When you are developing your outdoor kitchen ideas, certain components are far more interesting to deliberate over. Deciding on a grill, a smoker, kegerator, a countertop or a power burner are grist for rich conversations between couples!
I can't say the same for island vents. But they are arguably more important than anything else I listed.
If you look at the above picture you will see two vents sitting on the backside of the outdoor kitchen island (this one is in Scarsdale NY). Very few people, even in the various trades, talk about venting an outdoor kitchen. Bad move.
MY HISTORY WITH FLAREUPS
I have unfortunately been the victim of various lashings from my grill. Backdrafts, flare ups, exploding charcoal...thankfully I haven't lost my eyebrows but I have too many singe marks on my arms and hands. And many of these instances could have been prevented by proper venting.
Why do we vent an outdoor kitchen? Its because of the volatility and combustibility of gas. It also doesn't help matters that it is invisible. Since igniters are usually the weak link in a grill, you can turn them on and wait, wait, wait for ignition. But it may not happen. The problem is that while you have the knob turned, even though the igniter is not doing its job, gas is still pouring forth from your connection. If you don't have vents the GAS HAS NOWHERE TO GO except sit inside the portion of your island where the grill is.
So after trying to ignite after 10-20 seconds maybe you turn the knob off. Then, its back to trying to ignite. And if it does, and that gas that was previously released is still sitting there...BOOOMMM. Now you can see why it is imperative to create an escape hatch for accrued gas to exit from. Natural gas is lighter than liquid propane so some people will opt to put one vent behind the grill either high or low depending on the gas type. I disagree with that approach. A vent costs $25. Buy a few and place one high and low behind the grill. If you have another cooking device like a side burner or power burner and they are not installed adjacent to the grill (so they can't be served by the vents behind the grill) then they will need a pair of vents as well.
A WISE INVESTMENT
As stated, the vents cost around $25 each. A pittance! And they will go extremely long way in protecting you from your grill in case circumstances cause it to turn into Smaug. (The "circumstances" are actually somewhat under your control, and are fodder for another blog post focusing on GRILL CLEANING).
If you have any questions about island vents or outdoor kitchen ideas in general, please email me or call the Ring of Fire showroom at 914-361-1837.