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20 Things To Consider When Designing An Outdoor Kitchen - The Grilling Life

From Choosing the Perfect Location, Your Design Options and Selecting the Right Materials – Things to Consider when Designing the Outdoor Kitchen of Your Dreams

So you’ve finally decided to take the leap and build your outdoor dream kitchen.

It turns out that was the easy part. Now you’re wondering where to start. With endless possibilities and countless customizations, it’s all beginning to feel intimidating.

Thankfully, designing an outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the right products and a thoughtful layout, it won’t take long for you to plan out exactly how you want your dream outdoor kitchen to turn out.

In this article, we will cover all the things you need to take into consideration when designing an outdoor kitchen.

We will cover the budget, location, and utility options. We will also look at space requirements, give you design and functionality suggestions and give you helpful advice on choosing the proper materials among other helpful tips.

After reading through our guide, you should be armed with all the knowledge you need to start designing the outdoor kitchen you’ve always wanted.

Let’s get to it.

In This Article, We’ll Explore:

Click a topic below to be taken directly to that section.

What to Consider when Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

Before you start adding appliances, furniture, and building materials to your cart, take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will your budget include?
  • Are you planning to use your outdoor kitchen as an extension of your indoor kitchen?
  • What features and designs compliment your home?
  • Which materials are designed for outdoor environments?
  • Where will your utilities be installed?
  • How will your kitchen fit into the preexisting features in your backyard?
  • How will your outdoor kitchen correlate with other outdoor entertainment?
  • What other entertainment do you want to incorporate?
  • What time of the day and year will your outdoor kitchen get the most use?
  • What kind of cooking do you want to do?
  • Which must-have appliances will you need?

This article will help you get started on your dream outdoor kitchen without feeling overwhelmed by the options.

Keep reading for a breakdown of all these questions, and more so you can feel confident when designing your outdoor kitchen.

Budget Items to Keep in Mind

Spending can quickly get out of hand if you don’t budget for each item you want to include in your outdoor kitchen.

Make sure that for every item in your kitchen, you have a set budget. That includes appliances, countertops, seating, lighting, utilities, and cabinets.

When you start to write out your budget, keep the following in mind:

  • Quality of the Materials – Higher quality materials and finishes tend to cost a bit more. The good news is that the more you spend on materials now, the longer they will last, and you’ll hopefully save money in the long run.
  • Utilities – You can’t just calculate how much utilities will cost every month. You’ll have to take into account the price of installation. You will likely have to pay for a professional to hook up water, gas, and electricity. The price goes up when you consider the cost of materials, permits, and inspections you’ll need to use these utilities.
  • Technology – Are you planning on hooking up a TV to cable or equipping your outdoor space with Wi-Fi? Then installing these items needs to be included in your budget.

Location & Layout or Location, Location, Location

Weather fluctuations, coastal living, shelter, and durability considerations, and more…

It’s essential to consider the climate when planning and designing an outdoor kitchen. The climate you live in will affect your outdoor entertainment space’s design, materials, and season length.

If you live in an area with extreme temperature changes, you’ll want to avoid certain materials like tile and natural stone because they tend to crack. Also, PVC and non-stainless-steel materials are vulnerable to warping in extreme temperatures.

Coastal areas are often at risk for corrosion from seawater. Marine-grade 316 stainless steel and powder coat finishes ensure that your outdoor kitchen will hold up against the elements.

To give added comfort to your outdoor living space during extreme weather, you’ll want to include either fans or heaters and a roof or pergola for shelter so you can enjoy the area year-round.

The location of your kitchen will also affect how you design the layout. For example, you can plan around where your pool, spa, sitting area, or sports area is so you can mingle with guests while you cook.

A popular layout for outdoor kitchens in the Kitchen Triangle. It places your sink, cooking space, and refrigerator all within a few steps. One way to implement the triangle layout is to include an island in your floor plan.

