Take the barbecue. Where once the propane, gas-fueled or electric outdoor appliance was almost an apologetic afterthought on the deck or patio, today's barbecues range into the stratosphere in the price categories, some costing $10,000 or more.
Spits, oven burners, rotisseries, smoke boxes and grills can be found in varying combinations.
"You can roast, smoke, do whatever you want," said Jeff Gill, acting chairman of the hospitality department at Red River College. "So barbecues have come a long way, I'd say in the last five years."
Jay Breckman, of LCL Spas & Billiards, said battery-powered electronic ignitions have also made lighting the cooking appliance a breeze. "You just turn on your barbecues and touch your ignition."
Many dispense with the de rigeur briquettes totally, only to be replaced with a layer of "sear plates" next to the grilling surface, says Bruce Zubriski, of Embers Fireplaces & More, referring to some models in the Vermont Castings line that the company sells.
Zubriski points out that the sear plates help ensure more even cooking without the spikes in flames that occur because of dripping fat. The benefit is control over the cooking process, he says. The sear plates are located over the lower layer of flames that are fed by the gas.
Denise Friesen, executive chef with the Winnipeg Winter Club, said the sophisticated barbecues of today allow a lot of control over the cooking process, which is ideal for foods like vegetables that do well with subtle heat.
Strong winds have ruined many a good barbecue day, so Dean Spearman, landscape architect with Shelmerdine Nurseries & Garden Center Ltd., advocates planting trees or building a fence as a wind barrier if needed.
Nor is planning a functional barbecue space simply a matter of esthetics or function related to food preparation. With today's sensitivity to the West Nile virus, people have defined their own reality, and in practice, that often means buying products to protect against mosquitoes.
Joe Casciano, general manager of the Regent Avenue Canadian Tire, said mosquito netting and the commercial Mosquito Magnet, a propane-driven bug-zapper that attracts and swallows the pesky mosquitoes, have been selling briskly in different price ranges.
The netting can be used on multiple surfaces, even to cover furniture such as patio sets. Even the small things can make for better outdoor cooking, and Gill and Friesen suggest buying professional quality utensils such as tongs.