Homescapes of Houston. Franks started seeing this trend about a year or two ago, with a 20 percent increase in Houston outdoor kitchens incorporating them since then.

What’s on the horizon for 2015? Here are six new options to try:

Big Green Egg MiniMax™

Unveiled this summer, the MiniMax offers a portable version of the world’s most popular kamado-style cooker with a larger cooking area than the enormously successful Mini™.

“It’s perfect for small-space outdoor kitchens, table-side cooking and balconies,” says Franks, who specializes in custom built-in Big Green Eggs in Houston.

Due out in fall 2014, pricing is not official but looks to be almost $500.

Big Green Egg XXL

Available for the first time in 2014 in limited quantities, the largest size yet of the Big Green Egg – the XXL – is expected to be widely available nationwide by fall 2015 at a projected price of $1,299.

“Large enough to roast a perfectly crisp suckling pig, 20 mouth-watering racks of ribs or 40 juicy burgers, the Big Green XXL is a culinary tool unlike any other!” boasts the marketing literature. “Chefs and backyard grillers alike will be astonished to see a stainless steel cooking grid measuring over 20 inches in diameter for a whopping 672 square inches of cooking area!”

Franks says it’s a great addition to any outdoor kitchen – “especially since people throwing large parties need more cooking space.”

Lynx Concept Grill™ (aka Lynx Smart Grill)

Due out in 2014, the Lynx Concept Grill is a voice-activated smart grill that automatically cooks food based on user commands. This “talking grill” starts by asking you preliminary questions about what is going to be cooked then automates the cooking via pre-programmed recipes. It’ll also tell you where to place items on the grill for the best results, help you get everything ready at the same time and notifies you via text when it’s done.

The grill is supposed be available to retailers in 2015, but manufacturer Lynx Grills Inc. has not said when, nor have they set a price.

“It all sounds good – like something from The Jetsons,” laughs Franks. “We’ll have to see how it actually works, though.”

Slide-in infrared burners

“Slide-in infrared burners for searing are a top-of-the-list request from clients,” says Franks. “You don’t need a separate searing station – just switch out one of the burners on your existing grill to the infrared.” RCS (Renaissance Cooking Systems), for instance, came out with a new one this year for all its RJC series commercial-grade grills. It runs from $99 to $129.

Kamado Gourmet

Unlike other kamado-style cookers, this one from Smoke-N-Hot saves you from adding twigs or lump charcoal. With just the push of a button, you can set your desired temperature with advanced cooking controls. The Kamado Gourmet also offers a generous cooking area.

It costs about $1,699 and takes about 90 days from ordering to installation.

Seafood boilers

“Backyard crab, crawfish and shrimp boils are immensely popular right now,” says Franks. “So we’re seeing an increase in requests for outdoor kitchen islands with custom drop-down areas for outdoor boilers.”

You can find them at big-box retailers like Walmart, Kmart and Home Depot. King Kooker, for instance, sells its Coastal Outdoor Boiling Cooker Package 5002 for $105.99. The Metal Fusion 5012 12-inch Outdoor Cooker sells for $99.99.

More information on outdoor cooking appliances can be found on Outdoor Homescapes of Houston’s website, at www.outdoorhomescapes.com

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