Figure Out where will you Install Utilities

You will want to install water, electric, and possibly gas hookups safely and discreetly for a proper outdoor kitchen. Much of your outdoor kitchen layout and design will depend on how and where the utilities are installed.

Because your appliances may not be against a wall like they are in your house, you’ll have to implement a safe and creative way to bring your utilities to your outdoor kitchen.

How Much Space do you Need for Entertaining?

Plan ahead for the size of the crowd you want to entertain. If you design your outdoor kitchen with your guests in mind, it will become the go-to hangout for all your friends and family.

Think about how many people you’ll have over on average and how much space each person will need. Can you fit enough seating and eating areas for that number? Or will you have to adjust your layout to accommodate more than your immediate family?

Consider Functionality & your Cooking Style

Like your indoor kitchen, your backyard kitchen needs to have distinct functional zones easily accessible to each other, including cold, hot, wet, and dry zones.

The cold zone includes your refrigerator, freezer, and ice machine while the hot covers all your cooking appliances. The wet zone has your sink and bar area, which is usually near your dry zone with is your counter space and meal prep area.

Having these zones clearly in mind will improve the function of your outdoor kitchen.

Additionally, your cooking style will also affect the layout of your outdoor kitchen. Knowing ahead of time what you want to use for cooking is essential to choosing the right appliances for the job.

Perhaps you’re happy cooking on a grill, but you’d like to add on a smoker. Or maybe you’re enamored by the idea of a brick pizza oven.

You can also decide at this point if you’ll need a full-size refrigerator or if a mini-fridge will be enough. Whatever your style is will determine the outcome of your kitchen design.

What are your Design Options?

Many homeowners like to mirror their interior design with similar patterns, shapes, and colors in their outdoor kitchen for a more cohesive look. Other outdoor kitchen enthusiasts want to create a separate living space that is unique to the outdoors.

Suppose you want to use this space primarily for dining then you’ll need to consider buying a full-sized dining table. Or, if you’re going to hang out around the pool or a fireplace, consider more comfortable, lounge-worthy seating.

However you decide to decorate, make sure that it can stand up to the elements. Designing an outdoor kitchen is a significant investment. Wind, rain, and sun all have an aging effect on your outdoor living space.

To avoid corrosion, mold, mildew, and fading, choose items and materials that are designed to withstand sun and moisture so your dream kitchen will last for years to come.

Materials for an Outdoor Kitchen, what will Work Best Outside?

Low-porous material is best for outdoor kitchens. They would also be resistant to water, corrosion, and grease. Ideally, the right materials will make maintaining your kitchen easier and using it more enjoyable.

If you’re planning on building a permanent structure for your kitchen, consider brick, concrete, and stucco for materials that will look great and last a long time.

Choose Low-Maintenance Materials & Equipment

An outdoor kitchen that is easy to clean and requires little maintenance will get the most use.

High-quality stainless steel provides an easy-to-clean surface that resists corrosion.

When choosing the material for your countertops, the patio, and the decking, look for materials that rate well for high temperatures and that are resistant to grease stains.

Highly porous materials, like limestone, should be avoided, as should tile countertops if you live in a climate that includes freezing and thawing.

Granite is ok as long as it’s cultured and has UV stabilizers. Granite can also be used as flooring in stone blocks. Other floor options include sealed pavers and concrete.

What Appliances & Cooking Necessities should you Consider?

The right appliances will improve the function and value of your outdoor kitchen. Depending on your preferences and cooking styles, you will need to choose either a gas, electric, charcoal, infrared, or teppanyaki grill.

You might want to go a step further and include extra burners, smokers, or pizza ovens to bring your hosting skills up to another level.

Your best bet is to invest in versatile appliances. For example, a grill that can smoke, roast, and bake in addition to traditional BBQing will give you more cooking options, save your space, and stretch your budget.

Since you can still access your indoor kitchen, you might decide that a mini fridge is sufficient, especially if you are limited on space. If you don’t want to worry about transferring food between locations, a full-size refrigerator is still an option.

Keep in mind that your local climate can affect the efficiency of appliances like refrigerators and ice makers, so it’s best to choose high-performing models if you’re worried about the heat.

See our suggestions below.

Grills & Smokers

Your grill will most likely be the centerpiece of your outdoor kitchen. It is essential to the authentic outdoor mingling experience.

Fortunately, there are options for every outdoor living space. Grills and smokers come in a variety of sizes and with several fuel options and add-ons.

You can find some great options below.

The 10 Best Built In Gas Grills - The Grilling Life

The 10 Best Built In Gas Grills

Best Built In Pellet Grills - The Grilling Life

The 10 Best Built In Pellet Smokers

Best Built In Charcoal Grills - The Grilling Life

The 10 Best Built In Charcoal Grills

Do you want a Built-In Refrigerator?

While you don’t need to store all your food in an outdoor refrigerator, a small Built-In Refrigerator is a popular choice. It allows you to have cool water, soda, beer, juice, or whatever favorite beverages you offer on hand.

A built-in refrigerator also prevents a lot of foot traffic in and out of the house. It creates less mess and easier to maintain than a chest full of ice.

Kick it up a Notch with a Bar & Built-In Kegerator

A built-in bar and kegerator will be the cherry on top of your outdoor kitchen. For the complete experience, an outdoor bar area is an excellent place for your guests to gather around and enjoy ice-cold beverages.

Your stand-alone or add-on bar can include a wine cooler, kegerator, ice maker, glassware station, and sink to elevate your outdoor kitchen to another level.

Built-In Kegerators are a must if you have a lot of beer-loving guests. Getting one with two or more taps allows you to vary the beer your serve and even have soda on tap for the kids.

Are Outdoor Sinks a must have?

Don’t forget to include a sink when designing an outdoor kitchen. Outdoor sinks are a must-have for a smooth operating outdoor bar and dining area.

Outdoor sinks make rinsing fresh produce and prepping food, filling pots for cooking, rinsing out glasses between cocktails, and cleaning up at the end of the night a breeze.

You can choose from various sizes, styles, and materials, so you get the Best Outdoor Sink for your unique space.

Make Sure you have Adequate Lighting

You don’t need to shut the party down just because it’s getting dark. With stylish lighting options, you can keep your guests happy late into the night.

Adequate Lighting for your outdoor space is not only an essential safety measure for your guests, but it can also give your outdoor kitchen a level of ambiance you won’t want to forgo.

You’ll want to include lighting over your prepping, cooking, and eating zones as well as on pathways and above your bar. Some grills come with LED lights so you can see your food as your cook. If you’re going to install overhead fans, look for ones that come with lights.

Install dimmers on your lights so you can adjust the brightness to enhance the mood of the party. You can also use solar-powered accent lights, string lights, or candles to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Pro Tip: Keep the bugs away, all the while setting the mood with citronella candles or tiki torches.

Don’t Forget to Include Plenty of Seating

Your outdoor kitchen is an extension of your indoor living space. It should a place your guests can sit back, relax, and soak up the weekend. Therefore, providing plenty of seating is a must.

You can add seating to your outdoor kitchen in several ways. One way is to add bar stools to the bar and cooking area.

Another popular design is to include low seating apart from the cooking area, similar to an outdoor version of the couch and coffee table in your living room. Some outdoor kitchens have more dining table and chair designs.

The good news is that as long as space permits, you can have all three Styles Of Seating if you want. Don’t be afraid to mix and match just as long as you make sure there is plenty of sitting room for everyone.

Consider your Storage Options

When you cook outdoors, you lose the protection of a roof and four walls. Outdoor kitchens are at risk of being exposed to harsh weather and curious wild animals. That’s why it’s crucial to protect your utensils, glasses, plates, and other items from contamination.

Keeping items in plastic containers inside the Built-In Storage Bins And Cabinets will prevent dust, bugs, pollen, and other pests and is a great and affordable way to keep your kitchen clean and safe.

It will save you time from having to wipe down each glass or plate each time you use it as well.

Make it Flow with your House & the Rest of your Landscape

Your outdoor kitchen should flow with the rest of your property. That includes both your interior design as well as your preexisting outdoor entertainment space. The outdoor kitchen should feel cohesive rather than out-of-place with the rest of your home.

The space needs to blend together so that guests can move freely from the pool to outdoor seating to the outdoor kitchen.

It’s also important that your outdoor kitchen’s decor and design reflect your house’s style and the surrounding landscape.

Add a Specialized Grill for a Truly Stand Out Experience

You can customize your outdoor kitchen by including the grill of your dreams.

Standard gas grills are sufficient most of the time but definitely have their limits. For example, charcoal grills and wood-burning ovens can add a unique flavor and style to your dishes that would otherwise be unattainable.

A specialized grill will give you the chance to slow cook ribs, pork shoulder, or other BBQ favorites.

Some of our favorites are…

Outdoor Pizza Ovens

The ultimate addition to the outdoor kitchen experience is a Wood-Fired Pizza Oven or a Gas-Powered Pizza Oven. Impress your guests with an authentic pizza crust that only an open flame can achieve.

Pizza ovens come in various shapes and sizes, so they are a great addition to any outdoor kitchen. You can even find them in colors and materials to match your outdoor kitchen design.

Kamado Grills & Built-In Charcoal Grills

Investing in a Charcoal Or Kamado Grill for your outdoor kitchen will make all the difference in your cooking style and the outcome of your meals. Traditionally, they are a bit more expensive, but the result is well worth the investment.

Charcoal grills allow you to adjust heat zones across your grill’s surface so you can grill, sear, bake, smoke, and rotisserie all at once. They are also well known for their perfect heat distribution and ensure that you get the most out of those special cuts of meat.

Built-In Pellet Smokers

A Built-In Pellet Grill self-feeds pellets and moves them towards the igniter. They are an excellent option for an outdoor kitchen because the 100% all-natural hardwood pellets can be mixed and matched to achieve multiple flavors on your meat. 

Additionally, pellet grills allow you to cook different food simultaneously, including smoking, grilling, baking, and searing. It is ultimately a combination of a smoker, charcoal grill, and an oven. 

Pellet grills are easy to use, can be ignited with the push of a button, and have a long burn. They are also ideal for holding optimal temperatures longer, so you’ll see the best results with your food.

They are about as “Set It and Forget It” as it gets.

Professional Tabletop Grills, Evo Anyone?

Tabletop grills allow you to cook directly and indirectly at the same time. With the Evo Flattop Grill, the leader in tabletop grills, you can sear, saute, grill, toast and stir-fry directly on the grill’s surface. You can also use it to boil, braise, poach, and fry indirectly.

As if that wasn’t enough, you can close the stainless-steel hood for roasting, steaming, warming, or smoking. There’s no limit to what you can do with this grill!

Start-up is easy with an electronic spark ignition that lights both burners simultaneously. Cleanup is just as easy, thanks to the stainless-steel drip pan that catches any spillovers and the front-mounted drawers that easily remove waste and that can be thrown in the dishwasher.

It’s Time to Consider a Power Burner

One thing your average grill isn’t great at is boiling water. Most burners aren’t strong enough to bring the water to a boil and carrying pots of scorching water in and out of the house is time-consuming and dangerous.

If you want to deep-fry outside or boil, consider installing a Natural Gas or Outdoor Propane Burner for safe and convenient boiling.

Stay Cool on those Hot Summer Days

The summer sun and heat can quickly detract from the food and friends you’re trying to enjoy if you don’t take steps to keep your outdoor kitchen cool.

How can you keep your guests cool and comfortable on sweltering days? When designing an outdoor kitchen, make sure to include overhangs for shade, fans, and misters.

Incorporating Solar Protecting Fabric is a great way to add a customized awning over your outdoor entertainment area. They are fade-resistant and UV-protecting, so you and your guests will stay comfortable and safe from the sun’s harmful rays.

Stay Warm with Outdoor Heating & Fireplaces

You don’t need to shut down your outdoor kitchen as the cooler winter months roll in. Instead, invest in some outdoor heating so you can enjoy the area year-round.

Outdoor heaters and fireplaces keep you and your guests warm while creating a glowing ambiance. Permanent fireplaces increase the value of your home and can be a great place for roasting marshmallows or other campfire-style foods.

You can choose from several options for outdoor heating. These include:

How will you Incorporate other Entertainment?

Are you planning on featuring the big game at your next cookout? If you’re going to install a TV, you’ll want to make sure the TV is bright enough for natural light and that it is in a safe spot out of the sun.

Many outdoor kitchens feature surrounding speakers so that you can set the mood with the right music. Design your kitchen in a way that protects your electronics from water and sun damage.

Outdoor Rated TVs so you Never Miss the Big Game

Not just any TV will suffice for outdoor entertainment. You need to make sure that they are bright enough to handle the sun’s glare and that they are placed in a shaded spot that is still visible to the audience. 

Luckily, there are several TVs designed with the outdoors in mind. So before heading down to Best Buy and buying the first 4K TV you see, Shop For Outdoor Rated TVs that are specifically designed for the outdoors, so you never miss a moment of the game.

Integrated Music Players for Creating the Perfect Atmosphere

Nothing sets the mood like the perfect playlist. Whether you’re getting your fellow fans pumped up for the game or you want to transport your guests to an island getaway, integrated music players will create the perfect atmosphere.

Again, be careful that all music consoles, speakers, and other accessories are sheltered from the elements, so they don’t get damaged.

Outfit your Outdoor Kitchen in Style by Accessorizing!

Now that you have the basics covered with the suitable layout, appliances, and materials for your outdoor kitchen, it’s time to get creative with your decor.

Guests will love the special attention to detail you give your outdoor living area. Add potted plants, garden beds, cushions, candles, and rugs to give your new outdoor kitchen that special touch.

When choosing upholstery for cushions and rugs, make sure the fabric is moisture-resistant and designed to withstand the sun. That way, your careful designs will be sturdy, mildew-free, and last for many seasons to come.

Should you Hire Experienced Professional Contractors?

Many grill masters prefer to DIY their outdoor kitchen projects, and if that is the case with you, then, by all means, go for it! But if construction isn’t your forte and you’d rather stay at the grill, slow-roasting the world’s best ribs, then there’s no shame in hiring a professional.

Unless you’re highly experienced in construction, Hiring An Experienced Professional for at least part of the project will save you a lot of headaches and even money in the long run.

There are some aspects of designing an outdoor kitchen that won’t leave you with any choice but to hire a professional. For example, if you have to run water, install electrical outlets, or put in gas lines, the safest and easiest option is to hire a contractor.

The only Thing Left to do is to Plan your Party

Don’t waste any time showing off your hard work and carefully designed outdoor space. Now that your outdoor kitchen is all set up, you’re ready to throw a party.

Put that new kitchen to use and invite over your close friends and family or start a new tradition in the neighborhood with an annual block party.

Final Thoughts on Things to Consider when Designing an Outdoor Kitchen

With endless options to fit any backyard and lifestyle, creating the outdoor kitchen of your dreams is well within your reach.

Finding the right layout for your space and equipping it with state-of-the-art cooking tools and appliances is only the first step to making your backyard the oasis of the season.

Customize your space with personal touches, and you’ll be the envy of the block as your family and friends sit back, relax, and enjoy the best food and drink your bar and grill has to offer.

Next Steps:

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Now It’s Your Turn

I want to hear from you:

Do you already have an outdoor kitchen? Share Pics!

Do you have design tips to share?

What features and utilities would you like to include in an outdoor kitchen?

Are you going to be purchasing a smoker in the future?  Or do you plan on looking at a pellet grill, built-in or standalone gas grill, or charcoal model?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.



Disclosure At The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.